GRANOLAPARK: The same lumpy track

IMAGE: Takoma Park Library renovation options.


Dear Readers,

The new Takoma Park city council started second-guessing the old council’s decisions about the city library renovations a month into their term. In January the new council jammed a stick in the spokes just as the renovations were rounding the corner toward the finish line.

Never mind the long series of public meetings and sessions with the architect. Never mind that all their questions and suggestions had already been addressed. They wanted to go back to the starting line and drive the thing over the same lumpy track. So, they did.

And the architect didn’t kill ANY of them! In fact, the firm patiently did some more alternative plans, showing options that the new council said should have been looked into.

Oh, and look – they have price-tags! A pdf of the document is on the city website.

Hmm, there’s the design the old council had zeroed in on – at $3,750,000 (#7).

And there’s the requested design for adding a second story on the same footprint as the current building – which the architect said was not viable because the old library was not built to support another story so it would be really expensive to rebuild from the group up, but the new council said “balderdash! Show us that plan!” Sure enough it comes in at nearly twice the price, $6,800,000 plus $70,000 to demolish the old library.

Feeling rich, Dear taxpaying Reader?

If you REALLY want to splurge and expand the footprint all the way to the curb – eliminating those big trees the huggers are sentimental about – to erect a two-story mega-library, why that’s only $11,900,000. LESS than $12,000,000! A bargain!

So, now there are nine designs and all, except the one that merely renovates the existing library and the one that demolishes it, are more expensive than the plan the old council chose. There are also three plans for optional “incremental spaces” that can be added to any of the other plans – for more moolah.



Images from the city document showing alternative renovations and their costs.

It’s not the stork, either

The council got some tax schoolin’ from city manager Suzanne Ludlow. She explained where tax revenue comes from. It’s NOT from under a cabbage leaf.

The way it works is that county inspectors come around and check your teeth. They estimate how much you’d get if you sold those teeth on the open market. If you’ve got a lot precious metals in those teeth, you could get a pretty penny, and the price of well-cared for middle-class teeth in this area is going up.

Then they tax you on how much you’d get if you sold your teeth this year. And, they come around every year and do the same thing.

Doesn’t matter how much you earn, or what you can afford. They already have a state income tax, and it is pretty steep. If they upped those taxes to take care of the county and state, it wold take one big bite, and people would throw their politicians out of office. But, they figure you’re so stupid you won’t notice that you’re getting bitten twice, and that the basis for the second bite is not what you earn or can afford, it’s the value of your teeth.

And the city gets a portion – a smaller one – of your teeth’s potential worth, too.

That’s it in a nutshell. Just one correction, it’s not teeth, it’s houses. Which makes about as much sense.

The council was pleased with Ludlow’s tutorial (which doesn’t include teeth). It will soon be featured on the city website.

What was closed will be open

Sunday, March 6 the council had another closed meeting with lawyers to discuss negotiations with the Takoma Junction developer. This is making residents nervous and prickly. So, next week at the March 16 city council meeting, there will be a public work session to discuss the Takoma Junction project with the Neighborhood Development Company.

The TPSS Food Co-op is rallying supporters to turn out for the meeting. They are frustrated that the negotiation has dragged on for so long. They claim that the finish date has been pushed back a year to 2020, and the Co-op is “bursting at the seams,” and “anxiously anticipating our store expansion.”

The Co-op is good at two things: anxiety and turning people out to meetings. That’s how they almost overturned the development process last year in favor of their own development plan. So, we anticipate a large, anxious crowd of co-op supporters at next week’s meeting.


Coop supporters and employees pack an October, 2014 Takoma Junction development public hearing. Photo by Bill Brown.


Takoma Junction lot to be developed. TPSS Co-op is located in the brick building in the background. Photo by Bill Brown.

More on vacant and abandoned property

Brian Rostron, blogger at Moving Takoma and Langley Park Forward makes some important points about the city council’s proposed Vacant and Abandoned Property Registry, which Granolapark covered last week. If the council votes to enact the registry (which it almost certainly will), property owners will be required to register homes and buildings that have stood vacant for a year, regardless of how well maintained they are. They also have to provide a reason the property has stood vacant and a plan for fixing and maintain it. If they don’t, they face fines.

Rostron makes some good points in a recent blog post. He writes, “I can’t imagine anyone truly abandoning a property and then bothering to inform the powers-that-be so perhaps the city will add those properties. And my explanation, if required, would be “Keeping my property in minimal compliance with applicable code to keep the city off my back, Jack.” Sometimes, you just have to stand up to The Man.”

Rostron says the “bothersome if not invasive requirement” is neither necessary nor useful. “If a property is actually maintained and in compliance with city housing code, then why should the owners have to register? And if the property is not maintained and compliant, then some neighborhood busybody (I mean, vigilant citizen and neighbor) can report the code violation.”

“Oh, and by the way, my house sat vacant for a year and a half after the death of its original owner, while the heirs tried to figure out what to do, and waited for housing prices to recover after the bubble’s collapse, and kind of screwed around for a while before fixing it up just enough to sell.”

– Gilbert


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4 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: The same lumpy track"

  1. We should close the library or make a public art space or gym out of it. It’s another duplicate service that the county is doing better at. I get nauseous at the thought of putting anything into this old building.

  2. Just don’t hire the Silver Spring library architects. They got pretty much EVERYTHING wrong.

  3. I also think that the Little Free Library occupying valuable space in our beloved Sammie Abdullah Abbott Community Center should have been decommissioned years ago and its relevant services such as story times and computer access transferred to more relevant city departments such as recreation and community center services. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s recall the city’s own commissioned study concluded –

    TASDI Library Subcommittee Report – February 10, 2005

    The Takoma Park Municipal Library is an anachronism in the State of Maryland , where municipal libraries have been strongly discouraged in favor of county libraries. Our library, the only “surviving” municipal library in the state, cannot be designated a public library under state law, meaning that it is ineligible for many sources of funding available to other libraries.

    In one sense, the Takoma Park library can be considered a duplicative service, in that there is a county library system. On the other hand, it is extremely unlikely that the county would operate the library if the City were to stop funding it. This is because our library is located closer to the Long Branch library (the County’s closest site) than County guidelines call for. Therefore, the most likely scenario if the City were to cease funding for the library would be that it would simply close and Takoma Park residents would be directed to Long Branch .

    Practical considerations of the “value add” of the Takoma Park library include:

    — its walking-distance proximity to five schools, and

    — local control over collections, acquisitions, and programs

    The question for the Takoma Park City Council to consider is how having our own library serves the special needs of our residents and our community culture in relation to its net operational costs of almost $650,000 annually.

    My understanding is that the operating costs paid for by the city each year are now over $1,000,000. The service has become even more redundant with the re-opening of the sumptuous Silver Spring Library, which we as Montgomery County taxpayers help pay and which is now even closer to Takoma Park. My mother is a retired librarian, and even she is aghast at the redundancy and anachronism.

    It was even the subject of my first blog post –

  4. “Just don’t hire the Silver Spring library architects. They got pretty much EVERYTHING wrong.”

    It’s a little late for that suggestion –

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