Monday, January 19, 2015

Tuesday, January 20: Hearing on Washington Adventist Hospital relocation, and a city bid on the Washington-McLaughlin property

This update, in advance of Tuesday evening's city council meeting, covers two topics: City comment on Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH) relocation and our bid in the IRS auction of the wooded portion of the Washington McLaughlin property.

I'll also offer a look-ahead to the January 26 council meeting, which will be preceded by a farewell reception for departing City Manager Brian Kenner, at 7 pm.

Public Hearing on WAH Relocation

(TPSS Voice photo)
Please attend a public hearing, Tuesday, January 20, at 7 pm, to comment on WAH's proposed relocation to White Oak.

Yup, yet another hearing on a process that has now entered its tenth year. Tuesday evening's hearing is an opportunity for you to communicate your thoughts regarding WAH's application for a relocation Certificate of Need (CON). You may recall that in 2012, WAH withdrew an earlier CON application, filed in 2009, that the Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) seemed likely to reject.

The city council will then meet with legal counsel in closed session following the public council meeting. And we are scheduled to consider a resolution commenting on the application at our Monday, January 26 meeting. A draft resolution is part of the Tuesday agenda packet.

The draft resolution includes a Resolved clause, "that Adventist HealthCare work with the City of Takoma Park on a joint study regarding the feasibility of a Freestanding Medical Facility (FMF) [emergency room] on the Takoma Park campus, and, if feasible, diligently pursue that goal when regulations are formalized." To explain: The MHCC will be establishing a work group soon for the development of CON regulation of FMFs. We expect those regulations will be in place when a 2010 state moratorium on establishment of new FMFs expires.

Washington-McLaughlin Property Auction

The city council has agreed to place at least a minimum bid, $68 thousand, in Thursday's IRS auction of the wooded portion of the Washington-McLaughlin property, a 2.68 acre parcel nestled between Woodland, Circle, and Gude Avenues not far from New Hampshire Avenue. The winning bidder would be required to deal with over $400 thousand of "encumbrances," which include around $200 thousand owed to Montgomery County and to the city for back taxes, unpaid fees, penalties, and interest.

Bidding could go much higher. How high should the city bid?

Our aim in buying the parcel would be to conserve the majority of the land undeveloped.

There are many uncertainties related to costs -- Could the liens on the property, the "encumbrances," be transferred to the parcels that are not up for sale? -- and to financing. The city would pay for a purchase using unallocated money from our general fund reserves, but we'd probably have to cover that draw-down, due to likely FY16 revenue pressure, by raising taxes or borrowing money and possibly by diverting funds from related purposes such as sustainability programs.

We could eventually sell a portion of the parcel for construction of single-family homes, in order to recover (some of) our purchase costs, and we could either retain the remainder of the property or sell or transfer it to a land trust or Montgomery Park for conservation.

A number of neighbors and others are highly concerned that the entirety of the property not fall into a developer's hands. They, the Plan B group, have constructively been raising funds that could supplement a city bid. I have posted their flyer. Do consider joining their effort.

And please do relay to me your view on this topic.

A Look-Ahead to January 26

The Monday, January 26 council meeting will be preceded by a farewell reception for departing City Manager Brian Kenner, at 7 pm. Please join us! January 31 is Brian's last day in Takoma Park; he starts as Washigton DC deputy mayor for planning and economic development on February 2.

By the way: The city will be posting the city manager job very soon. We will be conducting an expedited search. Stay tuned.

The January 26 meeting will feature presentation of the Police Department Annual Report at 8 pm. The past years have been challenging, but we have undertaken significant new initiatives, spurred by residents' organizing of last February's multi-jurisdictional crime summit.

Creation of a police mutual-aid agreement with Montgomery County is one advance; a similar agreement with the District of Columbia should be ready soon. And in November, the council authorized the police department to start up a city Safe Cam program that should help the police locate privately-shot video linked to crime incidents.

We should remain concerned about the civil liberties implications of our 2014 decision to share city license-plate reader data with the Maryland fusion center. "Governor-elect Larry Hogan picked as homeland security director a former Maryland State Police superintendent who oversaw a controversial and prolonged surveillance of death penalty and antiwar activists," reports the Baltimore Sun. The fox is back in charge of the chicken coop. Nonetheless, we can hope(although I am personally still skeptical) that LPR-data sharing will facilitate a higher crime closure rate.

Your Thoughts?

As always, please share your thoughts and concerns with the council, at the January 20 WAH public hearing, during council-meeting public comment at 7:30 pm, or via e-mail to clerk@takomaparkmd.gov, or contact me directly at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov or 301-873-8225.

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