Hope you all had a good President’s Day weekend! We’re supposed to get bad weather tonight, so please let me know if you might need help shoveling or taking care of snow, and please stay off the roads tonight if you can. The City’s gearing up for another possible snow emergency, hopefully the last of the year!
We’re starting tomorrow night off with a PUBLIC HEARING ON THE CITY CODE REGARDING PARKING OF COMMERCIAL VEHICLES ON RESIDENTIAL STREETS. The Council passed an ordinance late last year setting out criteria about when a vehicle should be prohibited on residential streets as a commercial vehicle. These included the following: 1) any vehicle exceeding 21 feet in length or 6 feet in width used for commercial purposes; 2) any vehicle exceeding a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight specification of 8,500 pounds; 3) vehicles containing advertising other than a firm name or similar designation less than 4 inches high; 4) vehicles exceeding 300 cubic feet of load space; and 5) any stake platform trucks, dump trucks, crane or two trucks, or vehicles with rear dual wheels. After putting this into effect, we got some feedback from some residents with smaller commercial vehicles that suggested this may be too restrictive. Unfortunately, some residents rely on work vehicles to get to and from work, and park those vehicles on the street. Because the county zoning code prohibits residents from parking these vehicles in their driveways, they could only park them in the street before, and they were surprised that the City would become more restrictive after letting them park on the streets for many years. As a result, we had a discussion about easing these restrictions somewhat, and the Council thought it might be best to do two things: 1) allow vehicles with commercial lettering on the sides that met the other restrictions, and 2) allow dual rear wheel trucks, many of which can be used for legitimate personal hauling (such as hauling trailers, campers, etc.). We’re still interested in hearing feedback on these ideas, if people have concerns or know of vehicles that might be used for personal use but might still fall under these restrictions. Please let me know!!
The following items are on the meeting agenda tomorrow:
1) CONSENT AGENDA – two items are scheduled for the consent agenda:
1) Conditional approval of a variance for a brick retaining wall at 3705 Marlbrough Way in College Park Woods. After the long history of this item I described last week, this is to approve a small front-yard brick retaining wall at this property that was initially approved in error by the City as part of a larger wall. After two reviews by the Advisory Planning Commission, the property owner scaled the wall back to just a small brick retaining wall, and the APC determined that this met the criteria that the Prince George’s County Circuit Court said that the City should use. No one has called the APC’s decision up for review, so this is on the consent agenda without a full hearing by the Council.
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.
2) CONSIDERATION OF REQUEST BY THE MARYLAND STINGERS RUGBY CLUB FOR USE OF DUVALL FIELD – 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. The City Recreation Board recommended we continue to let the Stingers use the fields free of charge as they have in the past. Councilmember Nagle asked to bring this off the consent agenda so the Council could discuss whether to continue granting free use of the facilities to the Stingers. The City’s policy on use of recreational facilities allows these fees to be waived when a majority of the people in the Club come from the City. I asked to make sure that we invite a representative of the Stingers to discuss their membership and the things that they do for the City, and whether we should continue allowing them to use the fields for free.
3) CONSIDERATION OF ORDINANCE AMENDING RESTRICTIONS ON COMMERCIAL VEHICLES ON RESIDENTIAL STREETS TO ALLOW PARKING OF VEHICLES WITH COMMERCIAL LETTERING AND DUAL REAR-WHEEL VEHICLES. The Council will vote tomorrow night on the amendment to the commercial vehicle ordinance discussed above.
4) RESOLUTION TO APPROVE $8,150,000 TAX-EXEMPT PARKING GARAGE BOND OF 2011 WITH SUNTRUST BANK. The City Council will be considering permanent financing of the downtown parking garage. The City initially funded the construction of this 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 City’s financial advisor has been soliciting permanent financing to replace the BAN’s, and the City received 5 responsive proposals by the February 7, 2011 due date. The proposal from SunTrust Bank includes a tax-exempt interest rate 1/2% to 1% lower than all other quotes the City received. The proposal includes: 1) 20-year financing for the bonds at a a 3.68% interest rate for the tax-exempt bonds; 2) upfront fees (similar to “points” when obtaining a mortgage) of $8,000; 3) the bonds would be “callable,” meaning that the City could refinance them at any time if interest rates decrease; 4) 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.
5) RESOLUTION TO PAY OFF THE TAXABLE PORTION OF THE FINANCING OF THE DOWNTOWN PARKING GARAGE. The City’s financial advisor has determined that we can structure the financing of the downtown parking garage so that only $475,000 is taxable. Because the City would be paying more in interest on these bonds than it would be receiving in interest if we hold on to the funds until we pay off the bonds, our financial advisor has recommended that we pay off the taxable portion of the bonds with funds from our reserves. This resolution would do that.
6) RESOLUTION TO PAY OFF THE REMAINDER OF THE BANK OF AMERICA CITY HALL DEVELOPMENT REFUNDING NOTE OF 2000 IN THE AMOUNT OF $160,000. In the year 2000, the City took out a $600,000, 13-year note for permanent financing of the City Hall renovation that took place in 1997. The tax-exempt interest rate on this project was 6.18%, and we have $160,000 left to pay off the note. Since we have some money left in our reserves that only pulls in about a 1% interest rate for the City, it would make sense to use this money to pay off the debt. The City will be considering this course of action on Tuesday.
7) RESOLUTION TO CLARIFY PROVISIONS FOR REMOVAL OF THE STUDENT LIAISON. At our worksession last week, the Council had a discussion with SGA president Steve Glickman about the removal process for student liaisons. Mr. Glickman thought our current procedure – recommending that the Council make a referral for removal to the SGA for them to decide – was appropriate, but said that ultimate removal would require a 2/3 vote of the SGA “legislature,” a clarification of what we had before, which just said a 2/3 vote of the SGA. We’re making this modest change to our ordinance establishing the student liaison position to state that the SGA legislature should decide.
8) AWARD OF CONTRACTS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE, DENTAL INSURANCE, WORKER’S COMPENSATION INSURANCE, AND LIABILITY INSURANCE. Based on its work with a broker, the City HR and finance staff has made the following recommendations regarding our insurance contracts for next year: 1) Health insurance – remaining with CareFirst, which has offered renewal of its health insurance contract with no increase in premiums. The broker looked at a number of options and determined that this would be the cheapest. 2) Dental Insurance – remaining with the current plans through DentaQuest and MetLife. MetLife has offered to continue its plan with no increases, while DentaQuest is increasing its premiums by $600/year. The broker found these to be the cheapest options. 3) Workers Compensation Insurance – remaining with the Injured Workers Insurance Fund, which has offered a 6% increase in premiums next year due to the City’s claims history and state mandated increases. The broker was not able to find a lower premium. 4) Liability insurance – Remaining with the Local Government Insurance Trust (LGIT). 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.
9) APPROVAL OF A MARYLAND HERITAGE AREAS AUTHORITY FY 2012 GRANT APPLICATION. City staff has proposed to apply for a $66,000 grant to support establishment of a pilot bike-sharing program around the City. Looking for resources to support bike-sharing has been a part of the City’s action plan over the past year, and we attempted to get resources through two consecutive TIGER (transportation infrastructure grants) from the federal government, through the Council of Governments, but these were unsuccessful. The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grant is intended to support cultural and historical projects around a specific theme (this year, the bicentennial of the War of 1812), but the staff consulted with MHAA about this project, and they suggested we submit a grant proposal. The grant requires 1-for-1 matching funds, which the City would get through developer contributions and through money already set aside for this project, as well as in-kind support from the City’s work installing the bike stations. The grant would support three bike-sharing stations around the City, and the staff has suggested bike stations downtown, at the College Park Metro, and at the Hollywood Commercial District. I would also like to see stations at the Greenbelt Metro, but that may have to come later. The bike stations would be compatible with other bike stations around the D.C. Metro area.
10. LETTER TO THE MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT EXPRESSING CONCERNS ABOUT THE PERMIT APPLICATION FOR RESTORATION/RELOCATION OF NARRAGANSETT RUN NEAR THE GREENBELT METRO STATION. I discussed the history of this project last week – this relates to the proposed new developments around the Greenbelt Metro station, which have stalled due to the economy. The developer has proposed shifting the location of the Narragansett Run on the opposite side of the Green line Metro tracks from us. The letter that the staff drafted with Council input reflects two concerns: 1) the overall environmental impact of this project. The City of Greenbelt retained a stormwater management consultant, who laid out a number of concerns about the impact that this project would have, which the consultant did not feel were adequately addressed in the proposal. These concerns must be addressed. 2) the impact of this project on stormwater drainage in north College Park. Because the project, as proposed, would involve a large number of switchbacks, presumably intended to slow the flow of the river, I have a lot of concerns about how this would impact stormwater drainage in north College Park. Before we could support any project like this, I would want assurance that the project would not have any significant impact on stormwater drainage.
11. APPOINTMENTS TO BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS. Thanks to north College Park resident (and former City Councilmember) Dave Milligan for his continued service on the Citizens Corps Council. Thanks also to Adele Ellis and Jay Gilchrist, who my colleagues have decided to reappoint to the Recreation Board.
As always, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any comments, questions, or concerns!