GRANOLAPARK: land, listening and secrets


Dear Readers,

Takoma Park citizens are so excited – the city spent $253,000 of their money, including $115,000 in donations – on a sorry lump of vine-choked badly-drained real estate behind the McLaughlin School, a lump of real estate that will continue to cost taxpayer’s money to pay off liens, fix and maintain.

It would have been so much better if the quickly-assembled private partnership had won the IRS auction. The city would have saved a bundle, the important part of the greenspace would have been preserved, and the outcome would not still be in doubt.


McLaughlin School auction Jan. 22. Photo by Bill Brown.

Oh, you thought everything is settled? Nope, something still has to be done with the land.

Either the city will sell the land or keep it as a park. Oh, please, get that sappy tree-hugger look off your face, Dear Readers. If you want to keep it as a park, are you willing to pay out of pocket for it? Your taxes aren’t high enough? You want to hire more Public Works Department staff – and pay their salary, benefits and life-long pensions?

Don’t talk to us about preserving “wetlands.” The Plan C partnership had the property assessed and they say the wet bit is actually the result of inadequate storm drainage. There is a spring and a small stream – which was diverted underground decades ago – but no wetlands.


McLaughlin School land purchased by the city. Photo by Eric Bond.

The trees may not be very old. Somebody claimed the land was a field, perhaps even a war-time victory garden, within living memory.

But, now it makes a nice back-drop for the surrounding houses, and that’s why the community fought for it – and forked over donations. So, the rest of the city is going to subsidize their pretty backdrop. How nice for them.

Some charged that when Plan C partnership bid against the city, it cost the city more. That may not be true. If we understand this correctly, the city would have to pay that much – and probably more – regardless. The auction money goes to a judge who distributes it to the institutions with liens against the property. The instituations are owed around $500,000 – twice as much as the city paid. If that’s the amount the city ends up paying, it won’t matter how much they paid at auction – it was just a down-payment.

Meanwhile, back at the Junction.

The city council held a special “Listening Session” Jan. 21, the first of two. About 60 – 70 people attended. To the background chorus of the council-chamber 3-minute “time’s up” bell, citizens shared their thoughts on Takoma Junction re-development

There’s a big change in the sort of people who turned out on this issue. It used to be a solidly pro co-op, “ditch the process” crowd. This time they were matched or even outnumbered by the “stay with the process” crowd.

There wasn’t much heard from the “do nothing” folks this time.


Public comment at Listening Session. Photo by Bill Brown.

As is expected in Takoma Park, the pro-process and anti-process groups are polarizing. The strongest point in the pro-process camp is that most of the Takoma Junction Task Force is involved or has signed their petition. This undercuts the anti-process group’s claim that the task force report was not given enough weight in the process – so it should be scrapped and started over.

The strongest point in the anti-process camp is that the co-op – the Junction’s anchor business – says the developer finalists are not co-operating with them, and have not come up with any viable solutions to their main issues (loading dock and business continuity through the construction).

Diane Kohn of Historic Takoma urged the council to focus on the speakers’ common concerns instead of the divisions.


Lining up to speak at Listening Session. Photo by Bill Brown.


The Takoma Park city council has secrets!

They made a tent out of blankets over the chairs and took their teddy-bears and little tea-set underneath to whisper and giggle – not once but twice at the January 20 city council meeting.

They first met in closed session before the public meeting to talk with lawyers about bidding at public auction for the McLaughlin School back lot. We know how that came out.

Then – at meeting’s close – they met in another closed session with lawyers to talk about the Washington Adventist Hospital’s petition to move, and “to discuss pending or potential litigation (including administrative proceedings) before the [Maryland Health Care] Commission.”

Ooo! Are they going to get tough? There was no indication of that during the hospital’s presentation on it’s relocation earlier in the meeting – during the not-secret parts.


Takoma Park City Council. Photo by Bill Brown.

It was pretty much the same presentation as usual. The hospital president – whatever the new one’s name is doesn’t matter, its the same words – explains how the hospital is outdated and doesn’t have room to expand as it must to survive, and how they hate to leave the city, but never fear, it won’t make much difference if the hospital goes. Blah blah blah.

And the usual citizens got up to make the usual complaints: the city hasn’t done enough to stop the hospital from leaving, and the hospital should commit to leaving a “standing emergency room” in Takoma Park.

The hospital did address the standing emergency room issue – again pointing out that the state has a moratorium on standing ERs. There is, however, “positive movement” in the state legislature towards ending the moratorium.

The hospital did promise to “evaluate the feasibility in Takoma Park” of establishing a standing ER.
– 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.

3 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: land, listening and secrets"

  1. Ginny Myers | January 23, 2015 at 3:39 pm |

    “Some charged that when Plan B partnership bid against the city, it cost the city more…”
    I think you meant the Plan C folks? Plan B only supplemented what the city was able to bid.

  2. Dearest Gilbert,
    Regarding the McLaughlin Scool woods, your information is incorrect on many points. Plan B partnership didn’t bid against the City. It was a member of the Plan B group who took the confidential info of that group and partnered with developers. Whoever advised you on the liens isn’t much of an advisor, and “somebody said” isn’t much of a source re the age of the trees. Next time, you might want to consult a professional., you imperfect rascal!

  3. You are correct, Ms T., it was the Plan C partnership we were referring to. Correction has been made.

    Information regarding the liens came from Mayor Bruce Williams.

    And the “somebody” was actually two people who each heard a senior citizen say the lot was a field in her youth. We have not spoken to that senior citizen directly.

    Imperfectly yours,

    – Gilbert

Comments are closed.