GRANOLAPARK: Chill pill

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

Takoma Park is chewing its collective nails, nervously anticipating the Great Unveiling next Tuesday.

Only a few city staff people know what’s in the Takoma Junction city lot* development proposals to be presented that evening. Everyone else is guessing. The food coop is panicking.

But, of course the coop is panicking, this is about jobs and the coop’s very existence.

It makes them more than a little myopic, however. They don’t trust the city manager to be looking out for their interests, even though he tried to reassure them when it was announced that the coop’s development plan had been tossed on the reject pile. The other developers’s plans include coop expansion and the coop’s needs for a loading dock and keeping the store open during construction.

The coop is rallying citizen support to put their proposal back on the table. Judging by some council member’s public statements, they are hearing from coop supporters.

Lackluster

Your Gilbert has to say that the coop’s plan – which they’ve made public – is pretty lackluster and self-centered. It’s all about the coop expansion – and the loading dock.

The coop plan keeps most of the parking lot in place, and the only concession to development other than the coop’s is to plonk three tiny boxes labeled “small retail” between Carroll Ave. and the parking lot. Really small retail – each about 2.5 parking spaces wide, and 4 parking spaces long. That’s the width of a parking space, not the length. Really, really small.

Maybe, just possibly, there’s a chance, it could happen, it’s within the realm of possibility . . .  that four professional developer finalists know what they’re doing. They just MIGHT have some great designs that integrate solutions to ALL the Takoma Junction issues citizens want addressed – not just the coops.

Your Gilbert is suspending judgement until we see the presentations. Are they serving drinks?

*Takoma Junction city lot: Takoma Junction is the business district along the multi-jointed intersection/overlapping of several streets and routes near the Takoma Park Fire Station: Carroll, Philadelphia, Grant, Ethan Allen Avenues, Maryland State Routes 410 (East-West Highway) and 195. The space to be developed is city owned, usually referred to as “the city lot.” It is currently a parking lot between the TPSS Co-op and an auto repair shop on Carroll Avenue’s south side.

How can we miss you when you won’t go away?

In other Takoma Park city council news, the council got a Washington Adventist Hospital update. WAH has been trying to leave the city for a few years. They await permission from the state to do so, and have put in an application.

The city is very unhappy to lose its hospital. Begrudgingly, the council admits WAH has some good reasons to leave, but it has been pressuring the hospital to leave some kind of facility behind, particularly a “stand-alone” emergency room. Look, there are stand-alone ERs in Germantown and Prince George’s County, so surely, . . . ?

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Not going to happen. The state has declared a stand-alone ER moratorium, so there’s no point in even talking about it at this point.

What they will leave behind (or will if the current plan is approved) are what interim president Robert Jemson called  “community based services:” a 40 bed inpatient behavioral heath unit, a rehabilitation unit, a federally qualified health center, a women’s center clinic, a primary care walk-in clinic, and offices for physicians and ancillary services. He said many of these are already in place.

This is what Jemson said they’ve amended to their application to move. They await their application’s review and a vote by the state Health Care Commission. The process is long, Jemson, it is “not known when the vote will take place.”

Taking CHEER for granted

Last week’s solution – to fund CHEER’s grant request from federal block grant funds – turns out unworkable. The funds won’t be available until next summer or fall.

The problem was that the citizen grant committee rejected CHEER’s request on, apparently, technical grounds. The city values CHEER and wants to find a way to fund it. CHEER stands for Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research.

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CHEER workshop in 2013.

But, back up. The bigger problem is that the council doesn’t want to make these grant decisions. They want the committee to do it because they are such soft touches they always wind up granting more than allocated, or succumbing to constituent pressure to fund particular programs.

So, the council is like a recently-quit smoker saying, “just one last cigarette, then I’ll stop.”

After much agonizing, they lit up, took a puff and found some money for CHEER in another fund.

In the process of looking at all the city’s little funds set aside for this and that, the council found many issues to revisit at budget-time. Like: so we give grants to these organizations, but then we have these other funds they get paid from, not to mention fee waivers. How much money are we giving these people?

This was in a non-voting work-session. The vote will come next week. Probably with more agonizing, pledges to quit bad habits and vows to plug leaks at budget time.

Library fix

The Takoma Park city library will be getting some renovations. The council voted unanimously to award an architectural contract.

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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.