Fall Update from the City Manager
With public schools opening on Tuesday and the City Council returning from their summer recess on Wednesday, September 11, City staff is gearing up for a VERY busy fall.
I have compiled a summary of some of the more interesting projects or issues that are underway. Most of them are likely to affect you one way or another. And, to keep on top of all things Takoma Park, I encourage you to sign up for the weekly Takoma Park Insider, if you haven’t already. It’s always good to be in the know!
Now, before I go into some of the exciting work that is before us, I ask all of you to do some end-of-the-summer homework:
- Check to make sure you and your family are prepared for storms or other emergencies. With climate change, emergency preparations and vigilant property maintenance are more important than ever.
- Do you have your supplies to rely on for three days in a power outage?
- Do you know your escape routes and meeting-up place if you have a fire?
- If you have trees on your property, have they received proper maintenance by a licensed tree care professional within the last two years?
- If you have a home, are your house gutters clean and do the paths for stormwater go away from your home and not onto the neighboring property?
- Have you eliminated breeding places for mosquitos?
- Help make sure children can walk, bike, or bus safely to school.
- Check to make sure sidewalks are clear of overgrown vegetation.
- Practice coming to a full stop at stop signs. (I’ve seen a number of cars just rolling past stop signs lately!)
- If you have children who will be heading to school next week, walk or bike the route with them and make sure it’s safe and they know safety rules.
- Report any overgrown vegetation or unsafe locations to the City so we can issue a Courtesy Notice or correct a problem.
- Sign up for emergency alerts, City notices, etc so you can be informed. We have great options to let you know if roads are closed, emergency weather is on the way, if classes are canceled, or if there is an imminent danger that might affect you. We also have information on fun programs or opportunities that help make living in Takoma Park great!
Now to what is on tap for Fall, 2019.
Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan – A draft plan has been prepared for City Council consideration in September after almost four years of research and public outreach. The Staff is already working on some implementation steps and looks forward to the adoption of a final plan. Key goals are to have a City with a range of safe, high quality, and stable housing options affordable for residents of varying incomes as well to plan and prepare for development in the City while maintaining the special character and diversity of Takoma Park. The plan is also guided by race equity and environmental sustainability goals.
Flower Avenue Green Street – While we’ve been planning for the complete overhaul of Flower Avenue between Piney Branch Road and Carroll Avenue for years, visible work on the street has now begun. For the coming year, there will be one-lane closures while utility work is done, and bioretention areas and new sidewalks are installed. This is a very significant project for Takoma Park and our region.
Sustainability and Climate Action Plan – Our existing plan is being updated and we want your input! We will have an online survey, a public workshop on Tuesday, September 17 at 7:00 pm in our Community Center Auditorium and several focus groups. The plan is scheduled to be completed in November to help guide our community to greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions while increasing resiliency to climate change.
Takoma Park Library Renovation – Council has approved design work up to the construction drawing stage. Changes to the concept plans are being made to raise the floor out of the flood plain, but the exterior configuration remains similar to the one that has been well-received by the community. We need to have a library that meets ADA regulations, has an HVAC system that works, and that has the facilities to function as a modern public library for Takoma Park. As the drawings are refined, we will be able to get more accurate cost estimates and make design adjustments as needed.
Updating of the City’s Tree Regulations and Protection of the Tree Canopy – The Council, staff, Tree Commission, and Committee on the Environment have been working on updating the City’s tree regulations while pursuing greater protection of the tree canopy in Takoma Park. There will be a number of Council discussions on this, referring to the many public comments that have been received and the recent report on the status of the tree canopy. The Council will be jumping right in on this topic beginning September 11.
Takoma Junction Development and SHA Intersection Improvements– The City’s development partner, Neighborhood Development Company, is continuing in the plan review process with Montgomery County for the Takoma Junction Development project. At the same time, the Maryland State Highway Administration is following up on its Takoma Junction Vision project, taking comments from the public outreach done in the spring and looking at options for intersection improvements. Stay tuned on both projects.
Takoma Park Recreation Center Redevelopment – The City of Takoma Park recently became the property owner of this facility that we have operated on New Hampshire Avenue since 1997. We will be contracting for a public process to determine how to redevelop the property to ensure that City goals are met for recreation, as well as for housing or other economic development needs. In the meantime, its fitness room is a great place to get in shape, and there are a host of fun programs operating out of the Center. Stop by!
Future of Washington Adventist Hospital Property – The Emergency Department and acute care patients were moved to the new White Oak Medical Center on August 25. Some patients and services remain in the hospital until space is ready for them at the White Oak facility next summer. A new Urgent Care facility opened in the former Emergency Department. (It is for minor ailments and injuries and open 24 hours per day, seven days a week. For more serious medical issues, call 911.) Washington Adventist University intends to purchase the hospital property, but almost any use requires zoning changes. Reuse of the site is years away. Once the hospital is completely moved, most of the property is likely to be subject to property taxes at least until new exempt uses are approved. The Takoma Park City Council is on record as wishing to see community needs met at the site, such as housing, medical care, and/or education.
Election Changes – With the move of City Council elections to even years beginning in 2020, the City Charter needs updating and procedures are being worked on. Information will be in an upcoming Takoma Park Newsletter. And, don’t forget, 16 and 17-year-olds can vote in the City of Takoma Park elections. We were the first in the nation to allow this!
For information on these and the many other major projects going on around Takoma Park, check out our City website under Initiatives. We have details and contact information for many projects.
Some smaller items:
Dispatch Space Improvements – There will be improvements made to our Police Department this fall. The Community Center’s Atrium floor will be filled in, providing room to expand the Police Department’s very cramped Dispatch office. While construction is underway, Dispatch will be moved elsewhere in the building but we will remain open.
EV Chargers – You may notice changes to some of our Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers around the City. Pepco will be operating some of them now that the City’s contract with the company EVI has expired. In BY Morrison Park, the four old Level 2 (slower) EV chargers will be removed. Two new Level 2 chargers will be installed and the other two parking spaces will not have EV chargers. The new Level 2 chargers will require payment. It is likely that all Level 2 chargers will move to become chargers requiring payment. Level 3 (fast) chargers already require payment.
Stormwater Fees – Based on Council discussions this past spring and a consultant’s study, we will be looking to revamp the way we charge for stormwater management, with the possibility of changing the current uniform residential fee to a stepped fee that is higher for properties with more impervious surface and lower for those with less impervious surface, similar to our system for commercial and institutional properties. The topic will be addressed at the September 11 City Council work session.
New Staff! – With the tight labor market, there has been quite a lot of turnover of City staff in the last few months. I am delighted to report that a number of key vacant positions have recently been filled, most helpfully, our Human Resources Director position. We are so happy to have Ms. Tracy Smith on board in that position. Another key position being filled is our Victim/Witness Assistant in the Police Department. Other positions being filled include a Planning Intern, a part-time position in our Finance Department, and many Recreation positions for our before and afterschool programs.
I haven’t even mentioned the exciting arts programming and fun events that are on board for this fall. Again, sign up for notices so you can take advantage of every opportunity for enjoyment and to meet new friends.
On a personal note, I had a nice short vacation with my son earlier this month. As I visited several places, I noticed how really cutting-edge Takoma Park is, despite being a small community. I truly appreciate the dedication of Councilmembers, Committee members, and City staff in helping make Takoma Park a special place for all residents.
Have a happy and safe fall 2019!