GRANOLAPARK: Compost under stress

Councilmember Seth Grimes, author of ordinance restricting polystyrene use, stands across the street from the Takoma Junction city lot up for development. Photo by Bill Brown.


Dear Readers,

Those cuddly council members are back! So is grouchy old Gilbert.

The first thing they did was meet in secret. This was Sept. 4 to hear the staff tell them who the 4 finalist developers are in the great Takoma Junction City Lot Sweepstakes.

Notice we said “hear” not “discuss.” The staff is stiffing the council on the details.

“Wait for it!” is the watchword, oh ye of little patience!


All will be revealed Sept. 23. Much better, says the city manager Brian Kenner, to hear it from the developer’s mouths – as they read from their power-point presentations – at the special meeting.

This has the TPSS food coop upside down with worry. The city lot is next to their store and they had Big Plans for it. But, their development proposal was on the reject pile, so now they are at the mercy of some other developer’s ideas. The coop employees and board members reliably turn out in force for any issue that threatens them. So look forward to a big, naturally-fed crowd of peeteebeeties Sept. 23. Peeteebeeeties are Pitchfok and Torch Bearing Townspeople (PTBT), of course. In this case, they will be Pitchfok and Torch Bearing Coop Employees (PTBCE)—peeteebeetsees.

There’s hope yet for Gilbert’s Tower. With a rotating restaurant at the top, of course. It could happen.

Gilbert Tower

Read all about it

You can read more about it in the Voice article “Coop fears.” That’s if you want an in-depth report. If you want a shallow one that merely regurgitates last week’s city press release—with the Post’s obligatory reference to “hippies” whenever it reports on Takoma Park— you could read Thursday’s Washington Post article. You can Google that yourself, Dear Reader.

Farewell foam

Styrofoam CAN NOT WIN against the awesome power of cute children! Even though it took years. The original cute children of the Young Activists Club are now old enough to drink. Legally!

The council discussed an ordinance restricting use of polystyrene food service ware, i.e. Styrofoam coffee cups and hot-food “clamshells.” The YAC has been cutely lobbying for this for ages.

City action is long overdue, said the ordinance’s author councilmember Seth Grimes, “We’ve been hearing about this for years and there has been no controversy.”

Grimes is the ordinance’s author. He’s trying to walk the green walk—his ordinance originally embraced another environmental issues. It used to include a provision that would offer city composting to big apartment buildings – the same service enjoyed by single-family homes. But, that had to be taken out, he said. Language needed to be tweaked as well.

Compost to Delaware?

Grimes said the city composting system is now “under stress” finding places to put it’s current load of garba, . . . er, compostable materials. Currently, he said, it is sent to a facility in Delaware.

Councilmember Tim Male decried the lack of Maryland composting facilities. He said there is an effort to create some in the state legislature. The city, said Male, should pressure state representatives to build more of these facilities.

Eye on Annapolis

In one of it’s periodic “legislative updates” the council discussed other issues before the Annapolis state legislature that would effect the city, and issues the city is bringing to Annapolis.

One of them is a “stand-alone ER” that some on the council would like to get as a booby prize if the Washington Adventist Hospital moves – as it has applied to do.

Speaking of which, the WAH has a new president as of May. Former president Joyce Newmyer, who used to attend city council meetings to tell the council how simpatico she was with Takoma Park and its values, has moved on to a bigger Takoma Park—Portland, OR, where she is now President and CEO of the Adventist Medical Center and Northwest Region. According to the hospital’s website, the interim president is Terry Forde.

CHEER-less grants

The council also discussed big grants. Over the years they keep tinkering with this process because they tend to get more generous than they mean to, raiding the general fund for more money to award, especially when constituent advocates start leaning on them. Now a citizen committee reviews the grant applications and makes recommendations.

The process is still agonizing. Local non-profit CHEER lost out, apparently because they didn’t fill out the application correctly.

CHEER—Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research—does what the city would like to do, but can’t afford to. It tracks “indicators” such as housing conditions, health and environment to see how, over time, people’s lives improve – or worsen. CHEER also works to improve conditions. It pays particular attention to low income communities.

The council may have found a way to get CHEER its grant, however. Nobody applied for federal block-grant money this year, reported an incredulous Sara Daines, the city’s Housing and Community Development Director. One of the city grant recipients might be taken care of with that money, freeing funds up for CHEER.

Rattle those pots and pans

One grant cooked up some controversy. The Takoma Park Presbyterian Church at the corner of Maple and Tulip Avenues – a residential neighborhood with narrow streets, wants to expand their kitchens for use as a “Shared Use Community Commercial Kitchen.” What that means is that (presumably low-income, entrepreneurial) individuals or small companies can use the church kitchen to make commercial foodstuffs. This is a “micro-enterprise development” project.

Several neighbors, however, turned out to object. They charged that the program has expanded far beyond the original concept, that delivery trucks will choke traffic on their narrow streets (already busy with church day-care facility traffic), and that it is no longer restricted to low-income people. In short, it is an expanding business in a residential neighborhood, they said.

The council moved forward with all the other grants except the Presbyterian Church, CHEER, and the one that could be shifted to a block grant.

– Gilbert

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About the Author

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.