Sunday, November 2, 2014

Takoma Junction discussion + new WAH president: Nov 3 city council meeting

The Monday evening, November 3 city council meeting will be devoted to one topic: Continued council discussion of Takoma Junction development proposals and options. But, as always, the meeting will open with preliminaries. Preliminaries include public comment, about the Takoma Junction process or anything else (preferably city related). And Monday evening, they include introduction of the new president of Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH).

I'll use this occasion to provide a WAH summary update and then write about current Takoma Junction redevelopment status, but first --

If you haven't already voted, please vote on Tuesday, November 4. Polls are open 7 am to 8 pm. You'll find information including polling-place look-up and a sample ballot online. And if you'd like voting recommendations, I'd welcome your checking out mine.

Washington Adventist Hospital Update

Erik Wangsness started as WAH president on September 22. WAH issued a press release regarding his appointment.

Adventist Healthcare Vice President Rob Jepsen presented an update to the council, on September 15, on the hospital's application for a Certificate of Need (CON) to relocate to White Oak. Mr. Jepsen's presentation slides are online -- page 10 lists health care facilities that would remain in Takoma Park -- and you can view video of his presentation and the discussion that followed. Also, the Gazette reported on Mr. Jepsen's city council visit.

The city has, subsequently, received renewed questions and advocacy from a number of residents who wish the city to press the hospital to apply for state permission to operate a free-standing emergency room (FER) in Takoma Park.

The State of Maryland has a moratorium in place on licensure of new FERs. The moratorium expires on July 1, 2015. By that date, the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) is supposed to establish "review criteria and standards for issuing a CON required to establish a freestanding [emergency] medical facility in the State after July 1, 2015."

Were I an Adventist Healthcare executive, I would be reluctant to file a CON application until the review criteria and standards for its acceptance have been issued. I note that July 1, 2015 is only eight months from now, and WAH is likely to continue operating an emergency room in Takoma Park for several years after that date.

I did pose questions to Mr. Wangsness and Mr. Jepsen: "Will WAH will apply for a Takoma Park FER, rules-permitting, once the moratorium expires? How will WAH decide?" We'll see what response they have, whether on Monday evening or in subsequent discussions.

Discussion of Takoma Junction Redevelopment Proposals

The September 23 presentations by the four finalist Takoma Junction bidders generated A LOT of community questions, about particular proposals or all of them. We also had questions and comments about the development process and proposal-evaluation criteria, and we got the message that support for TPSS Co-op operations and expansion is essential. Mayor Bruce Williams invited the co-op to present at the September 29 council meeting, and at Councilmember Jarrett Smith's suggestion, the co-op compiled and sent to the finalists a number of must-have points for the co-op's continued viability.

Back to the questions and the November 3 council meeting --

City staff sorted and consolidated the many questions and comments. Following discussion at the October 6 council meeting, the city forwarded a set of eleven of them -- clarifying questions -- to the prospective developers. We directed additional questions to three of the bidders.

And here are their responses:
Finally, city staff prepared an information sheet summarizing the four finalists' proposals.

I found the responses to be helpful. All four finalists proposed a community-involved process although none provided completely satisfying detail on support for co-op operations (in particular, loading access) and expansion.

I'm going to cherry-pick a number of points where I found responses particularly interesting:
  • Three of the four finalists would go forward without necessarily building on the wooded lot on Columbia Avenue. Community Three, however, stated "elimination of the proposed single family home on the R-60 lots would require our team to revisit our team's financial proposal." (The Takoma Junction Task Force (TJTF) recommended leaving that lot undeveloped).
  • Neither of the developers that had proposed a three-story building -- Community Three and Keystar/Eco Housing -- definitively stated a willingness to proceed with a project if the building was limited to two or two-and-one-half stories (a TJTF recommendation).
  • Community members called certain proposals "Bethesda"-like, presumably responding to the exterior design. (None of the developers is proposing chain stores.) Three of the four finalists answered Yes to the question "Can the fa├žade design be modified during the process?" Community Three did not answer the question.
Looking Ahead

The city has an open house, for discussion of Takoma Junction Redevelopment Proposals, scheduled for 7:30 pm on Tuesday, November 18. Please attend! And the council has one more Takoma Junction meeting scheduled before our holiday recess. That's on November 24, when we'll also have a dog park update and a presentation by Carolyn Biggins, chief of the Montgomery County Division of Transit Services, which includes Ride On.

Comment Invited!

As always, you may comment shortly following the council meeting's 7:30 pm start, or send your comment to the whole council via the city clerk, clerk@takomaparkmd.gov. Do get in touch with me directly if you wish, at 301-873-8225 or sethg@takomaparkmd.gov. My next drop-in office time is 5-6 pm, Tuesday November 11, at 7006 Carroll Avenue #202. You don't need to make an appointment, although I'm happy to set a meeting time if you can't make my drop-in hours or have a sensitive topic to discuss.

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