Saturday, September 19, 2015

City Council, September 21: Taco Bell, city committees, and more

The first agenda item at Monday evening's city council meeting -- following preliminaries that include 7:30 pm public comment -- is dryly titled "Presentation and Discussion of Site Plan Application for N.E. Quadrant of New Hampshire Avenue and Holton Lane (Taco Bell)." Key in on the last bit:

A San Antonio, Texas franchisee, MUY Companies, proposes to construct a Taco Bell restaurant at New Hampshire Avenue and Holton Lane, a location along a stretch that the city hopes to revitalize as The New Ave. MUY is required to file a site plan for Montgomery County Planning Board review that looks at, per the city council backgrounder, "landscaping, parking, and building specifics." The city may choose to comment on the site plan and call for rejection, approval, or approval with conditions.

I don't have any thoughts to offer on Taco Bell per se. I am distressed, however, about MUY's proposed mini-sprawl site design. The city seeks to encourage "quality, mixed-use, pedestrian oriented projects" along the New Ave. Design guidelines call for higher-density, multi-story development that will help us realize a smart-growth vision, centered on transit-friendly development, along New Hampshire Avenue, the city's most important commercial corridor.

The proposed project is a single-story building with a drive-thru service window. The proposed project detracts from the New Ave vision. It will degrade its location and offer lamentably few benefits for residents.

MUY Companies should eliminate the drive-thru and create a multi-story building with, if they still wish, Taco Bell as the ground-floor business. Failing these steps, I disfavor the proposed site plan.

If they chose to partner with local owners -- part of Takoma Park's ethos is a preference for small, locally-owned businesses -- that would be even better.

(Please see also my April 2015 write-up, Taco Bell in Takoma Park?!)

The full agenda for the Monday evening, September 21 council meeting is online.

Takoma Junction Legal Advice

The council plans to meet in closed session, "to receive legal advice regarding a development agreement with NDC for the City-owned lot in Takoma Junction," prior to the 7:30 pm start of the public meeting. NDC is the Neighborhood Development Company, the developer chosen by the city to pursue construction on the city-owned Takoma Junction parking lot. We're making progress on a careful process toward Takoma Junction revitalization. Additional community meetings with the developer should be scheduled soon.

City Boards, Commissions, and Committees

Three agenda items follow the Taco Bell site plan presentation and discussion. They are discussions of:

- A Bus Shelter Contract with Signal Outdoor Advertising, LLC
- State Legislation including Bond Bills
- The Appointment Process for City Boards, Commissions and Committees

The state legislation item will include a look ahead to the 2016 legislative session, which opens in January. Over the summer, the city forwarded three legislative action requests to the Maryland Municipal League, but of course we have many other interests we may wish to pursue in the next session. I'll single out one: state bond funding toward library renovation. Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate Sheila Hixson have indicated willingness to submit bond bills, which could provide a few hundred thousand dollars toward the overall project cost should the city move ahead with library renovation.

The item on city boards, commissions, and committees is scheduled for 9:30 pm. Community members devote thousands of hours annually to this form of city service. Thank You! to all who participate; there are many opportunities to get involved. The Recreation Committee and Arts and Humanities Commission in particular could use new members.

Monday evening's discussion will cover our approach to recruiting and appointing applicants. This topic is especially significant because committee service (along with participation in tenant and neighborhood associations and community volunteering) is a very important element in maintaining responsive, inclusive city government.

Contact

Finally, my council service will end in two months. Until that time, I'll continue to do my best to represent and serve Ward 1 resident and other city stakeholders. As always, please contact me at sethg@takomaparkmd.gov or 301-873-8225 with city-related questions and concerns.

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