Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Takoma Junction developer presentations, video of the Sept 23 event, question form, and feedback invited


The City of Takoma Park has posted:

1) Video of the September 23 Takoma Junction development presentations.

2) The presentation slide decks.

3) A form for submission of questions for the four finalists.

City council discussions of the finalist proposals -- and I guartantee that the TPSS Co-op's proposal and alternative Takoma Junction possibilities will come up -- are scheduled for Monday evenings, September 29, October 27, and November 24.

I would really, really welcome your views on the proposals as presented and also on the TPSS Co-op's proposal. What do you think of the proposed:

- Uses of the site, that is, the business/community/residential mix in each proposal.

- For the buildings facing Ethan Allen/Carroll: the height, footprint, and neighborhood impact and compatibility.

- The uses of the wooded lot including, in some of the proposals, extension of the Ethan Allen/Carroll construction over or down the hillside.

- Attention to the TPSS Co-op's current needs (including truck access) and desire to expand.

- Parking and pedestrian and bicyclist impact.

Do note that we expect the developers to modify their proposals in the course of discussions with the city and the community. They know that they have to work to accommodate the co-op. As a reminder: I posted last week on the Takoma Junction development process and the TPSS Co-op proposal.

Finally, I would like to know what criteria you would like to see the council, city staff, and community apply in evaluating options. Please let me know: sethg@takomaparkmd.gov, 301-873-8225.

Seth

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Takoma Junction development process and the TPSS Co-op proposal

Thanks to everyone who has been in contact about the Takoma Junction development proposals and process.

There have been questions about community involvement and openness. I'll try to tackle those topics by reviewing how we got where we are, starting with the council's 2010 creation of the Takoma Junction Task Force. But first I'll reinforce that the city has been very deliberate in exploring development possibilities and will continue to be. Takoma Junction development is not on a fast track. And I'll reiterate what you've heard from the city manager and the mayor: The city intends to accommodate co-op expansion in any development scenario. (I've provided co-op proposal information, distributed publicly by the co-op, toward the end of this article.)

History

The council set up a Takoma Junction Task Force (TJTF), which I co-chaired, in response to SS Carroll neighborhood advocacy and the recommendation of an informal Takoma Junction working group that included a few council reps. The task force minutes and materials are online. You can find minutes from meetings of the working group there as well.

The TJTF issued its report in early 2012. You can read about the TJTF's community meetings and interviews in the report.

Let me excerpt one bit of text, staff opinion on a different point. It's labelled "City staff additional information (December 2011)," on page 21:
"It appears that the City cannot engage in negotiations for the long-term use of City property without entering into a bid process. City contracts (which would include a sales contract, as well as a lease or development agreement) are to be awarded by competitive sealed bidding or competitive sealed proposals unless one of the exceptions applies. None of the exceptions to competitive bidding would seem to apply."
TJTF member Kay Daniels-Cohen and I were elected to the council in November 2011. We and our colleagues promoted development explorations and other steps such as requesting that the State Highway Administration install a crosswalk at Grant Avenue.

The city moved forward by conducting an environmental assessment of the city-owned parcel. The assessment docs are available online. City staff also had an appraisal done. I have not seen it.

The co-op had set up an expansion task force and approached the city with sketches of an expansion into the city lot. Then co-op-president David Walker presented to the council on July 30, 2012. I blogged about this a couple of weeks later: A Takoma Junction Update: Co-op Expansion Plans and Progress on Other Fronts. Subsequently, the council decided that the city's best interest would be served by inviting anyone interested to propose development or another site-improvement concept. This discussion took place at the council's October 1, 2012 meeting. You can read the minutes and watch meeting video online.

Last year, the city hired a new city manager. The individual we chose, Brian Kenner, has experience in economic development that included work, as a Washington DC employee, on reuse of the Walter Reed and Saint Elizabeth's hospital campuses and H Street redevelopment. (Washington Adventist Hospital's planned relocation to White Oak is another local challenge for Takoma Park.)

Brian developed the approach we're following and the council approved it. The city issued a Request for Proposals in January with a May 28 closing date. The RFP and other materials are online. The city subsequently met with prospective developers including the co-op. In accordance with the steps and criteria laid out in the RFP, staff selected four finalists. That down-select was made by the city manager and Housing and Community Development staff. They briefed the council on September 3; the council agreed with their selection.

And that's where we are now, on September 18.

The Coming Months

Again, the four finalists will make public presentations on Tuesday, September 23 at 7:00 pm in the community center auditorium. I plan to attend, and I hope you will as well, or you can watch the presentations, live or later, via city TV and on the city Web site.

The city manager is working on a structured way to collect feedback; nonetheless, you can relay your views to the council at any time, via e-mail to clerk@takomaparkmd.gov, or to me at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov or 301-873-8225.

The steps that follow will include a September 29 city-council worksession devoted to discussion of Takoma Junction Development Proposals and, tentatively, further council discussion on October 20. These sessions will be open to the public. There will be public comment at the start of the meetings but no public participation in the discussions.

The TPSS Co-op Proposal

Finally, the co-op posted its proposal, minus a diagram that was included in the printed version available at the co-op. I've attached a copy of that diagram to this message. Getting a proposal this way is a not the same as seeing it presented, but nonetheless, the co-op's materials will communicate to you what they have in mind.

[Update Sept 21: The co-op refreshed the posted version of its proposal, to include a variant of the diagram that was originally posted, the diagram I included below center. I am posting that additional image, below right. Click on the images to see larger versions. The additional image (below, right) does clarify one aspect of the co-op's proposal. It shows topography lines on the right side, which is the wooded lot that is beyond the edge of the current city-lot paved surface, although the drop-off actually starts just to the right of the rightmost parking row.]


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Washington Adventist Hospital relocation update, library redesign, and more, September 15

Of note on the city council's September 15, 2014 agenda: An update on Washington Adventist Hospital's relocation plans, and a number of more-routine items including award of a contract for library space planning and interior redesign, the outcome of a community visioning process that has taken place over the past year.

Robert Jepson, Vice President of Business Development for Adventist HealthCare, will present the hospital update. This will be the first appearance by an Adventist HealthCare official since the departure of former Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH) President Joyce Newmyer, who recently took over Adventist hospital management in the Pacific Northwest. Ms Newmyer's replacement at WAH is Erik Wangsness, whose start date is the week after this next.

WAH has filed a Certificate of Need application with the Maryland Healthcare Commission, whose approval of plans to relocate the hospital to White Oak, some distance from Takoma Park, is required. WAH has previously stated the intention to maintain certain healthcare facilities here in Takoma Park post-move, while leasing parts of the current WAH campus to Washington Adventist University. I do expect that Jepson may announce significant changes to the CON application and plans.

Other items on the September 15 council agenda include an ordinance approving large-grant awards. The agenda item is online, although I am concerned that the draft doesn't closely match direction provided by the council at last Monday evening's meeting.

Also there has been no council discussion of the idea of allocating $10,565 from the city's Emergency Assistance Fund to one of the large-grant applicants, which the draft ordinance would have us do. From the city's Web site: "The Emergency Assistance Fund provides financial assistance to income eligible residents experiencing a health crisis, a pending eviction notice, or notice of a sheduled utility cut off, often the result of the loss of employment or financial circumstances beyond their control. Established in 2001 by the Takoma Park City Council, the program is funded in part by tax-deductible donations from the community and managed by Ministries United Silver Spring Takoma Park." I have asked Mayor Williams that there be open-session council discussion that involves Ministries United, in a meeting prior to any action to reallocate significant EAF money to any other program or purpose.

Finally, the council will hear about development plans for 6450 New Hampshire Avenue, a parcel that's currently vacant, whose owner is planning a laundromat, a permitted use according to the site's zoning.

Please let me know if you have views on any of these topics or any other city matter. I'm at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov and 301-873-8225.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sept 8 at the council: City grants and a polystyrene ban

The city council's first post-recess session is Monday evening, September 8. A 7 pm presentation of large-grant recommendations will be followed by public comment and then council discussion of the grants and of a city food-service polystyrene ban.

Large Grants

The council budgeted $122,000 for this fiscal year's large grants, for programming and capital projects that primarily benefit low and moderate-income residents and neighborhoods. Applications were due July 9; the city received 19. Grants Review Committee co-chairs Akena Allen and Gary Cardillo will present:

Capital Projects Grant Recommendations
- Old Takoma Business Association (OTBA) $8,000
- Takoma Park Presbyterian Church $10,000

Cultural and STEM Grant Recommendations
- African Immigrant and Refugee (AIRF) $12,500
- Docs in Progress $5,195
- Moveius Ballet $8,930
- Old Takoma Business Association (OTBA) $15,000
- Takoma Ensemble $15,000

Program and Operational Support Grant Recommendations
- Real Food for Kids $5,632
- Crossroads Community Food Network $19,622
- EduCare Support Services, Inc. $19,621
- Takoma Plays $2,500

STEM is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Takoma Park Presbyterian Church funding would go toward the church housed community commercial kitchen project. The OTBA funding would pay for banners (capital) and underwrite the Takoma Park Street Festival and the Art Hop arts fest (cultural).

Do attend the presentation (7 pm) and council discussion (8 pm) (or watch them on city TV, live-streamed), and please comment at the meeting (7:30 pm) or relay your views to me (301-873-8225, sethg@takomaparkmd.gov). You'll have another opportunity to testify about the grants on September 15, when the council is slated to vote our awards.

Food-Service Polystyrene Ban

The Young Activist Act of 2014 would ban food-service polystyrene use in Takoma Park starting January 1, 2015. It is named in recognition of the hard work and dedication of the Young Activist Club in pursuing an end to food-service polystyrene use given harmful health and environmental impact.

The council will discuss the proposal on Monday evening; I anticipate only minor tuning to the draft if any so that we should be able to bring it to a vote later this month.

I drafted the bill, translating the young activists' advocacy into legislation with the help and review of community activists including Brenda Platt, Committee on the Environment members Cindy Dyballa and Paul Chrostowski, Public Works Director Daryl Braithwaite, and Assistant City Attorney Ken Sigman. The council last discussed it in June.

We had actually been working on much broader bill. An earlier draft is included in the June 16 council backgrounder.

The earlier version mimics San Francisco and other West Coast cities in requiring food-service businesses and operations to use only compostable disposable food-service ware and to compost food wastes and other "organics." The earlier version also extends food-waste composting in Takoma Park to multi-family apartment buildings by instituting a requirement that landlords provide food-waste collection services in addition to recycling. These steps proved infeasible because of a dearth of local organics processing sites. I expect that we will revisit these steps in a year or so. In the interim, proponents including myself, perhaps with city involvement, hope to pursue pilot programs at several Takoma Park apartment buildings whose current waste haulers do provide organics collection services.

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer plans to introduce, on Tuesday, a county bill banning food-service polystyrene and requiring that food-service disposables be either compostable or recyclable. This bill follows on a very similar bill passed in the District of Columbia just a few months back. The DC bill, introduced by Councilmember Mary Cheh and signed by Mayor Vincent Gray, covers only expanded-foam polystyrene service ware. Think "Styrofoam" cups and plates. The DC polystyrene ban and the draft Montgomery County bill's ban are more limited than Takoma Park's proposed ban and go into effect later, in 2016.

Finally, the earlier version of the Young Activists Act also included a provision stating that Montgomery County's business recycling requirements apply in Takoma Park. But it seems that we'd have to create an operational agreement with the county -- an opt-in to county law wouldn't be enough -- so instead City Manager Brian Kenner and the city attorney have agree to draft an update to Takoma Park's '90s recycling code. It would refresh residential recycling requirements and add a business recycling requirement. Look for a draft in the fall.

Contact

As always, please get in touch if you have questions, comments, or need help with city matters: 301-873-8225 and sethg@takomaparkmd.gov.