GRANOLAPARK: Joe says it’s so

Joe Edgell at the October 5, 2016 city council meeting. Photo by Bill Brown.

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

At the March 22 city council meeting Joe Edgell stepped down from the Safe Roadways Committee, effective March 31. He announced that he is running for the city council Ward 2 seat March 29. He’s got a campaign website already.

Tim Male, who currently holds that seat, is not running for re-election. Edgell’s is a VERY early candidacy announcement. The nominating caucus, where candidates traditionally reveal themselves to the public, is in October. This is even earlier than Kate Stewart’s campaign, which launched in summer shortly after Mayor Bruce Williams announced he would not run again.

Edgell had a good couple of weeks. April 2 the city dog park opened. He and his Takoma Dogs group were the Force behind public pressure to build it. Leading up to April 1, April Fools Day, he and others instigated an imaginary controversy, saying a resident llama owner would bring his beasts to the dog park opening as a protest against llama discrimination. City email lists were buzzing, though most of the remarks were tongue-in-cheek because the writers looked at the calendar.

Mayor Kate Stewart was asked to mediate a meeting on (cough cough) April 1. She showed up at Historic Takoma, the meeting place, and acted surprised  when the joke was revealed by the “meeting” attendees. A cake was revealed also.

She said she got suspicious because It dawned on her that in all the calls and emails on the subjecct “I have not heard from Joe [Edgell]. This gives me pause” she said. Pun well played, Madame Mayor.

Dump the bump

Edgell was at the March 22 meeting to introduce the new chair Casey Costic, who presented the Safe Roadways Committee Annual Report.

The city has regressed on speed bumps. There was a time, back when Ward 2 was represented by Colleen Clay, bless her Californian heart, when the council was well educated on the subject and had a brass-knuckled no-new-speed-bump attitude. That knowledge and attitude was not passed on to the current council. The Safe Roadways Committee is out to fix that.

“Bringing traffic calming into the twenty-first century must happen,” said Edgell before he turned the mic over to Costic.

The report had well-researched data on the problems with speed bumps. First on the list was how much speed bumps slowed emergency vehicles. Studies were cited showing delays from 1.3 seconds up to 8.5 seconds depending on the vehicle’s type and speed.

Other problems were air pollution, noise, damage to cars and damage to people with spinal injuries. There was passionate applause at that last one.

Councilmember Fred Schultz did not join in the applause, but surely he was remembering his own own painful January 2017 ambulance ride over Takoma Park speedbumps, which he described as “like riding in a hay wagon.”

Though the council was once more enlightened on the subject, that enlightenment didn’t make it into city code, or so the SRC claimed. They said the code provides for no alternatives.

Your Gilbert muttered into his vodka, asking it how then Takoma Park got the alternatives it has: a couple of roundabouts and a bunch of curb bump-outs. The vodka did not reply.

It sticks out

You know how it is for young adults when they discuss a life crisis with their parents? And the parents make them wish they hadn’t by making “helpful” suggestions?

“Well, honey, joining a church is a great way to meet new people.”

That’s how it’s going for the Jackson and Ethan Allen Avenue development. The large lot at that Ward 2 intersection was purchased by a developer. The developer plans to divide it into two lots and build a house on each – a $800,000 house on each.

Neighbors are glad the lot is being developed, but they are outraged by the proposed siting of the house on the corner. It sticks out. All the other houses along Ethan Allen are about 25 feet from the curb. The new house would be about 10 feet from the curb. Immediate neighbors are concerned they will have a big view of House where there ought to be Yard.

Surely, this is some kind of code violation. But, no, it isn’t. City staff called the county agencies that approved the plan. The county said the developer met all the requirements. Alignment with all the other houses on the block was not a requirement.
The city manager said that county regulations are remarkably inflexible. They were written for new subdivisions on old farm land, she said, not for urban redevelopment.

As the developer, sitting at the back of the auditorium, dug his fingers deep into the chair in front of him, the council floated a series of “helpful” suggestions to the ever-so-patient staff.

Making it a duplex on one lot, making the second lot smaller, moving the corner house back from the street, cutting the heritage tree down so the second house can move into that space?

Nope. Can’t. Against code. Also against code. Wouldn’t help.

How about asking the county planning board for a waiver to the regulations so we have the flexibility for a more creative solution?

Waste. Of. Time.

Are you sure it can’t be a duplex?

Sigh.

Male fights for constituents

The work session was focused on Ward 2 councilmember Tim Male’s draft resolution objecting to the Jackson/Ethan Allen plan.  There are no official votes in work sessions, though often there are “straw votes,” unofficial votes the mayor holds to see how the council majority leans on an issue.

As they went around the dais, several councilmember leaned in the direction the staff was pushing – against the resolution. They said that since the developer had not broken or bent any county regulations the city should not block the project.

Councilmember Tim Male fought that line of thought to a halt. The development is in his ward, his constituents are the opposing neighbors and neighborhood association. All of them are against it.

When his turn came to speak he charged into battle against the building consensus, saying that he was “unconvinced” by staff information. He raised eyebrows around the room when he charged that the city manager “has not presented the full facts” and that questions he’d put to staff remained unanswered. Staff, he said, were more concerned with

The exchange that followed between Male, Ludlow, community development director Roz Grigsby and some councilmembers was even-keeled. Some misleading terminology was explained that eased the tension.

It boiled down to City manager Suzanne Ludlow saying that since the developer had met all the requirements, the city had little to base an objection on, and Male saying the council’s job is not to look at the letter of the law, but to make judgements and evaluations. The developer has conformed to the rules, he said, but “we see gray areas.”

The council, he said, should make clear it opposes the current development proposal. It appeared that a council majority were swayed to his side.

– Gilbert

 

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