The Feb. 7 city council meeting was a comedy tour do force. A tour de force, that is, compared only with the rest of the year’s meetings.
First they pulled the ol’ sign-up sheet gag on the audience. When the mayor opened the floor to public comment on the proposed annexation of Flower Avenue, he started calling names from the sign-up list, prompting a succession of abashed, wide-eyed people introducing their remarks with “I didn’t realize I was signing up to speak!”
This usually happens to a few people when an issue brings out a lot of folks who have never attended a council meeting, but this time they got 10 out of 12 speakers!! The staff here at Granola Park turned it into a drinking game. This may be why our notes for the rest of the meeting are slightly unintelligible.
Everyone who turned out was there to cheer (and speak – whether they wanted to or not) for the annexation of Flower Avenue.
The annexation, if the city decides to go through with it, goes along with the state handing ownership of Flower over to the city. Right now the avenue is an ugly ducking – not well maintained and lacking sidewalks in places.
The city would like to turn it into a swan – a green swan with awesome storm water management, traffic calming, new pavement, and new sidewalks.
Who could be against that? Nobody in the audience for sure! But then, many of them were not city residents! Flower Ave. is for 7 blocks the city border, so though their homes front on Flower Ave. they live in un-incorporated Silver Spring. They would stand to gain a lot in improved property values, but they wouldn’t be paying city taxes to have it maintained.
The council likes the idea of taking over Flower, but they don’t like the potential costs of maintenance, and the added costs if the city annexes extra bits of contiguous street.
The audience’s only concerns were about how much front yard, shrubbery, trees, and, in particular, one Expensive Wrought Iron Fence, residents would lose.
The fence’s owner, a Silver Spring resident, said he was glad to see the city take over the street, but he was afraid the sidewalk and storm water management work would disrupt the said Expensive Wrought Iron Fence in his front yard. The council assured him that they had no specific plans yet and it was an issue that could be worked out later.
The council and citizen commenters turned “Expensive Wrought Iron Fence” into a comic riff for the rest of the discussion.
Councilmember Colleen Clay seemed more serious about it. She asked the Expensive Wrought Iron Fence guy if he had checked where the public right-of-way was before he installed it. He said he had, but he was still worried about it. Clay said that on principle she had no sympathy for people who should know better than to build on the right-of-way.
She was not, she reassured the audience, trying to be snarky about it. Bruce Williams backed her up, “Colleen Clay is NEVER snarky!,” a remark the rest of the council found entertaining.
Clay forcefully rebutted his statement, asserting she is frequently snarky.
A moment later, when a Flower Ave. resident suggested that street maintenance revenue could be had from installing a speed camera, Mayor Williams solemnly replied that “speed cams are NOT about getting revenue!”
“Now who’s being snarky?” piped Councilmember Clay.
Council discussions on what to do about Flower Avenue will continue.