GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT PHOTOS • ERIC BOND
Keeping up with Takoma Park city council issues is suddenly like trying to race up the down escalator.
So, just a few brief notes to keep you all informed. For background on most of these issues, see Your Gilbert’s BRILLIANT 2014 city council summary.
The city manager resigned last week, Questions this raises:
Will this affect the Takoma Junction redevelopment process? It is his process, and the process has strong critics. Without him standing fast against the critics, will the city council retreat?
How will he be replaced? Will the city call up another committee to review nominees? Will the Deputy City Manager Suzanne Ludlow be called upon – again – to fill in while the search goes on? Wouldn’t it just be easier to promote her?
What will the legend be? People want a narrative, even if they have to make one up. Will they say he jumped ship because of the Junction controversy? Will they say the city council overloaded him with work? Will they say he “wasn’t like us” as they did with the last city manager? This is important only because what follows is residents clamoring, “make sure we don’t get a new city manager who does that.” And that will drive the candidate search process.
Speaking of which – will some on the council again attempt to pass into city charter law a requirement that the city manager and other top staff live in the city, or within a short distance?
A new voice has emerged – one that is pro-process. They announced their presence at the Jan 6 city council meeting. They also announced their website, where they have a petition.
They claim 250 supporters, a number of whom are community activists, business-people and former council members. They stress “we urge the Council to see this process through to completion.”
This is in contrast to the Co-op supporters who state they want to overturn the process and start over. On their Facebook page they ask supporters to “urge the council to move away from the current RFP process.” Up until now, they have been the largest, best organized and most persistent lobbying group. They’ve been making headway amongst the city council and staff. The city invited them to show their proposal in the hallway during the open-house for the four developer finalists. And at the last 2014 city council meeting, council member Seth Grimes said he was leaning toward including the co-op’s plan as a “fifth finalist,” though their original plan was rejected by staff (a small group including Brian Kenner).
City to bid
The Washington-McLaughlin School property is a fast-moving issue. The council nervously voted to bid on the open lot behind the dilapidated old school. The IRS auction is Jan 22. The council will meet a couple of days before the auction to decide what to bid. The council is determined to preserve at least some of the green space, following testimony from dewy-eyed neighbors who were charmed by the garden-eating, Lyme Disease-spreading vermin otherwise known as “deer” they encountered there.
The McLaughlin lot. Photos by Eric Bond.
The council agreed with other residents who said that ideally, the property should be combined with the school lot and developed as a whole. The school location would make a better place to build than the rear lot, part of which has a steep slope and a spring.
There is much to be nervous about. The tax-lien situation is unclear – they don’t know exactly what the city would be taking on. The owner can’t be counted on to make realistic decisions. And, they have no idea what developers are interested in the lot, how much they’d be willing to pay and what they intend to do with it. The city is walking into the auction blind.
A group of residents is exploring forming a private group to bid on the property. Contact former city councilmember Dan Robinson to learn more. We assume that if something comes of that, the city will stand aside and not try to outbid them.
Deer-hunting in the McLaughlin lot. Photo by Eric Bond.
Snow big deal
The council reviewed proposed new snow-removal codes. They were in a draconian mood, getting tough with residents who don’t shovel their walks. None of this “shovel-width” stuff will b e tolerated, Dear Readers. You’ll have to clear a 3 foot wide swath – OR ELSE. And it better be cleared down to the pavement. Some councilmembers were unhappy with the proposed $25 fine. They didn’t think that was severe enough punishment.
There will be a city program to help challenged people who can’t afford to hire snow-shovelers. Middle schoolers will earn community service credits to shovel.
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