GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
So much for change!
The Fresh Ones may be shaking up the Takoma Park city council, but there are only three of them and FOUR of the Old Guard.
So, when Seth “Galloping” Grime’s resolution in support of a zoning change hit opposition – it went down like that frail old lady trying to cut the line ahead of Your Gilbert at the liquor store last Thursday. Less bloody, though.
Grimes, as we reported last week, shoved the city counci off its usual dozy track, galvanizing them into throwing their unconditional support behind the zone change. OFFICIALLY unconditional, that is. UNOFFICIALLY, Grimes pledged to bring up their conditions and concerns with George Leventhal. County councilmember Leventhal is the one proposing the zoning change.
What this is all about, Dear Readers, is allowing the commercial use of church kitchens. This is one of those micro-enterprise deals for local, and presumably low-income, entrepreneurs who want to start some kind of food business. Food for sale has to be prepared in a commercial kitchen.
Currently, most churches are in residential zones, so to rate them as commercial, they would have to be rezoned.
The city council wanted local control – via what’s called a Special Exemption (SE). That was the unofficial message they wanted Grimes to convey to Leventhal. He delivered it, but Leventhal said “no dice.” He will not revise his proposal.
Hmm, in that case . . . said the Old Guard councilmembers, crow-barring the train of state back onto the old rails, no dice for you, either. In quick order councilmember Reuben Snipper, then councilmember Fred Schultz, then Mayor Bruce Williams withdrew their support. “I find it quite astonishing” said Snipper, that the city could even consider supporting anything that didn’t allow for citizen participation in the decision-making. They made a point, however, in praising Grimes for his work on the issue and, as Schultz said, “the conscientious way he’s gone about it.”
“Reading the tea-leaves,” a crestfallen Grimes said, quickly calculating the votes mounting against his resolution, “I’ll table [it],” rather than watch it go down like that frail old lady. The resolution was tabled with a 6 to 1 vote, the dissenting vote from freshman councilmember Tim Males.
He will likely return with a resolution of support-with-conditions – the direction the Old Guard was nosing the previous week.
Council approves hideous design
The council was shiny with pleasure about the most recent proposed Sector Plan Design Guidelines. The last set of proposed guidelines made the council livid.They complained about the lack of specific guidance, inadequate protection to adjoining neighborhoods, lack of focus on pedestrian needs, and inadequate illustrations – all indications that their testimony and recommendations had been ignored by the county. The revised book of guidelines addressed each of these problems.
Dear Readers. that’s “Sector Plan” as in the Takoma/Langley Sector Plan – Montgomery County’s development around the intersection of New Hampshire and University Avenues.
All well and good – the county listened and responded to the city. However, the city and everyone else is ignoring the 10,000 lb mastodon in the room. If the photos and illustrations in the guideline booklet are any indication, the county is trying to make Takoma Park – or one corner of it, anyway – look like Everyplace Else. The trend these days is to put up big boxes but try not to make them look like big boxes. To do this they stick on bits from 1990’s stylish architecture: randomly placed windows, skinny columns, metal grids, railings, alternating materials to give the impression (unsuccessfully) that parts of the block were built at different times in different styles, and, of course, the Big Round Corner. You gotta have a Big Round Corner.
This new developement is going to look as un-Takoma Park as it could be. There will be nothing to mark it as local, or even regional – not the slightest bit quirky, feisty, diverse, unique or progressive. No! It will be yet another mono-cultural, soul-less outdoor shopping mall, indistinguishable from new developments in Silver Spring, Columbia Heights, Bethesda, Clarendon, and all across the country – downtown Charlotte, NC, for example.
Assuming the guideline booklet is an indication of what the county has in mind – if you were taken blindfolded to the center of the Sector after it is built, and the blindfold removed – you would not be able to distinguish your location from any of those places, Dear Readers.
Is this really what the city wants?