First, a couple important pieces of information:
1) During the next three months, there will only be one Council worksession and one Council meeting every month. The worksession will be the first Tuesday of each month (except for August, when it will be on Wednesday to accommodate National Night Out on the first Tuesday), and the Council meeting will be the second Tuesday.
2) I will be gone for a training program in Boston for three weeks starting on June 6. I’ll be checking my e-mail and voice mail, but won’t be as available by either as I usually am.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Next, a brief summary of last week’s meeting:
We passed the budget with only one vote, Councilmember Perry, voting against. We amended the budget to include funding for Meals on Wheels (passed 7-0-1, with Councilmember Nagle abstaining), and the amendment to remove funding for the Boys & Girls Club failed (1-6-1, with Councilmember Perry voting in support and Councilmember Nagle abstaining). Both site plans (for the Domain project on Campus Drive and Mowatt Ln., and the Chinese Bible Church in Autoville) were approved with a number of conditions, and the Council unanimously approved the funding for additional pay stations downtown and the contract for the speed cameras. Let me know if you have any questions about any of these items.
Now for this week’s agenda – another full week!
1) PROPOSED CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS – FOUR PROPOSED VARIANCES, THREE IN NORTH COLLEGE PARK. There are a number of variance requests on the proposed consent agenda. Specifically, we will be considering the following:
1. Denial of a request for a variance at 9020 Autoville Drive to allow widening of a driveway by 4 feet, and approval of a variance of .6 feet from the required 25-ft. yard setback to validate an existing front porch. The resident wants to widen his driveway to allow him to maneuver his cars around each other better, and the APC voted to disapprove this variance, because the house has plentiful street parking around it and the resident did not demonstrate a need for this. The resident would like to improve his porch, and needs a variance because the porch was built within the required 25-foot setback. The APC recommended approving this variance. The motion before the Council is to approve both of these recommendations.
2. Approval of a variance to allow an 8′x8′ porch addition at 9118 48th Place. The resident here would like to build a porch in front of his house. Because his yard has a strange shape and the house is set at an angle, he would not be able to do this without encroaching on the required front-yard setback. The APC voted 5-0-1 to allow the variance so that he could build the porch – the motion before the Council is to approve the recommendation.
3. Approval of a variance from the lot coverage limitations to allow construction of an enclosed porch in the rear yard at 4605 Drexel Road. In this case, the applicant would be able to meet the lot coverage requirements with a new rear porch, but there is a tree stump located where he would like to place the footings for the porch, and as a result, he has to extend it out slightly further and needs a variance to the lot coverage requirements. The APC recommended unanimously to allow the variance. The motion for the Council is to approve the recommendation.
4. Approval of a variance to allow construction of a front-yard fence at 5013 Hollywood Road. This is a corner lot with a large garage in the back yard. The owners just moved in and would like to build a fence to keep in their dogs. There is very little room in the backyard, because the garage takes up a lot of room and the house is set back a ways in the yard. The APC voted 4-2 to recommend approval of the variance. I’ve been giving this one a lot of thought – I understand the resident’s dilemma, but it’s a shame to fence in a nice front yard, and I really think this fence could change the appearance of that intersection. On the other hand, the resident really does have a special situation, with a garage taking up most of his small back yard and his house set back as far as it is. The motion before the Council is to approve this, and I have decided not to call this up for a fuller review.
2) STRATEGIC PLAN FY 2011 ACTION PLAN. Since the Council last discussed the strategic plan, the staff has filled in some more details to the plan and added recommendations of the Council Included now are specific staff members and departments to take responsibility for the various items, as well as proposed timeframes for each action. I recommended a number of additional recommendations, including working with the City contract police to recruit neighborhood watch block captains and coordinators, exploring opportunities for further collaboration between the University and the City’s two elementary schools, exploring alternate avenues of support for younger people with disabilities currently living at Spellman House and Attick Towers, and working with a number of partners to bring bike-sharing to College Park. The action plan is ambitious, but I feel that it is doable. The strategic plan is available here, and the action plan should be available online soon.
3) RESOLUTION TO AUTHORIZE OPERATION OF A SPEED MONITORING SYSTEM IN CERTAIN AREAS. The Council will be considering adoption of a resolution to authorize operation of speed cameras in a number of areas, all located within a half-mile of a school. The proposed areas for installation of speed cameras include: 1. Rhode Island Ave. between Rte. 193 and the north boundary of the City; 2) Rte. 1 between Beechwood Road and Indian Ln., University Blvd. between Adelphi Road and 49th Ave., Metzerott Rd. between University Blvd. and Adelphi Road, Paint Branch Parkway between Route 1 and the east boundary of the City, and Greenbelt Road between Rte.1 and Rhode Island Ave.
4) ARTICLES OF ORGANIZATION OF THE COLLEGE PARK HOUSING AUTHORITY. State law requires that the City Council provide a recommendation regarding the Articles of Organization of the College Park Housing Authority. The CPHA Board has drafted these for our consideration. The Articles establish a Board of 5 Commissioners appointed by the City Council for five years each, and allow the Authority to administer rent subsidy payments and housing assistance programs in the City. The Authority is to have meetings on the fourth Thursday of every month. For the most part, the Housing Authority oversees Spellman House and Attick Towers, and administers the subsidy program for individuals living in each building. Please let me know if you have any questions about this.
5) RESOLUTION TO CHANGE THE CODE SECTIONS REGARDING THE EDUCATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO ALLOW APPOINTMENT OF A NON-RESIDENT. The Education Advisory Committee chair, Valerie Bleau, has asked that the Council amend the City Code provisions regarding the EAC to allow the appointment of a non-resident to act as a second representative of the University of Maryland. Specifically, the EAC has asked that the Council appoint Peggy Wilson, a former teacher with PGCPS and the coordinator at the University of Maryland’s Department of Education who places and monitors student teachers, to the Committee. Currently, the Committee already has one U-MD representative, Dr. Victoria-Maria McDonald, who is a professor at the University. While Dr. McDonald has a mostly academic background, Ms. Wilson is more experienced as a teacher. I think this is a good idea and would be willing to support a second University appointment who is not necessarily a resident of the City. Because the City is looking for further opportunities for collaboration between the University and our schools, I see this as a possible way to move that forward.
6) CHANGE OF THE NAME OF THE CITY COMMUNITY SERVICES DEPARTMENT. Last month, Director of Community Services Peggy Higgins asked that the Council change the name of her department to “Family, Youth and Seniors Department” to better reflect the work that the Department does. Some members of the Council, including myself, had some concerns about the proposed name and thought that a name like “Family, Youth and Seniors SERVICES Department” would sound better, but we wanted to discuss this with Ms. Higgins. We will discuss this tomorrow. Also, the City Code refers to the “Planning, Community and Economic Development Department” in some instances as the “Planning and Community Development.” We will consider making this uniform.
7) CITY-UNIVERSITY ECONOMIC INTERDEPENDENCE STUDY. A couple months ago, based on a request from the Board of Regents, University Vice President of Administrative Affairs Ann Wylie wrote to the Council to propose that the City and University jointly conduct an “economic interdependence” study. Many Councilmembers, including myself, were skeptical of the proposal, because it came up shortly after the University proposed requesting a waiver of the Admissions and Amusement Tax it pays to the City. We were skeptical that such a study might be used as a justification to stop paying this tax to the City. It seemed, however, that the University planned to go ahead with the study with or without the City’s involvement, so we decided to participate with the study and work to make sure that the study impartially reflects both the benefits and costs of the University to the City, and more importantly, how the conditions of the City and the University are intertwined, and how the University benefits from having a more effective and capable City government. The Council put together a committee of individuals – which I am not on – to put together a list of proposals for the study. We will be reviewing and discussing those proposals tomorrow.
8) GUIDELINES FOR REPORTING USE OF DIRECT GRANT FUNDS. Over the budget process, Councilmembers heard of some concern regarding the granting of direct funds to certain organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club and the College Park Arts Exchange. Although we, in the past, have heard from these organizations about how thye use their funds, there is currently no requirement that the organizations present their budgets or report on the use of funds. I asked that we set up a worksession to discuss a regular reporting requirement to these organizations – which currently include the College Park Arts Exchange, the Boys & Girls Club, and Meals on Wheels. I would like to see the direct grantees fill out, on an annual basis, a Program Budget form, and a grant report about how they have used the funds. The recipients should also fill out a Hold Harmless Agreement, like other city grantees do, to ensure that the City is not liable for any claims that result from the grantee’s use of City funds. Tomorrow, we will consider what requirements we should impose on direct grantees and what the timeframe of these requirements should be.
9) MML LEGISLATIVE ACTION REQUESTS. Every year, the City submits Legislative Action Requests to the Maryland Municipal League for consideration If the MML takes the legislative action request on, this becomes a part of the MML’s lobbying agenda for the state legislative session for the next year. Last year, for example, the City requested that MML take up the issue of requiring a mandatory mediation program for banks before they foreclose on a person’s house, to allow the homeowner a chance to modify the loan. Although MML didn’t take this issue on last year, it became a priority legislative item of Governor O’Malley’s, and ended up passing as a result. This year, I would like to see MML focus on expanding revenue raising opportunities for municipalities, so that we, for example, can tax liquor sales within the City. I would also like MML to focus much of its lobbying efforts on restoring Highway User Fee funding to the City, so that we can get the revenue back that we usually use to repair our roads.
10) APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS AND COMMITTEES – Currently, the City has vacancies on the following committees available for residents of District 1: Airport Authority, Animal Control Board, Animal Welfare Committee, Cable Television Commission, Citizens Corps Council, Committee for a Better Environment, Education Advisory Committee, and the Veterans Memorial Improvement Committee.
As always, thanks for reading, and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about these items.