GRANOLAPARK: Council wrapping

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

Shhhhh, the council is resting! Don’t say anything loud, like SAFE GROW, or CITY CHARTER CHANGE, they will wake up screaming.

The Takoma Park city council is on August break.

Is Your Gilbert on break, too? NO!

We’re using August to catch up on things: our drinking, the end of the council’s summer session, and . . .  the UPCOMING ELECTION.

We’ll write about elections later this month.

First, let’s wrap up the council’s summer session.

No room for emergencies

Yeah, the hospital is leaving, the city council understands why, but it hates losing the city’s emergency room.

That’s the summation of the July 22 Washington Adventist Hospital (WAH) presentation to the council. WAH president Joyce Newmyer made the presentation.

WAH sits in the middle of the city between Sligo Creek Park and the Washington Adventist University campus. It doesn’t have enough space and its facilities (including its emergency room) are out-of-date. So, it bought some land in White Oak, about 6 miles and a 20 minute drive, away, and it applied to the state for permission to move.

WAH president Joyce Newmyer

WAH president Joyce Newmyer

The hospital was turned down last September. They are about to re-submit their application.

Newmyer said the hospital wants to leave some kind of medical facility here. Doctor’s offices will remain. There might be rehabilitation, x-ray facilities, and other medical resources. Alas, by law, they cannot maintain an emergency room without a hospital on site.’

The council understands why WAH has to leave, but it’s concerned about what medical facilities will actually be left here.

See what develops

The council got a look at the latest proposed Takoma Metro development. The council said it was . . . mmmm, . . . ok. Maybe. Depending.

That’s a way-better reaction than the last proposal several years ago. There was so much steam coming out of council and resident ears they used it as an alternative power source for a few months.

The old proposal was for town-homes, and it used most of the green-space, which local residents thought should be a permanent fixture. The community organized and gave the developer EYA and WMATA more intelligent feedback than it bargained for. They chose to ignore the feedback. Tempers ran high.

Then the real-estate market bubble burst, so the project was dropped.

metroplan

Now EYA and WMATA are back with this new proposal and apparently a new attitude. Much of the feedback has been incorporated. It is now a multi-story 210-unit residential building, more befitting a public-transportation site. The project has been relocated to the back of the lot, preserving, for now, the green space.

Read a fuller description here in this Voice article by Lyle Kendrick.

There is still a question about that green space. WMATA won’t promise to save it. It is reserved for future use, it says. This does not sit well with many residents.

Boring

Your Gilbert’s main objection is that the building’s proposed design is BORING. The developers said they thought it reflected community tastes, but they have misread us. Takoma Park is a community of creatives, dissidents, dreamers, and non-conformists.

What they propose could be in ANY new development from downtown Silver Spring to Clarendon, VA, to Columbia Heights, to any of the look-a-like “downtown-ized” shopping malls that ring the metropolitan area.

TakomaMetroDevelopmentDesign2013Jul16

EYA, give us something different, creative, artistic, alternative, startling, edgy, controversial, and showy.

Take a page from B.F. Gilbert’s book. Takoma Park’s founding developer built his showcase houses next to the railroad because that’s where lots of people would see them.

Greenanny state

The council voted for the Safe Grow pesticide ban. The ban won’t go into effect right away. So, do your yard-poisoning now.

Next year, you’ll have to wrap your weed-killers in brown paper so the weed police and your vindictive neighbors can’t see what you’re using.

Thanks to Robert Lanza and Catherine Tunis who spoke out against the ban right up to the last vote. They knew their cause was hopeless. The rest of the opposition gave up in disgust. But, Lanza and Tunis kept tossing out awkward questions and truths.

Takoma Park resident Robert Lanza.

Takoma Park resident Robert Lanza.

Lanza pointed out that there was no analysis of how much this will cost residents and businesses. The city came up with a dubious, lowball figure of $25,000 a year in for a part-time staff person, but there will be other costs, he said. Administrative and enforcement costs don’t seem to be counted in that figure.

There are hidden costs to the public, too, he said. Residents and landlords will have to buy more expensive, not-as-effective alternative weed-control products. This could be a significant expense to multi-resident apartment building owners. He urged the council to track all these costs and he asked for a “line-item” in the city budget showing city expenditures on Safe Grow.

Tunis said that the council and the Safe Grow activists lacked the scientific expertise to ban specific chemicals.The ban was based, not on science, but on fear, she said. From where Your Gilbert was sitting we overheard a biologist muttering “Yes, exactly!”

So, hats off to Lanza and Tunis for persisting to the acrid end.

A vote on voting?

We may be hearing more from Tunis in the fall. She’s trying to get a referendum on the ballot. The referendum would put the voting amendment, already passed by the council, to a general vote. Tunis and many others think the voters should have a say. They are especially upset by the provision giving 16 year-olds the vote.

Takoma Park resident Catherine Tunis.

Takoma Park resident Catherine Tunis.

However, their petition to place it on the ballot did not get enough signatures. Tunis says the required number of registered-voter signatures is unrealistic, and the registered-voter list she was given by the city was out-of-date and inaccurate. She cited other jurisdictions, including the state, where the bar is much lower.

Let us in!

At their last summer meeting, July 22, the council also voted for a law that forces landlords to open their buildings to electioneering politicians. The law sets two worthy principles at war with one another. On one hand, tenants deserve to be part of the political process. On the other hand, they have a right to privacy.

The council, deeply concerned by the lack of tenant participation in elections, voted themselves in, so to speak.

Erskine sidewalked

They also voted unanimously to go ahead with the Erskine Street sidewalk. The short sidewalk on only one side of the street had some small-but-loud opposition (including Catherine Tunis), but strong neighborhood support.

Other city news in the Voice

Read this article by Lyle Kendrick about the pile of state money the city got to use for two street projects: the Ethan Allen Ave Gateway, and the Flower Avenue Green Street projects.

– Gilbert

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About the Author

Gilbert
Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

1 Comment on "GRANOLAPARK: Council wrapping"

  1. Steve Davies | August 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm |

    Since the EYA development is in D.C., Takoma Park really has no say — other than former TkPk mayor Kathy Porter, who’s an alternate on the WMATA board and who I’m sure will represent our city’s views, whatever they might turn out to be.

Comments are closed.