The city took another step toward amending the no-liquor law to allow beer and wine off-sales in Takoma Park. “Off-sales” means that sealed bottles of beer and wine can be sold to-go.
However, at the Sept. 27 council meeting last minute information from city staff made the council change its collective mind about which types of off-sales licenses it will request. Councilmember Terry Seamens, who strongly opposes the move, said he was “taken aback” that though the issue had been discussed for months, the council just then learned that the state no longer favored one of the license categories the council was poised to ask for. Seamens said he was disappointed that the city was “rushing into it.”
The license category the state disfavors is the D license for on- and off-sales, which only requires an establishment to have two restrooms and no required number of seats. The establishment could be a small cafe, a supermarket, convenience store, or corner store.
The B license, which the council also wants to allow in the city, requires that the establishment be a restaurant with seating for 30, as well as having two restrooms. This would enable Roscoes, which has expressed interest in doing so, to “off-sell” beer and wine.
So the city will request only the B license for restaurants. This means stores such as the co-op will not be able to sell beer and wine. After they see how the B licensing goes, the council said, they could apply for other licenses.
Constituent feedback has increased on this issue, said mayor Bruce Williams – mostly in favor. Councilmember Josh Wright, whose Ward 1 includes the Old Town area where beer and wine sales would likely be available, said he has had more e-mails as well. They have been running 7 to 10 in favor, he said- slightly fewer in favor than the 9 to 10 ratio he had a few months ago when the issue was first raised.
The city’s request will now go to the state and from here on it will be negotiated between the council, our state district representatives, and the state legislature and agencies. Of great interest is whether the state will allow the city to have veto power over who gets granted a license.
A lot of folks are ticked off with the city tree ordinance, and hardly a month goes by without a citizen complaining to the city council about the city arborist. These citizens have been caught up in the complex requirements imposed on them when they took down a tree, especially if the tree was healthy.
They can’t understand why they are told to replace a large, old tree with dozens or a score of little, young trees – at costs of $1000, $2000 or more – and why some people have to buy and plant more than others. Some complain that only purchased and planted saplings count as replacements – not “accidentals” that have sprung up in their yards from acorns or other seeds.
Other people, those who want to install solar panels and cut down trees to get maximum sun exposure, are annoyed that the tree ordinance doesn’t allow for it.
With these complaints in mind, the council discussed a series of proposals to revise the tree ordinance. In the council’s introductory materials, which include staff recommendations, the staff stood solidly behind the ordinance and the arborist. So did members of the Tree Commission, the volunteer group that assesses tree cutting requests.
The arborist himself came to the work session and explained the formula he uses. The whole point of the system, which was devised years ago before he worked for the city, was to avoid arbitrariness and favoritism, he said. It is very strict and exact. The tree to come down is measured at the trunk. That measurement is used to calculate the approximate size of the tree’s canopy. The larger the tree trunk, the larger the canopy.
There are statistics that show how many trees must be planted to replace, in time, that size canopy – allowing for factors such as how many of the saplings will survive for several decades. So, a big, 70 year old tree might need 20 or more replacement saplings – at $150 a pop.
There are also complications such as the type of replacement trees used – some species are more desired than others.
Tree commission members took a hard line against the solar panel “lobby.” They said the community benefits of having a tree canopy far outweigh the individual benefits from solar power.
The council’s questions and comments indicated that they saw both sides of these issues. They understood why the rules and penalties were the way they were, but they also saw how citizens could become outraged.
Councilmember Fred Schultz said that he’s heard a lot of complaints, and it is clear that people don’t understand the ordinance. He said it should either be simpler or better explained.