We have a lot on the agenda for Tuesday night’s worksession, and many of these are important issues. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions on these items:
1. PROPOSED CONSENT AGENDA. Items for the proposed consent agenda include:
1) Conditional approval of a variance for a brick retaining wall at 3705 Marlbrough Way in College Park Woods. This variance request, for a front yard wall, has a long history – it went first before the Council in 2007, after the homeowner built a wall that was improperly granted a permit by the City but then also improperly built in the City right-of-way. After the City denied the variance request, the applicant appealed the process to the Prince George’s County Circuit Court, which remanded the application back to the City’s Advisory Planning Commission for reconsideration under a different standard. At this point, the applicant has torn down the original wall, and left standing only a smaller wall that is no longer in the City right-of-way, and is apparently necessary based on some fill and grading that the applicant did. The APC considered the variance based on the new standard that the Circuit Court required, and approved the variance conditionally, to keep the wall as currently constructed. No Councilmember has objected or called it up for review.
2) Approval of two requests for field use by the Boys & Girls Club, at Duvall Field and the Calvert Hills Playground Field. The Boys & Girls uses at least a portion of Duvall Field on evenings and weekends during much of the spring and summer for practice. Under the City’s rules for field use, the Boys & Girls Club has priority when granting permission for use of these fields. The B&G Club has submitted an application to use the fieldsfrom March through July 2011, Monday through Thursday 5-10:15 pm, Friday 5-10:30 pm, and Saturday 9 am through 10:30 pm. The Club has also requested to use the Calvert Hills Playground Monday through Friday 5 pm until dark and Saturday 9 am until dark.
3) A request for use of the Calvert Hills Playground Field by the Boys & Girls Club. The Maryland Stingers have in the past used a portion of Duvall Field Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7:30-9:30 pm, and have requested this use again. The Stingers have assisted and supported the Boys & Girls Club, and their use of the field is compatible with the Club’s use.
2. PRESENTATION BY THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND REGARDING UPDATE OF INITIAL CONCEPTS IN THE FACILITIES MASTER PLAN. The University of Maryland is currently updating its Facilities Master Plan, and will be presenting the initial concepts of this update to the Council on Tuesday night. The facilities master plan guides the growth of University of Maryland facilities, and is meant to ensure that the buildings and infrastructure at the University of Maryland will be sufficient to serve the students, faculty and staff. Click here for more information.
3. PERMANENT FINANCING FOR THE DOWNTOWN PARKING GARAGE. The City initially funded the construction of its downtown parking garage with Bond Anticipation Notes, a portion of which (used to build the garage itself) were tax-exempt and a portion of which (used to construct the retail space) are taxable. The maturity date of the bonds was extended to February 28, 2011, and the City’s financial advisor has been soliciting permanent financing to replace the BAN’s. The City received 5 responsive proposals by the February 7, 2011 due date, and the financial advisor is recommending a proposal from SunTrust Bank, with a tax-exempt interest rate 1/2% to 1% lower than all other quotes. The proposal includes 20-year financing for the bonds at a a 3.68% interest rate for the tax-exempt bonds and a 5.61% interest rate for the taxable bonds, with upfront fees (similar to “points” when obtaining a mortgage) of $8,000 for the tax-exempt bond and $500 for the taxable bond. The bonds would be “callable,” meaning that the City could refinance them at any time if interest rates decrease. The bonds also have a 10-year “put,” meaning that, after 10 years, the bank could change the interest rate or require that the bond be paid off, with 90 days notice to allow the City to obtain replacement financing. Because the amount of the taxable bond is only $475,000, the City’s financial advisor is recommending paying that off now if possible. If we do this, the annual financing for the bond will be $560,000.
4. DISCUSSION WITH STEVE GLICKMAN, SGA PRESIDENT, ABOUT THE PROVISION IN THE STUDENT LIAISON CODE REGARDING REMOVAL OF THE STUDENT LIAISON. The Council recently reviewed the City Council liaison position, and passed a new ordinance officially establishing a deputy liaison position and establishing rules regarding liaison attendance at executive sessions. The Council left in a provision stating that the Council may recommend removal of a student liaison, which is ultimately decided upon by the Student Government Association. We have invited SGA president Steve Glickman to discuss this procedure.
5. DISCUSSION OF A PROPERTY USE AGREEMENT AND CONSIDERATION OF SUPPORT FOR THE LIQUOR LICENSE OF THE BARKING DOG (7416 BALTIMORE AVE. – FORMER LOCATION OF THE THIRSTY TURTLE). The Barking Dog, a small chain of restaurants with another location in Bethesda, has obtained a lease with the owner of the former Thirsty Turtle location to set up a restaurant and bar there, and is now applying for a liquor license. As is customary when an establishment applies for a liquor license, the City must decide whether to support the liquor license application, and the Council typically agrees to do so if the owner signs a Property Use Agreement (PUA). The PUA usually sets out requirements regarding alcohol to food sales ratios, minimum prices for drinks, types of entertainment that may be offered at the venue, and rules for sales of pitchers and hours of operation. In this case, the Barking Dog is willing to agree to a 50/50 sales ratio. The applicant has agreed to a security plan – now a requirement under state law – which includes ID scanning, security guards for certain activities, and a security camera system. The security plan must be reviewed by County police and the Board of Licensing Commissioners, and the PUA includes a provision that it must be reviewed by the University police as well. The applicant has also agreed not to support or sponsor drinking games, which commonly occurred at the Thirsty Turtle, but has asked to be allowed to sell pitchers, but not as significantly discounted rates. It seems to me that these extra security measures, and consistent monitoring by the police and the BOLC, will help prevent the problems that occurred at the Thirsty Turtle with underage drinking and fights between students. Also, the Barking Dog is a restaurant with a history of activity in Bethesda, and has never had a noise violation or underage drinking violation at its other locations.
6. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RENEWAL OF HEALTH, WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AND LIABILITY INSURANCE CONTRACTS. The City is reviewing its insurance contracts for the next fiscal year, and used a broker and staff research to come up with proposals that the staff believes are the best options available for health insurance, workers’ compensation and liability insurance. 1) Health insurance – the City received a proposal from CareFirst for renewal of its health insurance contract with no increase in premiums, and was unable to receive other quotes due to CareFirst’s decision not to increase. The City also contacted the County staff to look into signing up for its plan, but realized that their premiums are slightly higher. The City staff also looked into joining the Local Government Insurance Trust’s (LGIT’s) new self-insurance cooperative, but this has only been in operation for a year and only has one member at this time, so the staff recommended making sure that the cooperative is viable in the long run before signing up. 2) Dental Insurance – the City has plans through DentaQuest and MetLife, and MetLife has offered to continue its plan with no increases, while DentaQuest is increasing its premiums by $600/year. Staff recommended keeping what we have. 3) Workers Compensation Insurance – The workers compensation premiums (through the Injured Workers Insurance Fund) will increase 6% next year due to the City’s claims history and state mandated increases, but the broker was not able to find a lower premium, so staff recommended continuing with the same carrier. 4) Liability insurance – The City obtains liability insurance through LGIT, and firm premium quotes are not available until May, but LGIT has advised that we budget a 10% premium increase. Due to our history with LGIT, staff recommends staying with them.
7. DISCUSSION OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PLAN. The City is undergoing the first major update of its Emergency Operations Plan since the Plan was first developed in preparation for Y2K contingencies. This will address the City’s role in handling emergency preparation and response for incidents such as hazmat spills, major fires, terrorist attack, and large-scale vehicle crashes. The City’s EOP is intended to work with the County and University EOP’s – the City has a significant role in communicating with residents about emergency plans and coordinating local efforts, but since the County and University have more resources, much of the preparation and response work is carried out by them. County and University managers have reviewed the City’s draft plan. I still have some questions about how the County and University plans are intended to interface with the City’s – for example, how the City will receive communications from the County and the University, how the County and the University will coordinate, and the ongoing role that the City, County and University are engaged in to train and prepare for emergency situations. Although the Emergency Operations Plan itself is confidential, due to the sensitive nature of some of the information regarding response to terrorist threats, etc., I’m happy to respond to whatever questions I can.
8. DISCUSSION OF COST-FREE PUBLIC SPACE TRASH AND RECYCLING PROGRAM. Two companies have contacted the City in the past few months to offer cost-free public space recycling bins. These are no-cost operations that would be controlled by the City of College Park and managed by the vendor. The City would select the design, and the bins would have two or three containers – one for trash and one or two for recycling – with advertising panels. Bins would be inspected weekly by the vendor and replaced at no cost when damaged. Although the vendor offers weekly collection, the City could conduct daily collection and receive a portion of the proceeds from advertising – this may be the best option, since weekly collection is not enough at many of our trash bin locations. The City currently conducts daily collection at our public trash bins. Local small business owners would be given the opportunity to sponsor a Recycling Station, and a portion of the revenue would be shared with the City. A portion of the advertising space would also be offered to the City at no cost. To me, this seems like a good way to expand recycling in the City at minimal cost.
9. PROPOSED MARYLAND HERITAGE AREAS AUTHORITY APPLICATION. Applications for the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grant program are due on March 4, 2011. Grants of up to $100,000 for capital projects and up to $50,000 for non-capital projects are available, and all grants require a dollar-for-dollar match. Projects must address priority activities outlined in the Certified Heritage Area Management Plan – for this year, the priority is commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812. The City staff has proposed requesting grant funds in the amount of $66,000 to initiate a pilot bikeshare program for the City that would build on the existing Capital Bikeshare program existing in Virginia and the District of Columbia. The City could piggyback on the Arlington contract for bikesharing, which would allow us to install three small stations with four bicycles and seven docks at each for $136,000. The staff is proposing to put bike stations downtown, at the College Park Metro, and in the Hollywood Commercial District. Matching funds of $66,000 would come from developer contributions ($10,000 from the Varsity project and $31,000 from the Domain project) and the City’s FY 11 Operating Budget ($25,000, which was already set aside as matching funds for the TIGER II grant request, which we did not receive). The remaining $4,000 would come from an in-kind match, which I believe would consist of the City’s efforts in installing the bike stations. I’ve been hoping to initiate bike-sharing in College Park for a while – I think that, with the number of students in our community, this would help enable more people to commute by bike, and I’d be excited to have one of the first bike-sharing stations in Maryland in the Hollywood Commercial District. The University is also looking at bike-sharing opportunities, and this has been discussed as part of the University’s Facilities Master Plan, so after we pursue this initial plan, we can work with the University and look at ways to expand the program.
10. APPLICATION BY METROLAND DEVELOPERS FOR JOINT FEDERAL/STATE APPROVAL OF WETLANDS ALTERATION AT GREENBELT METRO SITE. Metroland Developers, which a few years ago submitted a conceptual site plan for the North Core of the Greenbelt Station development, submitted, in 2008, an application to shift Narragansett Run, the creek that runs through North College Park along Narragansett Parkway, in its location east of the Green Line Metro tracks, to make room for the development. For obvious reasons, including the severe stormwater drainage problems existing in north College Park, residents have been concerned about the impact that this would have in our neighborhood. Because of the economy, the Greenbelt Station project has been dormant for a couple years, and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) this year threatened to close out the application if the developer didn’t take further action on it. As a result, the developer is now asking it to move forward. The City of Greenbelt learned about this and sent a letter against the proposal last month, but the City of College Park only learned of it recently, thanks to former Councilmember John Krouse reading an article about it in the Greenbelt News-Review. Although the time for comment expired at the end of January, Councilmember Nagle and I requested extension of the time for comment on this proposal, and with the help of Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, MDE agreed to extend the time for comment. No development proposal is going forward at this time, though, and the request may be premature. The City of Greenbelt opposed the application, though, after it hired a consultant to review the proposal and recommend certain remedial measures that the developers would have to take to make sure that this action could be taken without damage to the watershed. Many of these proposed remedial measures are not in the application permit. Also, after reviewing the permit application, I’ve seen what the developer proposes to do – essentially, make the creek a lot more windy through the new development. I don’t understand why they want to do this, but I do know that making the creek more windy may slow down the water drainage. I think we should oppose this, at least until both: 1) the developer can demonstrate without a doubt that the proposed change to the path of Narragansett Run will have NO impact on the flow of the lake that would cause increased stormwater drainage problems in North College Park, and 2) the other remedial measures recommended by Greenbelt’s consultant are addressed.
Please let me know if you have any questions about this.
11. DISCUSSION OF PROPOSED NEW MODEL ETHICS PROVISIONS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS BY THE STATE ETHICS COMMISSION. The State Ethics Commission has recently proposed new model ethics rules, and the Council will be reviewing these and looking at how we need to revise our ethics rules. The State has to approve municipal ethics rules, so the City may have to revise its rules accordingly. We’ll be receiving more information on this Tuesday night, so I’ll keep you posted of any changes.
12. LEGISLATIVE UPDATE. We will be receiving more information on the City’s legislative priorities, and proposed bills that we might wish to take a stance on, Tuesday night.
13. REPORT ON THE FEBRUARY 7 COLLEGE PARK CITY-UNIVERSITY PARTNERSHIP MEETING. The City Council recently requested that we receive a report on the College Park City-University Partnership activities after every meeting. The CPCUP had a meeting last Monday night, so we’ll be receiving a report of its recent activities.
14. APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS AND COMMITTEES. There are vacancies for District 1 residents in the following committees: Animal Welfare Committee, Cable Television Commission, Citizen Corps Council, Committee for a Better Environment, Education Advisory Committee, and the Veterans Memorial Improvement Committee.
Thanks for reading! Please let me know if you have any comments, suggestions, or questions.