Earlier we took a look back at 2009, now Your Gilbert peers into the future – 2010 and BEYOND! Strap on your safety glasses while we power up the hybrid crystal ball. Don’t be alarmed by any radiation surges, what’s a couple of years off your life compared to seeing Beyond The Now? It’ll be all mystical and stuff. That’ll be five dollars. In advance.
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Save the Shops!
Development has always concerned Takoma Park residents, but this year the sentiment will be FOR, not against. Stores have closed and remained ominously empty, alarming citizens. They want to save local businesses, they want new ones to fill the empty storefronts, and they expect the council to help. The remaining local businesses have also been asking for help, pleading with the council to rescind the inventory tax as the poor economy has them hard pressed already.
A hardware store has plans to open in Old Town, and the Mayorga coffeehouse plans to relocate to Takoma, DC next to the Metro station. Other plans are taking shape, says the mayor, but nothing can be said about them until deals are struck.
Commercial areas other than Old Town will be getting more attention, too. The council will discuss what to do with the city-owned land in Takoma Junction. It is now a parking lot partly occupied by the temporary fire station.
See what Develops
In 2010 and following years the city’s attention will turn more toward Hampshire Avenue and Crossroads development. Since Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will be heavily involved and very much in charge, it could become frustrating for the city. The city will want to keep big box stores out, protect the current small businesses, and slow gentrification, but those goals may not be shared by the county.
Already, Walgreens owns a big chunk of Takoma Park in the Crossroads – it owns the land now occupied by strip malls between University and Holton Lane on New Hampshire Ave. The owners of the rental properties on the Prince George’s side of the Crossroads are thinking of knocking them down and building more upscale units. The wrecking ball is also winding up to knock down all of the 50s-style strip malls at the intersection. The counties have something like Silver Spring’s Ellsworth Ave development in mind.
Takoma Park residents want to see development in the area, and they want to see the light-rail Purple Line built there, but they may not be happy with what they get. Gentrification is going to be a big concern.
Drones and Yips
The annual budget approval process may get more dramatic than usual – in a tedious sort of way. The council may insist on reviewing the city manager’s yearly budget more closely than in previous years. This will result in lots of droning as they go over the details.
It will also lead to sparks if the council meddles too much with the city managers careful calculations. The budget is the city manager’s job. Being a professional, she knows how to squeeze the most out of it. Being amateurs, the council knows how to squeeze even more. They think. And each one will have his or her own scheme – which will be at odds with all the other’s. So, the droning may be punctuated with yips of pain as the councilmember throw their calculators at one another.
Meanwhile, everyone will be scanning the skies for another incoming, budget-busting bombshell. If Annapolis cuts the funds sent to counties and municipalities again, there will be another shortfall in city revenue, and again, the city manager will have to scramble to close the budget gap.
Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts
Assuming the city proceeds with the Public Works Department renovations – rebuilding truck bays, replacing old buildings, improving staff conditions, removing old fuel tanks, and so forth – the construction will start this year. Hoping to avoid a situation like the community center brouhaha which dogged the previous mayor and council, and haunts the current one, everyone will be nervously watching for cost-overruns.
The city’s Task Force on Environmental Action will plop its recommendations on how the city should reduce its carbon output into the city council’s lap. Will the council cuddle them and hold them close, or dump them on the ground and run away? The task force may call for some extreme, and costly, measures. Your Gilbert bets the council will cull out the easy and cheap ones to enact, and put the expensive, difficult ones on the back burner.
Booze Shop or Not?
Whether or not to allow a liquor (beer and wine) store in Takoma Park may be a hot topic this year. The city was founded as a “dry” town, and remained so until the 80s when restaurants were allowed to sell liquor. Liquor stores are still illegal. The only way to make them legal is to ask the county to designate a particular spot where liquor can be sold.
Last year the council discussed this at length. The police chief, the city attorney, and councilmembers Terry Seamens and Reuben Snipper seemed cool to the idea. There is a push for it from some quarter, however. Perhaps the Old Town Business Association which brought it before the council last June, saying there have been many inquires from business people wanting to open a beer and wine store.
There are a number of downsides and complications to having a liquor store. As Your Gilbert reported last June:
The voluminous state and county laws and regulations are daunting, not only to anyone wanting to open a beverage store but to the communities where they reside. Once a store is allowed to open, the community has little control over the hours it is allowed to be open or the kind of store it is. In other words, once the city says someone can open an upscale wine store, it may get a downscale slop shop.”
There are also crime issues that liquor stores can bring into a community, as city attorney Susan Silber and police chief Ronald A. Ricucci described last summer. Councilmembers Snipper and Seamens reported that a significant number of their constituents have voiced opposition. So, this has the potential to become a divisive issue this year if the council decides (as soon as Jan 11) whether to solicit public opinion on the matter.
Auditorium will the finished and we’ll see whether it becomes the important community resource proponents have predicted it will be. We’ll also see if it can stay on budget. If they do, it will be reassuring to taxpayers worried about the potential cost overruns of the Public Works renovations.
All those developments along University and New Hampshire Avenues are due to start in the next few years. The Purple Line construction is slated to start in 2012. If you thought traffic last year was bad due to all the WSSC road work, imagine the jams that will result from razing, construction, laying rail, and reconfiguring streets all along the entire eastern and northern borders of the city!
To Your Health!
Another big change that wriggles like a mirage (or is it real?) on the horizon is the possible loss of the Washington Adventist Hospital. It will likely become clear this year whether the state will let WAH move or not.
The council’s Plan A is to keep the hospital here, but it has put some thought into what to do if it leaves. If it does move, the hospital will likely continue to run an urgent care facility on the site. They may also set up a holistic health care facility – including a fitness center, doctor’s offices, and alternative-medicine providers. This mirrors the recommendations proposed by the city’s Health Services Impact Committee last year. Not to be optimistic or anything, but Plan B looks pretty good. We may turn that pigs ear into a silk purse, yet.
You couldn’t ask for a happier new year, Dear Readers, with all these exciting stories unfolding for you here in granolapark! Gosh, we can’t wait. Where’s our drink?