Dear Residents of North College Park,
Just writing a little update to let you know what’s happening at this week’s Council meeting.
1. We’re starting at 7:45 pm with a public hearing on Ordinance 09-O-08, an ordinance that would amend the housing regulations to require banks to give notice to the City within five days after they foreclose on a house, or face a $100/day penalty. I brought this measure to the Council to address a problem that the code enforcement staff has had in enforcing code violations against vacant foreclosed properties – although the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) has a database of who owns each property, that database is often out-of-date, and the SDAT site often lists the former owner for months after a bank forecloses on the property. As a result, City staff doesn’t know who to give notice to when there is a code violation, and interested property owners don’t know who to contact when they want to buy the property. This ordinance would fix that by requiring a bank to give notice when it forecloses on a property, or face a penalty. Some of my colleagues on the Council have questions about how we’re going to enforce this ordinance – basically, how our little city is going to take on the big, bad banks. I believe that we should at least try – hopefully they’ll start taking notice when we start charging them $100/day fines! You can find more information on this ordinance here – http://www.gazette.net/stories/09102009/collnew175747_32523.shtml. Please feel free to come testify if you have ideas or thoughts on this ordinance.
2. Adoption of a city debt policy. This policy basic adopts sound financial practices to make sure that we limit our debt to capital expenditures only, not use debt to fund operating costs, and limits the amount of total debt we can take out.
3. Purchase of a new city telephone system. Our former phone servicer went out of business, so we need to buy a new one. The City decided not to bid this out, because we found a company that provided the lowest cost of the three vendors that serve our specialized needs, and is currently being used by other city governments and federal government agencies without complaints.
4. Approval of the City’s comments on the Route One sector plan. After MANY hours of deliberation, we are finally voting on the City’s comments on the Route One sector plan. I won’t go too much into these right now, as I know that many of you have been involved and have watched the City deliberate this, and the comments are about 14 pages long. I am drafting my own comments on the Sector Plan that will supplement the Route One sector plan, and will send those around in the next week. If you would like a copy of the City’s comments, please let me know and I’ll e-mail them to you.
5. Comments on the County’s Amended Master Plan of Transportation (MPOT). The City already submitted lengthy comments on the draft MPOT last year – now, the County has amended the draft and we are commenting on the amendments. Our comments include:
a. Support for new bike trails in the area, including a Purple Line Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Study and completion of a number of other bike trails, such as an extension of the Rhode Island Avenue bicycle trail south to Mount Rainier, and the Little Paint Branch trail north of the Beltway. The letter also supports including a pedestrian footbridge from north College Park to the south core of the Greenbelt Station development – this was in the original MPOT, but was removed in a later draft.
b. Support for an amendment that would look into bike lanes on Edgewood Road. I support this as I believe it would add connections to the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail and better access for some people to the Greenbelt Station. In the future, we might look at bike lanes on Lackawanna Street to allow for better access from Rhode Island Avenue to the Greenbelt Metro.
c. Support for amendments to the MPOT to keep Rhode Island Avenue as a two-lane road, and a request to remove any mention of Autoville Drive, which is a City street, from the MPOT.
d. A request for the County to consider the recommendations of its transportation study on the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance as it relates to transportation. I have expressed concerns about this in the past, as it would change the limits on development that are associated with adequate transportation facilities. I do believe, however, that the APF Ordinance should be amended to allow for developers to consider “smart growth” policies such as building around transit hubs and access to bicycle facilities, which could lead to reduced traffic.
6. Finally, the City is considering support of a bill to allow the city to implement revitalization tax credits. We looked at having a City tax credit last year, until we found out that we legally cannot do so. I support this, as I believe it would be a tool to allow us to revitalize certain neglected parts of the City, such as the Hollywood Commercial District. As many of you know, revitalizing Hollywood is one of my priorities that I hope to work on over the next couple of years.
Let me know if you have any questions! As always, the meeting is Tuesday (Sept 22) at Council Chambers in the second floor of City Hall, 4500 Knox Road.