Tonight is our first Council meeting of the year! We have a couple of big things things on the agenda tonight.
PUBLIC HEARING ON PROPOSED SHOPPING CART ORDINANCE. First, we have a public hearing on the proposed ordinance regarding shopping carts. The ordinance would require that all shopping carts in the city of College Park clearly identify the shop that owns them and also require that all shopping carts use anti-theft technology. Any cart found outside the lot of the shop it belongs to would result in a $100 fine for the store.
This ordinance was requested by former Councilmember Mary Cook when she was still on the Council to address the problem of shopping carts from Shopper’s Food Warehouse being stolen and deposited on the streets and in the residential neighborhoods. This poses a safety concern and creates additional trash in our neighborhoods. To a large extent, this problem has been resolved, because Shopper’s Food Warehouse has installed anti-theft technology. MOM’s, which I believe is the only other store in the city that uses grocery carts, has never had a problem with this, because they carry out people’s groceries for them. The ordinance, however, is meant to deal with possible future problems, and imposes a fine on store owners for any grocery cart found off the property. It also requires that each store label the store name on the cart. I have spoken with the general manager of College Park MOM’s, who thinks it’s a good way to prevent stores from letting carts off their property, and is okay with the ordinance as long as it doesn’t actually require the use of anti-theft technology. Although the ordinance may not be necessary at this point, I don’t see any problem with having it in place to prevent future problems. I’m eager to hear if any other concerns are raised during the public hearing.
The public hearing starts at 7:45 at City Hall.
–a resolution in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I mentioned last week, this Saturday, January 16, at 2 pm at the Clarice Smith Center is the city’s annual tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. I encourage you to come if you can make it – I’ve been the past few years, and it’s always inspirational, with a number of great choirs and speakers.
–approval of spring field use requests for the College Park Boys & Girls Club. The Boys and Girls Club typically uses our fields at both the old Friends school and at Duvall Field during the spring and summer to conduct their sports, and the city typically gives them priority use over other clubs.
–approval of two variances, one for a fence in the Berwyn neighborhood, and the other for a side yard setback for a carport in Lakeland.
The following action items are up for discussion, in addition to the shopping cart ordinance discussed above:
COMMENTS ON THE AMENDED US 1 SECTIONAL MAP AMENDMENT AND SECTOR PLAN. I discussed this quite a bit in last week’s e-mail. From the worksession, the staff put together a letter with comments to the County Council, focusing on nine specific issues:
1. The US 1 street section. As I mentioned last week, the Plan currently proposes a recommendation for the street section (basically, the layout of the street, including lane width, sidewalks, bike lanes, etc). that runs contrary to the requirements of the State Highway Administration. SHA submitted comments to the Planning Board on this issue one day late, and the planning board refused to take them as a result. These issues need to be worked out, and the letter that staff has drafted asks that the County Council delay approval of the plan to work out these issues.
2. Undergrounding utilities. This is an expensive project that the city has been working with developers on for quite a while, to make power outages less likely and increase the amount of space available on US 1. The sector plan, as currently drafted, does not include a plan to accomplish this.
3. Parking standards. The draft letter requests further analysis on the issue of how much parking to require for new developments. I have concerns about this, because I’m afraid that a decrease in parking will lead more people to park in the residential neighborhood. The sector plan is inconsistent in different sections as to what it recommends as to the minimum parking requirement.
4. Walkable Nodes and Future Walkable Nodes. The draft letter suggests removing any consideration at the time being of possible future walkable nodes, because the sector plan does not state how these “new” nodes would be established.
5. Land use and zoning. The draft letter requests clarity on the use of MUI in the DDOZ as the proposed zoning for much of the corridor immediately along Route 1. The current draft of the sector plan is inconsistent in this regard – while the proposed land use maps and urban design strategy suggest a lower-density zone for the areas between walkable nodes, the zoning map suggests keeping the zone at M-U-I (which it is currently at). It may make more sense to focus the M-U-I zone in higher density areas and a lower-density zone for other areas.
6. Transportation Demand Management. The sector plan does not include necessary strategies for reducing traffic in the area, despite a College Park report that lays out transportation demand management techniques for the area.
7. Public infrastructure strategies – the draft letter states that the plan fails to identify strategies for coordinating new development with meeting infrastructure needs.
8. Development phasing and incentives – the draft sector plan doesn’t include real incentives for new development or strategies for phasing in new development, and the proposed letter would request this.
9. The Hollywood Commercial District. The city, in the past, requested that the sector plan rezone the Hollywood Commercial District as a Mixed Use-Town Center zone. This tool has been used in Mt. Rainier and Riverdale to spur investment in the area and redevelopment. It would allow the local community to work together develop a design plan for the area, so that we could take a look at what we want in the Hollywood Commercial District. It would then create a streamlined approval process for any developments that meet the requirements of that design plan. It would also include a local design committee that would have the ability to veto any project that doesn’t meet the requirements of the design plan. I support this, because I think it would balance a need for redevelopment in the area, with a lot of local control, which could prevent the redevelopment from having a detrimental impact on our neighborhoods. I understand that some residents, including my colleague, Councilmember Nagle, have serious concerns about rezoning the Hollywood Commercial District in any way that would allow more density in the area. I have proposed a compromise to limit any increase in density in the commercial district to 20% over what currently exists, but I also believe that we could use local input in the plan to prevent any increase in density that would add to traffic or have a negative impact on the surrounding residential areas.
Park and Planning rejected our initial proposal to rezone to M-U-TC, in part because they feel it would be difficult to implement an M-U-TC zone in the current sectional map amendment, and in part, because of public opposition to any possible increased density that might come with the M-U-TC zone.
The letter, as currently drafted, supports the plan’s current recommendation to keep the same zoning in Hollywood, which is commercial shopping center (C-S-C), with support for well-thought out economic development strategies for the area. Because I remain concerned that the C-S-C zone will not spur redevelopment in the area, I have proposed an amendment that we request Park and Planning to develop a study group to look into the M-U-TC zone as a possible option for the next sectional map amendment. That will also allow residents more time to consider the option and decide whether it is an appropriate option for Hollywood.
I know this is a lot to digest – please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to explain any of the comments we’ve drafted.
LIQUOR LICENSE FOR AZTECA RESTAURANT, 9505 BALTIMORE AVE. The city is considering recommendations on a liquor license application for Azteca restaurant, a new, sit-down Mexican restaurant proposed for 9505 Baltimore Ave., near the intersection of Indian Road and Route One. Although the city did not have any serious concerns about granting the license at our worksession last week, we will probably postpone consideration of the license in order to give the NCPCA an opportunity to discuss it at it’s meeting on Thursday. We will then consider the item at a special session next week, in order to get our comments to the licensing board in time for its hearing on January 26.
COMMENTS ON PROPOSED FORM-BASED CODE ORDINANCE (Title 27A). Based on our discussion last week, the city has drafted a letter to submit comments regarding the proposed form-based code ordinance, title 27A. Unfortunately, a hearing on this before the County Planning, Zoning and Economic Development committee is happening this afternoon, so, without objection from the Councilmembers, the staff will be discussing these recommendations this afternoon before they are approved by the full Council.
The ordinance is much better than it was when originally drafted, in part because of the comments that the city already submitted. Just as a matter of overview – the ordinance basically creates a different way for redevelopment in an urban corridor. It allows either Park and Planning or a developer, in consultation with local residents and Park & Planning, to develop a regulatory plan for an area, and then allows streamlined approval for developments that meet such a plan.
The current comments focus on having a more formal role for cities in the development review process by including city staff person on the committee that review development proposals. While the city supports streamlined review for developments that meet a development plan to the letter, the city objects to the fact that the current draft of the ordinance proposes use of the Zoning Hearing Examiner to review major departures from a development plan. The city also requests additional public involvement when a developer proposes a regulatory plan. The comments also suggest that the ordinance may be appropriate to help redevelop the Route One sector
APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS AND COMMITTEES. Thanks to Joe Smith for agreeing to continue his work on the City Tree and Landscape Board. I have nominated Joe for a reappointment to be approved tonight.
Please let me know if you have any questions!