First of all, Happy New Year!!! I hope you all enjoyed your holiday seasons, and had the opportunity to spend time with friends and family. This was a good time for reflection on all that the City has accomplished over the past year, and all that we have to look forward to over the next year. We continue to face a lot of challenges as a city, with a difficult economy, continuing problems with crime and foreclosures, and continuing challenges with traffic and development, but I believe that the City can move forward on these issues over the next year. I look forward to continuing working with residents of north College Park to make our city a better place to live!
We’re back to our regular Council schedule tomorrow, although since we have a busy agenda tomorrow, the worksession is scheduled to start at 7 tomorrow instead of 8 pm. Here’s what’s up for tomorrow:
1. CONSENT AGENDA – RESOLUTION PAYING TRIBUTE TO DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. – As the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., approaches, we will pause to celebrate his life. The City will be holding its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute event at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Saturday, January 15, 2010 at 2 pm. Please mark your calendars and spread the word!
2. REVIEW OF STRATEGIC PLAN AND FY 2011 ACTION PLAN. Back in August, the City, after much community input, passed its 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, setting forth our major goals for the next five years, and our FY 2011 action plan, with a series of action steps to accomplish over the next year. The Strategic Plan covers many different issues, including economic development and revitalization of both the downtown area and the Hollywood Commercial District, addressing congestion and traffic on US 1 and Rhode Island Ave. and increasing public transportation, maintaining high quality public services, providing high quality services through our youth, family and senior services program, advocating for resources to rebuild US 1, and improving the City’s sustainable practices relating to greenhouse gas emissions and stormwater management. The Strategic Plan is available online here, and the FY 2011 Action Plan is available here.
Tomorrow, we will be reviewing the City’s progress on these items over the past 4-5 months, as we begin to consider the action plan and budget for FY 2012. A number of the items are ongoing and will be continued to next year – such as advocating for funding for the rebuild of US 1. The City has made progress on a number of items, though, such as: 1) the City will soon begin its inventory of community greenhouse gas emissions in the City, with an aim to set a target for reduction; 2) the City is working on developing a policy around tax increment financing, to use this as a tool to revitalize some of the run-down areas in the city and areas in need of improvement; 3) the City is working with local Realtors and the University to market the City better to University staff and faculty and other potential homeowners; 4) the City held its first annual College Park Day event; and 5) the City has been meeting with business owners and commercial property owners in the Hollywood Commercial District, and will work with them to develop a revitalization plan in the area after the County finishes improvements to the intersection of Edgewood Road and Rhode Island Ave. The City has also developed additional programs for withdrawn and isolated senior citizens, developed additional resources for seniors to age in place, received a grant for Green Streets improvements on Lackawanna Street near the Greenbelt Metro, and begun the process to revitalize the City’s Neighborhood Watch program. Tomorrow we will begin discussing which of these items we will carry over to next year’s action plan – I think we still have a ways to go on these issues, so it won’t be hard setting an agenda for the next year! Please let me know if you have any questions.
3. PROPOSED DOG PARK AT LAKE ARTEMESIA – The Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission will be coming before the Council tomorrow to discuss a proposed dog park near Lake Artemisia. I don’t know much about the project at this point, but I’m excited to hear about it!
4. AUDITOR PRESENTATION REGARDING THE CITY’S COMPREHENSIVE ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORT. The City’s auditors just finished our annual CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report), a review of our financial practices to ensure that there is minimal risk of fraud or material misstatement. The auditor found that the City’s financial statements fairly present the financial position of the governmental activities of the City and its major funds, and that there were no material weaknesses in the City’s financial report. The Report is available online here.
5. DETAILED SITE PLAN FOR THE DOMAIN AT COLLEGE PARK. The Domain at College Park is a proposed project to be located just outside of the current boundaries of the City of College Park, at the corner of Campus Drive and Mowatt Lane, just west of campus. The developer has proposed market-rate (non-student) housing, aimed at University faculty and staff and visiting faculty, and has been working with the University to develop a project that the University feels its necessary to house its staff and faculty. The developer is proposing 256 units, 197 one-bedroom and 59 two-bedroom, in four stories over 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail, oriented toward Campus Drive, with 380 spaces of structured/underground parking. In order to pursue the project, the developer requested to rezone the property to a Mixed Use-Transportation Oriented Zone (M-X-T), given the proximity to the University and to public transportation, including the proposed alignment of the Purple Line. At the time of rezoning, the developer agreed to pursue annexation of the property by the City of College Park. In exchange for annexation, the City agreed to phase in property taxes from the project over five years, allowing the developer to pay 70% of the applicable property taxes over the first five years after annexation.
The developer has proposed a high-quality project that would provide easy access for faculty and staff to many people who work at the University, and therefore help cut down on traffic going to and from the University. As a result, I think this project could have a real benefit for College Park. Although there are a few issues to work out, such as the need for recreational facilities for the large number of people who will be living in the development, and the need for an adequate street section to serve the residents and people visiting the retail, as well as to accommodate the Purple Line when it goes through. It seems that the developer is close to resolving any remaining issues with the City, and the project will likely move forward.
6. CONTRACT AWARD FOR AUDIO/VISUAL EQUIPMENT. The City has issued an RFP to upgrade the audio/visual equipment in Council chambers. After receiving bids that were more than the City had budgeted for the project, the Council scaled the project back to what we felt was absolutely necessary to improve the sound quality and the ability of residents to hear and watch the City Council meetings and worksessions. This includes new cameras, new microphones, and new mixers. The lowest bid for these items came in at about $141,000, plus additional monitor connections (I’m not entirely sure what for, but I plan to ask tomorrow) at $3,200, and a three-year warranty at $4,000. If the City decides in the near future to move to a new City Hall, we will be able to take this equipment with us. The staff has drafted up a contract to proceed with the improvements. The funds will come from P.E.G. grant funds provided by Comcast and Verizon to be used on audio/visual equipment.
7. COUNTY EARLY INTERVENTION GRANT. The City has received a grant from Prince George’s County to engage in “early intervention” with youth to prevent truancy in our schools. The City’s Youth Services Bureau has $30,000 to use for this purpose, and the staff has proposed distributing $5,000 each to the four public schools that serve the most College Park children (specifically – Hollywood Elementary School, Paint Branch Elementary School, Greenbelt Middle School, and Parkdale High School), and to use $10,000 to offset a reduction in state funding for the City’s youth services bureau. The four schools have proposed specific projects – Hollywood ES has proposed using the funds to provide substitute teachers to allow the regular teachers to engage in collaborative planning and discuss effective strategies for individual students; Paint Branch ES has proposed additional time for teachers to engage in extended learning for 3rd-6th grade students to help them prepare for the Maryland State Assesment; Greenbelt MS has proposed purchasing the Study Island Extended Learning Opportunity program to help students improve performance on the Maryland State Assessment, and Parkdale HS has proposed using the funds to purchase an outdoor camera to monitor an area on the campus where students often go to cut class. I have some questions about some of these projects – like whether it’s appropriate to use these funds on a camera to monitor students instead of teaching materials. $5,000 isn’t a lot of money for them to do things with, though, so there probably isn’t much that the schools can do with these funds.
8. PROPOSED ORDINANCE PROHIBITING FURNITURE ON THE ROOF. Apparently, there has been a regular problem in the past in Old Town College Park (especially student housing) with students placing furniture on the roofs of their houses even when the roofs were not meant to support this furniture. This poses obvious an safety hazard for these students, and Councilmember Stullich has proposed an ordinance to prevent this. The ordinance prohibits furniture on any roof surface not designed and built for the purpose. It does not prohibit placing furniture on any balcony or roof patio when built according to code. A first violation would lead to a $200 fine, and a second violation would lead to a $400 fine. There will be a public hearing on this ordinance, so let me know if you have any comments, and if you would like to submit comment for the public record.
9. 2011 COG COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS. Members of the Council typically volunteer to serve on a number of different committees with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. This gives us an opportunity to have a say in area-wide policy and collaborate with other governments in the D.C. metro area. I myself have served on two committees over the past couple of years – the Transportation Planning Board, which refuses (and has ultimate say) on any regionally significant transportation project, and the Human Services and Public Safety Policy Committee, which discusses and considers policy on public safety and human services issues, including homeland security, police authority, mental health issues, substance abuse, etc. Unfortunately, due to my new job, I’m afraid I don’t have the time to continue my service on both of these, so I will likely discontinue my work with the Human Services and Public Safety Policy Committee. Because I was recently appointed as chair of the Access for All Subcommittee of the Transportation Planning Board, which considers issues regarding access to transportation services for people with disabilities, people with limited income, and people with limited English proficiency, I would like to continue my work with the Transportation Planning Board.
Other committees include the COG Board of Directors, the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, the Metropolitan Development Policy committee, the Climate, Energy and Environment Policy Committee, and the Chesapeake Bay and Water Resources Policy Committee. You can find more information about these committees and what COG does generally online at http://www.mwcog.org.
10. BOARDS AND COMMITTEES. Tomorrow, the Council will be considering appointments to the 2011 Redistricting Committee. This committee will be considering boundaries of the four City Council districts in light of information we will be receiving from the 2010 census, in preparation for the 2011 municipal elections. Councilmember Nagle and I have asked, respectively, Tim Miller and John Krouse to serve on this committee – thanks to both of them for agreeing to serve.
We will also be filling the Rent Stabilization Board. I have located two tenants who are interested in serving as tenant representatives of this committee – both are residents of District 2 in Branchville in north College Park, Justin Fair and former deputy student liaison Aaron Zaccaria. Councilmember Nagle is putting forward Kimberly James and Bob Weber, both north College Park residents, to serve on the two optional seats on the Rent Stabilization Board. Thanks to all of them for stepping up and volunteering.
There are also vacancies open for College Park residents on the following committees: the Airport Authority, the Animal Control Board, the Animal Welfare Committee, the Cable Television Commission, the Committee for a Better Environment, and the Education Advisory Committee. Please let me know if you are interested in any of these or would like further information.
Thanks, as always, for reading, and let me know if you have any comments or questions about any of these agenda items!