IMAGE: Co-op board vice president Robert Anderson and Co-op expansion director Marilyn Berger hold a map showing the path 65-foot long trucks would have to take to make deliveries if the plan presented by developer NDC is approved. The Co-op wants big-truck deliveries to be made at the rear, as was shown in NDC’s original proposal. Photo by Bill Brown.
GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
Succeeding where all other human beings have failed, council member Rizzy Queshi managed to unite all factions, if only for about ten minutes, in the Takoma Junction/Co-op Development battle. As he gave a summation around 11:35 p.m at the July 20 city council meeting. every brain in the room was thinking “stop talking, I want to go HOME!”
Not that it was a bad speech, in fact it was amazing. It was just because of the late hour.
Queshi said he’d watched all the city council videos where the Junction development was discussed.
If your jaw didn’t just drop, you have not been following the Takoma Junction development issue. Because that’s a LOT of hours.
He watched and noted what was said or promised or requested of whom at what times. His conclusion was that the TPSS Co-op has been well served by the council and that the council has their back.
He supports the Co-op, he said, even though he can’t afford to shop there. He offered to help with the mediation the Co-op and developer Neighborhood Development Company have both agreed to.
Robert Anderson, Co-op Board Vice President displays the map shown above to the city council during citizen comment period, July 20, 2016
The development lease agreement between the city and developer NDC is up for a vote next meeting, the last one before August recess. The council is clearly eager to get it signed so the development project can get started.
The council reviewed the draft agreement at their July 20 meeting. Some amendments were proposed that would make some implicit wording explicit – in other word, clarifying the meaning.
By a four to three straw vote the council favored the amendments.
The simple reworking-for-clarity amendments would probably be ok with the developer. Maybe not so much with the amendment they called the”Third Option.” It hasn’t been written out yet, but it would be something along the lines of adding language giving the city an option to terminate the agreement at the 120 day mark after signing it – with a 30 day extension. It also would authorize additional time for NDC to submit a letter of intent or authorize them to find another anchor tenant.
NDC may not like that one. The council was optimistic that the respective attorneys can work it out by next Wednesday’s vote.
At least 25 people spoke out on about the Takoma Junction development and the Co-op, including county council member, former city council member and TPSS Co-op founder Marc Elrich, and former Takoma Park mayor Bruce Williams.
Elrich urged the council to protect the Co-op. “This is a gem,” that most communities would be envious of, he said of the Co-op. He urged the council to get what they wanted up front in the negotiations and to make sure there is a clause that allows the city to walk away with no penalty.
Former mayor Williams said that the council should sign the draft lease agreement.
The speakers ranged from die-hard Co-op supporters to development supporters, with a number of people somewhere in the middle.
The Co-op supporters asked for more explicit language in the agreement to insure the Co-op’s core needs were met. Development supporters said the Co-op is great, but is just another business, let’s move ahead.
Many of the commentators were fresh from the Takoma Junction Open House, July 18. See the Voice article here.
The Open House may have helped de-polarize the citizenry. A few said they were interested in finding a compromise. Deputy City Manager Jason Damweber reported to the council that he and other staff who attended were able to correct many misconceptions.
Other things happened at the July 20 meeting!
The city is moving forward to synchronize Takoma Park elections with general elections – despite the logistical problems and changes it creates. There will be six wards voting in four precincts, so candidates will have do their voter-greeting at more than one polling place on election day.
Covering four polling places instead of one requires more election judges. The city Board of Elections calculates that “each of the four precincts would need a chief judge and at least four to six election judges,” and one or two registrars. As the council previously determined, the city would have to have its own ballots, in addition to the general-election ballot. So, all voters will have to vote twice if they want to participate in both elections.
The city would also have to coordinate with county’s early voting system, sending three election judges to the Silver Spring Community Center for eight days, as well as another three at the city community center for five days.
Absentee voting – they are looking into it. Same day registration and 16 – 17 year-old voters – they aren’t sure how the state will cope with that since they don’t allow it.
City charter changes that would allow all this are being drafted. There are many more details to encounter, such as how do the city’s candidate registration requirements jibe with the state’s?
Only council members Fred Schultz and Jarrett Smith, the two sitting council members who have consistently voted against synchronization, and Your Gilbert care about this. Everyone else is all, “Terrific! Go for it!”
The next step is a mid-September meeting with Montgomery County Board of Elections. Then the council needs to discuss the necessary charter amendments, and make the final decision to move forward. We will take no bets as to the outcome of that vote.
Cliffhanger or resolution?
NEXT WEEK’S MEETING will be interesting. The council has a lot to get through, including the development agreement vote – which may now be complicated by an amendment NDC does not agree with. Also, there’s a vote on the new plan for city library renovation – which would cost $5 million, twice as much as the previous plan that the council thought was too pokey.
In addition, there’s the discussion of initial programming for the Housing Reserve Fund, which was punted from this week’s agenda. That’s potentially a biggie. It’s a new, largely undefined program to assist low/middle-income home buyers. $400,000 has been allotted to the program – whatever it turns out to be.
Will the council actually wrap all of this up in one meeting? Or will there be another score of citizens making a last-ditch plea for the Co-op, pitching for or against the library renovation and lobbying for or against housing assistance? Will NDC agree to the amendments, or will the amendments halt the process until September?
Check back here next week, Dear Readers!
This just in
In conjuction with the Stylized Notions art show, which includes the work of serveral cartoonists, some of those cartoonists will be sketching and drawing at that July 27 city council meeting. Meet the artists 6:30 to 7:15 pm. Then, observe as they create art based on issues and happenings during the session until 9 pm. Or you can watch on Takoma Park City TV or follow along on the City’s Twitter and Instagram. #WeAreTakoma #TakomaPark
One of the cartoonists will be the William L. Brown, author of the Voice’s Citizen Bill editorial cartoons. A sampling of twenty-four years of Citizen Bill cartoons is on exhibit in the community center’s Dempsey Gallery.
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