October Update From The City Manager
From Suzanne Ludlow, City Manager of Takoma Park
It’s fall, it’s a beautiful day, and so much is happening in Takoma Park!
Including this evening, there are five Council meetings left before City Council elections. Topics to be covered in October include:
- Getting the sense of the current Council on the Takoma Junction Concept Plan recently presented by NDC – this involves a Work Session discussion on October 11 and a vote on October 18
- Presentation of the draft Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan
- Appointing members to the newly established Takoma Park Youth Council
- The possibility of allowing sidewalk cafes that serve alcohol in Takoma Park
- Overview of appropriate City financial reserve levels and policies
- Possibly taking a position on the proposed northern bridge crossing of the Potomac River
- Adding neonicotinoids to the classes of pesticides that cannot be used for cosmetic lawn care
I’d like to focus on three of these that will have long-term impacts on Takoma Park: Takoma Junction, the Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan, and Appropriate City Financial Reserves.
I know it is a hot topic for some Takoma Park residents right now. It is a critical project at a key location that sets an important precedent for our community. Fortunately, I am pleased that the Council and staff have been carefully following the transparent procedures and criteria put in place at the beginning of the project. All information is on our website and a supplement to the existing Question and Answer document, which will address questions that have come up since the NDC’s concept plan was presented, should be posted by Thursday. Continuing to follow a clearly documented process with public input sets a great precedent for future economic development work that is appropriate for Takoma Park.
The project on the City’s parking lot at Takoma Junction will help the walkability and appearance of the Junction while adding community amenities and to the commercial tax base. How it exactly looks and functions is a continuing process of proposals and reviews, with multiple opportunities for public comment to the City Council, the Façade Board, the Historic Preservation Commission, and the Montgomery County Planning Board. I believe strongly that a good project here helps the long-term viability of other businesses in the Junction area, including the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op.
One issue that is on people’s minds is the traffic flow (or lack thereof) in the Junction. Part of the current problem is the failing of the State Highway Administration (SHA) to adjust timing of the signals as they are being transitioned over to Montgomery County control. State Highway is also failing to appropriately oversee its contractor that is supposed to be installing traffic and crosswalk signals all along MD 410 in Takoma Park. Mayor Stewart and our District 20 Delegation have been putting pressure on SHA to correct the signal timing at the Junction and get the other work completed ASAP.
Part of the Takoma Junction project will be a City funded traffic study complementing the work that NDC is doing as part of its development design. This is to ensure that all of the Junction’s traffic flow (cars, trucks, bikes, and pedestrians) is considered while the project design is being evaluated. Again, there will be public discussion of the findings and recommendations.
Please check out the Takoma Junction Project Page, listen to a call-in discussion of the project on Takoma Radio (94.3FM) Sunday afternoon at 4 pm, and attend or watch the Council discussions on October 11 and 18.
Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan
If you attend the Council meeting on October 18, stick around for the presentation of the draft Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan prepared by our consultants, the Cloudburst Group. The presentation will go over actionable steps for the City to take over the next few years to keep Takoma Park livable by having a stronger tax base and more, and more varied, housing options for residents of different income levels.
Appropriate City Financial Reserves
The Takoma Park city government provides a large number of services to our residents with a relatively small budget. Since much of the City’s revenue comes from State and County payments, the City’s finances can be strongly impacted when those payments are reduced due to economic downturns or other unforeseeable circumstances. Natural and manmade disasters seem to be occurring weekly in the United States and we need to be able to meet our financial obligations even when emergencies occur. For this reason, a discussion of the appropriate level of City financial reserves is timely. The Council that is seated in November will be establishing the level of reserves in advance of the preparation of the FY 2019 City Budget. I am committed to ensuring that City tax dollars are handled carefully, spent frugally, and protected in the long run. Please feel free to contact me or your City Council representative with your thoughts about the appropriate level of City reserves.
In the Near Future
Besides the issues that are before the current Council, the incoming Council will be reviewing many projects, including the City Parking Study (nearing completion) and detailed plans for the renovated and expanded Takoma Park Library; working on issues such as tax duplication, the future of the Takoma Park Recreation Center, construction of the Flower Avenue Green Street and Ethan Allen Gateway projects, and continued innovative environmental sustainability work; all while examining our programs through a Racial Equity lens. In the spring, we will also have a new Residents Survey to help us find out what residents believe we are doing right and where we need to improve.
All of this work will impact the City’s residents and visitors. Please share your thoughts and, most importantly, VOTE in the November 7 City Council Elections.