Community Vision for Takoma Endorses Schlegel, Kovar, Swyers, and Smith

For the 2020 City elections, Community Vision for Takoma has endorsed:

Roger Schlegel for Mayor (he/him)
CVT is enthusiastically supporting Roger for Mayor, as he will deliver greater transparency, accountability, and public responsiveness for Takoma Park. Roger will bring the City together by addressing the divisions exacerbated by the current administration. He also brings new expertise, education, and broad experience in comparative public administration to:

  • rein in the steady increases in the budget and City staff,
  • reassign resources to support the residents who need them most,
  • embed actions to dismantle systemic racism in all City programs,
  • keep big projects like the Library and NH Rec Center on budget,
  • identify ways to protect and increase affordable housing,
  • hire a new City Manager and restore proper Council/staff power balance,
  • apply a racial and social justice lens to the rethinking of policing and public safety,
  • put meaningful goals and actions into our climate plan and its application to development projects.

Roger has deep knowledge of why the current Takoma Junction plan will not work, and a vision for a consensus plan that will:

  • support local businesses including the Co-op,
  • face the traffic, transit, and safety issues,
  • further our climate goals, and
  • hold the developer to the City’s own vision to bring the community together on public land, rather than exacerbate racial and economic segregation.

It is essential to elect Roger to restore balance between Council and staff, reclaim the budget process, stop the current Junction plan and ensure the Co-op’s future at the Junction, create more effective responses on the urgent issues of racial justice and the climate crisis, and work to unify our community. 

Peter Kovar for Ward 1 Councilmember (he/him) 

Peter (running unopposed) keeps Ward 1 fully informed about City matters, with hard-working outreach and constituent consultation and an obvious commitment to listening and taking into account all perspectives on issues. He seeks progressive solutions for pressing problems in every ward, and clearly explains his positions and votes. Peter has been a consistent voice on the Council for reining in objectionable aspects of the Junction project, like its excessive size and lack of public space; when that effort failed he cast an appropriate ‘no’ vote. Peter will be able to join forces with new Council allies for needed staffing, budget, and management reforms.

Olly Swyers for Ward 3 Councilmember (they/them) 

As a documentarian and activist, Olly is immersed in the key issues of our times including housing insecurity, Black Lives Matter, policing, LGBTQ+ equality, and the climate crisis. Having grown up in Takoma and worked at several local businesses, they have experienced the value of the Co-op and assessed the danger of the proposed Junction plan to accelerate “late stage gentrification.” Olly has clearly stated they are opposed to the current Junction development plan. In contrast, the current Ward 3 representative refused to survey her own constituents or take constructive corrective action on the Junction project until very recently — when residents (and a challenger) rose up. Olly has a keen analytical mind and refreshing combination of energy, Takoma-grown understanding of the City, clarity and fortitude, professional communications skills and political experience, and dedication to justice. It will be exciting to have Olly bring new perspectives and action ideas to the Council.

Jarrett Smith for Ward 5 Councilmember (he/him) 

Among his significant contributions to both Ward 5 and the City at large, Jarrett proposed the City’s original framework for racial equity, later weakened by the Mayor and staff. He has deep experience in housing and tenant/landlord issues and the importance of rent stabilization, and previously served on the City’s Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs. He started and obtained funding for the Lunch and Learn program – a successful initiative to provide children with meals, academic support, and enrichment in the summer. He has been a leader in championing the Flower Avenue Green Street Project, and is well-known for the resources he has brought to Ward 5 residents. Jarrett voted no on the last Junction development plan vote, and has stated clearly that the current Junction plan is “not the way to go for this community.” In contrast, Jarrett’s opponent is a newcomer to Takoma Park who lacks experience in City issues or governance, and supports moving forward on the Junction development plan.

Moreover, as the only Black man on the Council, Jarrett’s perspective and opinions, including on the need to dismantle systemic racism, have been prophetic and moving.  His is an essential voice, versed in City history and municipal governance. Jarrett serves on the board of the Maryland Municipal League, and is an adjunct professor, and a graduate student in public administration. With support from a new Mayor, City Manager, and Council, he will be even more effective in enacting his vision for the City, and in representing and bringing resources to Ward 5. 

For more information on these candidates, or to lend them your support, click on the embedded links to their websites above. 

Community Vision for Takoma asked all candidates for City office in the November 3rd 2020 Takoma Park election to provide 200-word responses to three questions–on racial equity, Takoma Junction, and the budget. All of the questions and responses we received are posted here.  The responses informed our decisions on endorsements for this City election. We were not able to consider candidates who did not respond to the questionnaire (or responded after we had posted the initial responses).

If you’re a resident of Takoma Park, please remember to vote–by drop-box, by mail, or in person if you do not receive a ballot in the mail.  If you are registered to vote with the City or State, you should receive your Takoma Park ballot in the mail by mid-October. Any resident age 16 or over is eligible to register to vote in city elections. US citizenship is not required.

Candidates for City Office Respond to CVT Questions

Community Vision for Takoma (CVT) asked each of the candidates for City Council and Mayor in the November 3rd 2020 election to send us a 200-word response to each of three questions, with a deadline of September 16th. Three seats in this election are contested (Ward 3, Ward 5, and Mayor). Our intention here is to provide information for voters to directly compare responses from the candidates. We will also consider these responses in determining CVT endorsements.

We include one response that came in too late for endorsement consideration. We are no longer accepting responses at this time.

1. Is the City Council addressing racial justice effectively? What specific actions would you seek to take on the Council to achieve more racial justice in Takoma Park?

Peter Kovar (Ward 1):

The Council has taken steps to address inequities in our community connected to systemic racism through actions such as making advances on affordable housing; focusing more on community policing; exploring renovation of the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center; seeking to address the Purple Line’s economic impacts; expanding translation of City documents; making the resident survey more inclusive; targeting grants and programs to marginalized communities; and adopting our Racial Equity policy.

We need to do much more in order to fully live up to our ethos of inclusiveness, and to treat our Black and Brown neighbors with respect and dignity. The Reimagining Public Safety task force we’re establishing sets the stage for further improvements by helping ensure we’ll hear from residents most affected by policing and budgetary decisions. I’ll be pushing to further demilitarize the police, develop alternative first responder ideas that emphasize mental health and economic support, and widen participation in municipal affairs. But as a white male living in a wealthier neighborhood, it’s also important for me to listen to residents who live elsewhere. So I’m approaching these issues as someone with plenty to learn, and who needs to pay more attention to voices from other parts of town.

Cindy Dyballa (Ward 2), submitted Sept 20th:

The long-overdue need for racial justice to address systemic inequities requires long-term action at many levels.  At the local level, City council can continue to build on the clear intention of the city’s 2017 equity initiative and recent city efforts, to focus more consciously on building equity into our policies, programs, and budget decisions.  That would look like, to share some recent examples, funding youth recreation programs that serve youth of color and lower income; centering people of color in the effort to reimagine our public safety policies; expanding tree planting efforts in underserved areas; and targeting outreach for New Hampshire Ave. Recreation Center redevelopment to nearby neighborhoods most affected. Identifying and removing barriers to greater civic engagement by residents of color is another critical step. As a city council member, I actively seek out and listen to black and brown voices about what they see and what they need to address inequities.

Kacy Kostiuk (Ward 3):

The City of Takoma Park took the groundbreaking step in 2017 of adopting a Racial Equity Initiative, and racial equity considerations have become part of decision-making and planning-processes.

But this is only the beginning. There is much more to do. Racial equity needs to be a part of every decision and discussion, and we need to make systemic changes to build a truly racially equitable community.

We need to:

•Improve the Racial Equity Initiative through active consultation that gives power to Black and Brown residents

•Develop a comprehensive system for analyzing racial equity impacts in budget decision processes, since many inequities are tied to funds distribution

•Remove barriers and ensure Black and Brown residents are part of decision-making processes by changing the committee structure and providing new supports to run for office

•Systematize and provide more tools to City staff to create racial equity statements on agenda items

•Make difficult decisions and have open and honest conversations about needed changes

As we move forward, a key focus area must be making policing reforms. This process needs to be driven by collaborative, change-making, action-oriented discussions with Black and Brown residents that lead to adoption of concrete policy, procedure, and funding changes.

Olly Swyers (Ward 3):

The city has not done enough to address racial equity. It was exciting in 2017 when the city made a move to adopt a racial equity impact statement for major city actions. That is an incredibly bold and absolutely necessary step to beginning to unpack injustices and correct our path forward. The city was unable to establish a rubric and subsequently shifted the impact statement to “equity considerations”. If we are committed to seeing an equitable Takoma Park we need to do the work to build that rubric and then apply it to all major actions. We also need to address our budget, especially that for policing and salaries, and decide if it reflects our equity commitments. One thing that seems obvious, when you look at salary allocation for municipal staff, is an astounding wage gap between people who are doing physical labor at 40 hours a week, like our mostly Black and brown sanitation workers, and people who are working as managers and administrators a majority of whom are white . We need to take a hard look at who is being paid for what, and how and why we value some labor at such higher margins than others.

Sawa Kamara (Ward 5):

The city has to examine racial biases embedded in city department services such as the police department, affordable housing/ homeownership and businesses. Survey how well we’ve tackled these issues annually by creating an equity goal and a five year plan. To measure progress we should have a community report card or organizational assessment holding Takoma Park City Staff accountable. Hold culturally competent classes( racism training)  and also have a committee that implements racial and diversity decision making. Build our community’s capacity to judiciously address racism by providing opportunities to build relationships and work together on issues. When making decisions that directly affect residents, engage the censorious mass of diverse residents to not only participate but to lead the initiatives. Rather than focusing on racial equities, focus on racial inequities especially institutionalized incongruity in power, policies and practices.  Most people will point out rent control as addressing the issue but that is merely scratching the surface. 

Jarrett Smith (Ward 5):

Our City Council is a not fully immersed in what it means to truly address racial equity. When looking at the racial equity landscape, data is the true indicator of progress and we haven’t progressed when:

•Evictions are taking place that are affecting mostly Black and brown residents; this is unacceptable to me;

•COVID-19 cases are affecting more Black and brown people than anyone else; this is unacceptable to me;

•In a city that is predominantly Black and brown people, the average household income for black and brown people is dramatically less than everyone else; this is unacceptable to me;

•College entrance for Black and brown people in this city is dramatically less than it is for everyone else; this is unacceptable to me;

•Voting/Civic Participation is very limited among Black and brown people because, there is a feeling of hopelessness; what has the government done for me lately… This is Unacceptable to Me;

Takoma Park is a majority ethnic city, and these indicators show us that there is no racial equity.

I was the sponsor of our city’s Racial Equity policy that was unanimously adopted by this City Council. Measurable implementation hasn’t happened.

An economic plan that should accompany Racial Equity needs to be put in place immediately and measured constantly until we see marked improvements in these indicators.

There are members of the community and senior City leadership that have no interest in truly addressing racial equity beyond simply having an intellectual conversation about racial justice or reciting a poem by a nationally acclaimed black poet. These actions do not feed someone who is hungry, educate the unknowing, offer hope to the impoverished, put a roof over someone’s head, provide transportation to that struggling mother who is pregnant with no way to get to her sonogram appointment across town.

Racial equity is supposed to mean something and currently Takoma Park is missing the mark.

Roger Schlegel (Mayor):

The Council’s racial justice initiative is moving slowly and superficially. I would seek to:

  1. Catalogue our history of systemic racism.
  2. Incorporate anti-racist training in City meetings.
  3. Address racialized income disparities among staff.
  4. Use metrics to ensure equitable service allocation, including wifi.
  5. Activate groups to address transit, childcare, social services, building safety, and police relations.
  6. Overcome linguistic, temporal, geographic, and technological barriers to participation.
  7. Ensure pandemic assistance information is delivered to every resident in need.
  8. In near-term climate strategies, Do NOT burden residents of color; DO generate economic opportunities for residents of color; DO prioritize better transportation.
  9. Insist that new development do no harm to businesses that are crucial in building wealth or quality of life for people of color.
  10. Implement an affordable retail stabilization program.
  11. Leverage the establishment of an “Equitable Takoma” credit union to spur racially equitable economic opportunities.
  12. Develop a northern Ward 6 playground, and improve the Eastridge Avenue playground.
  13. Activate more public space to welcome residents of color.
  14. Ensure residents of color play major roles in Library and Rec Center projects.
  15. Ensure Junction redevelopment advances racial equity in use of that site.

Kate Stewart (Mayor):

The work to dismantle over 400 years of institutionalized racism is and must be an ongoing process. In 2017, the City intentionally took on this work which has been highlighted by National League of Cities.

In the last three years, we have trained city staff, Council, committees, and residents; put in place pilot engagement programs; and started to collect data – e.g. resident survey included questions on racial equity and focus groups with African immigrants and Spanish speaking residents.

This work is changing how we do business; guiding where new bus shelters go, how we conduct meetings, determining which local organizations receive City grants, informing the cultural plan, funding oral histories of Black residents, and guiding how we reimagine public safety. And, many other efforts.

These are meaningful, concrete steps forward, but not enough. We need expertise to analyze data, keep our Road Map updated, and all of us accountable. That’s why I am calling for the hire of a Chief Equity Officer. As co-chair of National League of Cities’ Racial Equity And Leadership Council, I have learned a great deal about how to sustain this ongoing work and look forward to doing so.

2. Do you support the current Takoma Junction plan? Why or why not? What is your vision of a successful Junction development — and what process would help the City attain a shared vision?  

Peter Kovar (Ward 1):

I support developing the Junction, primarily because a well-designed project can contribute to creating a more vibrant, walkable community. I don’t support the current site plan, and I voted against it in 2018, mainly because it had inadequate public space and excessive height. While some changes have been made, those concerns remain.

My biggest worry isn’t that I’ll dislike the development that may ultimately be approved, but rather that divisiveness around the project could have a long-term harmful impact. With passion on all sides, I think it’s healthier to seek a compromise. As review of the plan continues, I’d like to pursue a version of the project with a somewhat smaller footprint, meaning most of us — me included — wouldn’t get all we want. But a smaller structure could make it easier to address some concerns about public space, transportation, pedestrian safety, stormwater, and the project’s overall neighborhood impact.

I don’t want more lengthy delays — we should make a decision and move forward, one way or the other. So after the election, in coordination with the County review process, I’d like to work toward a smaller structure, ideally with a timetable for when we’d have a final vote.

Cindy Dyballa (Ward 2), submitted Sept 20th:

In line with the vision of the Takoma Junction Task Force, existing agreements, and the resolutions of other Councils, I support development that contributes to a vibrant and commercially viable Junction.  In 2018 I voted to move the proposed plan for the city lot to county agencies development review. I worked to address concerns about the proposal (such as the Coop’s operational concerns), and I pushed for specific requirements such as green construction, less height, and stormwater management.  When the county agencies process concludes and before any county planning board vote, the City Council must review the revised proposal in an open manner, to check that it conforms with our previous requirements and agreements, particularly sustainability, traffic, public space and the Coop/NDC agreement. As I did in 2018, I will hold several neighborhood meetings to hear thoughts of a variety of ward 2 residents on the revised plan.  I am troubled that some residents feel great mistrust as a result of their experience of the process to date.

Kacy Kostiuk (Ward 3):

Takoma Junction is an important cultural and social hub. In 2018, I voted to advance the project concept plan to the County Review Process because I believe in-fill development at this location has the potential to benefit residents and local businesses, reduce car use, and bring additional revenue for the City’s social and environmental initiatives.

A revised and more detailed plan will come to the City Council before it can move to a County Planning Board vote. The Council must thoroughly review that plan with the community. This must involve careful analysis, questioning, and advocating for change where needed.

I will not support a plan that makes stormwater worse, creates unsafe traffic conditions, negatively impacts racial equity, or creates environmental hazards for the neighborhood.

I will support a plan that benefits residents and local businesses; provides walkable, transit-oriented opportunities; enables the Co-op to serve the community, and offers small businesses and/or nonprofits and social-service providers space to serve our community’s needs.

Recently, I wrote to the developer twice, reminding them of the requirements in the 2018 Resolution, requesting rear illustrations, and asking a long list of community-generated questions. I look forward to receiving answers and having community discussions.

Olly Swyers (Ward 3):

I do not support the current junction plans. NDC’s current plans don’t even address the bare minimum standards set forth by the city council two years ago. It also doesn’t meet any of our climate goals and they have only proposed a bare minimum amount of useful, accessible public space without a paywall, one of many equity concerns. An ideal junction development and development process would welcome, seek, and incorporate community input from the beginning of the process to the final stages through town halls, forums and active feedback sessions. That is what a community partner looks like to me and that has not been the process I have witnessed thus far.  

This project should have been, and could still be, an opportunity for creative and collective decision making. As it is publicly owned land, this is one of the few times where we can actually have a huge impact on the final project. Our city is filled with passion and love for community, and working together on this development could be a chance to foster and grow connections, and find a solution that isn’t just merely a compromise.

Sawa Kamara (Ward 5):

I support the continued but careful progress towards the revitalization of the Takoma Junction area. I support every effort to ensure that the continued input of residents and business owners are taken into consideration. The City’s goals to minimize detrimental impact to neighboring properties, optimize the provision of retail services, and provide for both public and community spaces must be carefully executed to ensure the sustainability and viability of our diverse community for generations to come.

As a resident seeking to represent our community as a City Council member, I will ensure that residents, particularly those in Ward 5, are regularly informed of the status of this important project. I will continue to ensure that a good-faith effort is made to address our concerns appropriately and expeditiously. I will continue to work in direct collaboration and consultation with residents from all walks of life to ensure that the final design respects and meets our goals of ensuring accessibility, inclusivity, diversity, safety, environmental sustainability, and smart economic growth that supports local businesses.

Jarrett Smith (Ward 5):

I do not support the current Takoma Junction plan. Here is the email I wrote to residents prior to my re-election in 2018:


 It has taken five years for us to get to this point on the Takoma Junction development project. Over the years, the city’s development partner has shared with the community various iterations of the project. They have shown us ideas for urban farming on the new structures roof, a CoOp in a newly built store, and an improved failing intersection.

 Council is tentatively scheduled on May 23rd, 2018 to vote on the current NDC site plan, and it is my intention to vote against it. I feel the current proposal doesn’t build on Takoma Park’s tradition of green space, the assurance that the CoOp’s long-term home is in Takoma Park, and there is still uncertainty surrounding improving traffic conditions around the Junction location.  This is unacceptable.  I’ve worked for and supported small business for years; therefore, I think this is the time to once again support the backbone of American business, which is neighborhood businesses.”

The project has torn the community apart. The decision making and discussion on the future of Takoma Junction needs to hit the “reset” button. We as a city and city leadership need to push up our sleeves get to work and starting this entire process over again. Council should ensure this redevelopment is what the residents of Takoma Park want.

Roger Schlegel (Mayor):

I do not support the current plan. In many substantive and egregious ways, it fails to meet community interests, the design constraints of the site, the challenges of the complex chain of intersections, and the needs or nearby businesses. This is clear evidence that NDC has not been serious about tailoring the project in response to the values and requirements expressed in the development agreement.

The silver lining of the controversies that have accompanied the process over the past several years is that we are now quite clear as a community on the types of amenities and design features that could be combined in a consensus vision for the site’s development. My vision of a successful Junction development activates that stretch of Carroll Avenue in a delightful way that provides flexible community space as well as some new dining and commerce while protecting the operations of the community owned-grocery store, maintaining adequate parking for the district, protecting pedestrians and cyclists, and preserving the forest. I think that with good leadership, the community can come together around a shared vision and find the partners and the resources to make it happen expeditiously, and in a way that advances the City’s values.

Kate Stewart (Mayor):

Over six years we have had many discussions and I have written extensively about, spoken, and voted on this project. On the last vote in July, 2018, I supported submitting the draft site plan to County Planning for technical review. The Resolution, along with Development Agreement, requires among other things:

  1. Storm-water treatment significantly exceeding City requirements;
  2. Parking for area businesses; 
  3. Dedicated public space; 
  4. No formula stores; 
  5. LEED Gold certification or higher;
  6. Minimization of impacts to neighboring properties;
  7. Accommodation of Co-op needs;
  8. Creation of an energy neutral building.

I have been and continue to be a strong supporter of the Co-op and believe we can have a project where it continues to thrive.

We have an opportunity to enhance walkability and vitality of the area, improve stormwater treatment (at no City cost), eliminate an unsightly parking lot, and provide the City hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

I support continuing County review process and having the project come back to the city for discussion and vote before going before Planning Board. We do not yet know if the next iteration will meet our requirements, but I believe we should continue the process and see.

3. How would you improve the budget process, and what changes would you seek to make in City spending and revenue generation?

Peter Kovar (Ward 1):

The budget is a large, dense document. And while we’ve moved toward more transparency, our budget process is still too opaque, for residents and Councilmembers. Decisions on funding often occur in isolation, rather than through comprehensive review of spending and tax options. We frequently make modest spending changes around the edges without stepping back to consider broader priorities and alternatives.

Major changes may be difficult given the uncertainty around COVID-19. But for future budgets I’d like us to debate several alternatives, for example Constant Yield (same overall property tax receipts as the previous year), flat tax rate (same as the previous year), staff recommendations (a possible tax increase), and a spending freeze or a two percent cut. The Council and residents could then better understand tradeoffs and how community priorities are aligned with taxes and other funding sources within a clearer overall fiscal context. We wouldn’t just be making spending changes around the edges.

I’d also like to see us further emphasize our lobbying for State legislation enabling municipalities to enact revenue measures, and appoint a resident task force to review County functions the City has absorbed so we can explore whether it would make sense to reconsider those decisions.

Cindy Dyballa (Ward 2), submitted Sept 20th:

There are no easy answers on budget, and the uncertain program and revenue impacts of the pandemic make future city budgeting an even greater challenge.  I’d like to continue and expand strategies adopted for this budget year–greater caution in spending, especially on personnel; shifting resources to an unexpected budget priority, COVID response; and significant funds on hold, pending quarterly reviews of spending and revenues.  Building a more diverse set of revenue sources is in order, such as attracting and strengthening local businesses, continued focus on increasing county “tax duplication” payments, close attention to projections for current sources of revenue, and actively pursuing sustainability and other grants.  And I am actively working for a targeted new city property tax credit and deferral program to help some low-moderate income homeowners.

The city budget process provides a great deal of information in a very short time. Actions such as more readable materials, summary graphics, and budget open houses for residents will help make the process even more accessible to a range of residents. I’d like council to consider budget options at the concept level—what it takes to maintain current programs, to target high priority areas, to keep within the current budget level—and focus more on budget strategy and less on smaller line items.

Kacy Kostiuk (Ward 3):

As residents face worsened economic hardships and the City faces possible revenue reductions due to COVID, we will need to make increasingly difficult budget decisions.

We need to improve budget materials and processes to ensure robust, representative resident input:

•Create more accessible budget materials, incorporating infographics and analytical tools such as percentage changes to expenditures

•Conduct targeted outreach to underrepresented groups — especially Black and Brown residents, renters, and residents with limited English

•Develop a comprehensive process for analyzing racial equity in budget decisions

We also must be innovative and look for opportunities to save and meet our goals:

•Set a manageable tax rate for all residents, while developing targeted tax assistance programs that create a more progressive property taxing system — so those who can afford it pay more, and those with greater need pay less

•Reassess and revise the Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes program to meet and create incentives to achieve affordable housing goals

•Create a separate tax category for vacant developed properties

•Collaborate with institutions of higher learning, nonprofits, and volunteers

•Seek opportunities to pilot new programs or technologies, especially in sustainability and community outreach

•Make difficult cuts and changes when needed, prioritizing racial equity and the most critical needs of residents.

Olly Swyers (Ward 3):

Just some first steps to addressing our budget. We need to assess community needs first, as they pertain to our racial and economic equity goals, climate goals and also basic municipal functions. Our budget needs to reflect those priorities first and work within constraints that don’t deplete our emergency reserves. Fiscal responsibility at the city level is an equity issue, as we increase spending year after year and raise taxes at double the rate of inflation, we are already losing longtime community members who have low or fixed incomes. City salaries are incredibly inequitable for some, and growing at unsustainable rates for others. Our city manager and police chief both make well over 200k with benefits. We also have to address tax duplication, in some cases like stormwater management, deferring some services to the county and addressing accurate reimbursement amounts for ones that the city continues to provide. I’m only scraping the  surface here but the first and main thing we need to do is shift our budgeting process to one that is transparent, and asks for active input from the community.

Sawa Kamara (Ward 5):

Budget decisions have a profound impact on our daily lives from the police department (safety) to garbage collection ( sanitation). Our neighborhoods budget is integral for community development. We need transparency in the budget process by analyzing several aspects: connect budget spending with key performance targets, If the budget calls for cut or increase, share when and how it happen, explain reasons for budget cut or increase, share the entire information with the organization through meetings, department program managers, mayor,council, and individuals. Approve the budget in stages not in one action to accurately aim at our goal. Practice revenue forecasting which is an ongoing process six months prior that revises the budget execution phase of the cycle. When proposing a budget or developing that initial assumption the city should solicit inputs not only from the city manager but city council, key stakeholders, policy leaders and residents. Our highest priority should be economic development and affordable housing. We need a better budget for a better city. Our annual budget should identify and address health & social inequalities. 

Jarrett Smith (Ward 5):

Here is how I would re-imagine our city’s budget process. Our budget process could be improved using Zero Based Budgeting. It is efficient and the major advantages are flexible budgets, focused operations, lower costs, and more disciplined execution. Department heads should have to explain in detail their budget request before the budget is presented to Council by the city manager. This gives council the opportunity to ask questions and weigh-in on decisions before the budget is almost final. In our current process, there is a very small window of time for changes once City Council receives the annual proposed budget and has the ability to analyze line items, and suggest any additions or deletions, or request even further explanation.

I’d like to see our budget process adopt some of the rigor of the U.S. Government’s Accountability Office (also known as GAO). GAO is tasked to review programs and initiatives proposed by Congress or that are already on the books. According to their mission statement, they are tasked to, “examine(s) how taxpayer dollars are spent and advise(s) lawmakers and agency heads on ways to make government work better.” For me that is Takoma Park’s budgeting process “re-imagined.”

Roger Schlegel (Mayor):

In collaboration with the Council, I would direct the Manager to develop an outcomes-based budget that is closely linked to a fully fleshed-out and annually updated strategic plan. With this approach, I would insist that the Manager institute protocols and metrics whereby employees track their time on various programs and the outcomes achieved. I would lead the City Council to explore options for returning some services, such as stormwater and criminal investigations, to the County, and for merging and consolidating staff work teams within ecosystem services, human services, and planning/direction/evaluation.

I would press the Manager to propose achievable cost reductions and to identify the most efficient ways to accomplish the objectives of major projects such as the Library as well as ongoing expenses such as equipment replacement and the hiring of consultants. I would advocate strongly for allowing real property tax increases no higher than the rate of increase in the Employee Cost Index (ECI), and I would use budget and management improvements to lead a strong and forceful effort to advocate for an end to double taxation from the County. In select priority areas, I would support new spending, particularly for key racial equity and affordability initiatives.

Kate Stewart (Mayor):

  1. Budget Process: I have made improvements in the budget process the last five years by applying my experience as a small businessowner and executive of a non-profit which received private and government funding. I strengthened Council priority setting process to provide greater transparency and direction to staff on where to focus budgets. And, there is more to do. One change is “Participatory Budgeting,” which empowers residents to help decide how to expend City funds.
  2. Revenue Generation: Given the limitations under state law, I have focused on (1) sustaining and increasing our commercial tax base, especially during COVID-19; (2) getting County Executive’s budget to start addressing tax duplication (although the pandemic delayed Council action) and securing the County Council’s commitment to set aside COVID relief funds for municipalities; and (3) Grants (e.g. $100,000 state grant for New Hampshire Ave façade improvements and $457,000 grant for bikeways on New Hampshire Ave).
  3. Spending: I have advocated for City staff to present Council a “maintenance of effort” budget tied to the cost of providing services.  Through this lens, we can decide how to shift, cut, or increases services (e.g., shifting funds to address COVID-19 relief efforts).

Takoma Junction Timeline

Original concept submitted by NDC with truck parked in loading zone at rear. City chose NDC based on their proposal including this plan.

It may be hard to see the full arc of the proposed Takoma Junction development process, a process unfolding over many years now. So here, we provide a preliminary timeline of events with linked documents, over the past 30 years.

1992. Takoma Park Historic District, including the Junction, established to protect against “unsympathetic alteration and insensitive redevelopment.”

1995. After residents “violently opposed” a proposed chain drug store on the empty Takoma Junction lot and express desire for a grocery store, City buys lot, hoping to attract Co-op to Junction.

1998. Co-op moves to Junction. City begins renting a portion of lot to Co-op for parking, storage, and loading. Co-op begins sponsoring public use, eventually including Earth Day, movie screenings, weekly concerts, and in the pandemic, hands-free grocery pickup, Farmer’s Market, non-profit food distribution, and Black Lives Matter protest.

2009. Independent study commissioned by Old Town Business Association (OTBA) identifies Co-op as the Junction anchor, recommends “every effort be made to encourage” its further development, and recommends 10,000 sf expansion of Co-op and addition of Co-op cafe.

2011. Co-op membership votes to authorize Co-op Board to pursue expansion.

Feb 2012. Takoma Junction Task Force Report issued. Mentions community desire for small town charm, food trucks, expanded community use, pavilion, playground, support for local businesses.

July 2012. Co-op presents expansion plans to City Council, with various design options.

Jan 2014. Under a short-lived City Manager who now works for Amazon, City puts out Request for Proposals, effectively pre-ordaining choice of a commercial developer and excluding Co-op’s expansion and open public space proposal. City Councilman Seth Grimes later laments, “The city made a mistake in not providing detailed, clear guidance on community preferences” and that “none of the proposals” meet City needs documented by Junction Task Force.

March 2015. City chooses Neighborhood Development Company (NDC), based on their concept showing residential and commercial, a loading zone behind the building (no lay-by) and presumed expansion of Co-op as the anchor tenant.

March 2015. City Councilman Tim Male opines that plan is too big, says, “I have a hard time imagining…a 33,000 square foot building…on that spot.” City Councilmember Seth Grimes writes a blog post about why he chose NDC, citing the lack of layby in their design, among other elements. He notes that a lay-by would be a “step in the wrong direction,” and that the “co-op has said this approach would be unworkable.”

July 20 2016. City announces a short-lived (less than a year) community advisory committee. NDC presents a (short-lived) “public market” concept, showing a photo of Union Market. In public comments, Co-op board president indicates a “lay-by” has been added in a new design they were given by NDC in June 2016. Residents express concern, including Marc Elrich who says “I’ve seen how things morph,” stresses the importance of the Co-op, the difficulty of the site, and the need to negotiate a clause for an exit from the agreement without penalty. He notes, “I’d hate to see you all lose money trying to extricate yourselves from this deal.” Fire Chief Tom Musgrove expresses concern about safety of the lay-by and what could become his “inability to come out and provide the necessary protection” to residents.

July 27 2016. City signs a Development Agreement with NDC, laying groundwork for choosing new anchor tenant if they cannot agree with Co-op on expansion.

July 2016. First of at least three petitions opposing the development. Over 1300 unique signatures gathered by 2018. Majority of public comments oppose plan at numerous City Council meetings over multiple years. City refuses to survey residents or hold referendum to document opposition.

January 11 2017. NDC and Co-op fail to reach agreement for Co-op expansion as anchor tenant. City authorizes NDC to seek a new anchor tenant.

2017. NDC makes deal to acquire adjoining auto clinic, increases plan to over 50,000 sq ft of offices, retail, and restaurants (no housing). They do not use that “new” space to add any public use back in. The loading zone remains on Carroll (the state highway) as a lay-by lane. Three-story glass design received as “Bethesda style.”

April 2018. Community Vision hosts a packed Town Hall with State Highway Administration. Residents and Fire Chief express concerns about safety and traffic issues created by plan.

April 2018. NDC submits revised plans with funkier facade but maintaining 50,000 sf size. Images portrayed from a high vantage point continue to minimize perceived size of development.

May 2018. NDC and Co-op, unable to reach a plan for Co-op accommodation during and after construction, agree to mediation funded by City.

May 2018. The majority of businesses in the Junction sign a letter expressing concern about the development, and noting that there has recently been a “promising upswing” in businesses there, but that they depend on the parking in the lot. Developer makes no promises about the number or cost of parking slots that would be available to the public in the proposed garage.

June 8 2018. The City ends their license agreement with the Co-op to use the parking lot for deliveries and parking.

June 2018. Two Junction traffic studies issued. They find multiple problems: new traffic will create a “failed intersection,” road reconfiguration will induce demand and create more congestion.

July 25 2018. City Council voted down Councilmember Jarrett Smith’s Alternative Resolution on the Junction. City Council votes on a resolution, (5-2 with Kovar and Smith voting against), to let NDC submit site plan (over 50,000 sf) to County.

Sept 2018. Ground lease goes into effect. NDC begins paying rent to City. Co-op begins paying more to NDC to sublet the lot than NDC is paying the City. So, NDC is now making money on the lot every month. City is now getting less per month from NDC than they got directly from Co-op to rent just part of the lot. Nevertheless, the Co-op begins providing free parking for the whole Junction on the lot they are paying for.

Oct 2018. NDC abruptly shuts down block of small businesses on a block they plan to develop in Deanwood, in Northeast DC. BlackLivesMatterDC leads protest march to home of NDC’s owner. Civil rights lawyer represents businesses against developer.

Oct 2018. Mediation between NDC and Co-op concludes. Co-op prohibited from any further protest or critique of the project, in return for ability to continue to rent lot from NDC until construction, and other accommodations. The prohibition against Co-op voicing any critique of the project remains in effect today.

Feb 2019. After failing to convince surrounding businesses to sell them “transferrable development rights,” NDC is forced to reduce plan size by more than 10,000 sq ft to attempt to comply with zoning. NDC submits plan to County.

March 2019. First review by County’s Development Review Committee (DRC) finds lay-by unacceptable and says it “should be removed,” and finds planned location of exit onto Carroll unsafe, inadequate emergency access, plan is bad for walkers and bikers and public transit, and other issues.

2019. NDC has three Preliminary Consultations with County’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). In May and August, staff and Commissioners critique size, shape, lay-by, public space, public input, tree loss. Mayor, City Manager push back. HPC backs off, but asks NDC to return with depictions of Columbia (“rear”) facade. NDC chooses to ignore this request.

Presentation to HPC, October 2019. Private balcony added. “Rear” facade pushed out toward Columbia. Note how small the Co-op (grey roof) still looks next to the development.

2019 All but one retail spaces in Junction currently rented, and public parking lot is frequently full now, undercutting City’s original stated intention to “revitalize the Junction” with a large development. Developer persists in referring to it as a “vacant lot.”

Nov 2019 NDC asks for a second 3-month extension to July 2020 for responding to the DRC’s comments, because they are waiting for the SHA’s Junction Vision Study on roadways and traffic.

January 9 2020 Montgomery County Planning Board votes to approve NDC’s extension to Sept 30 2020 instead of July, since the Planning Board will be out of session for the summer in July 2020.

Spring 2020 The COVID-19 pandemic hits. Co-op receives national acclaim for protecting workers while remaining in operation. The entire Co-op staff keeps their union jobs. Both lots begin to be used intensively for food packing and distribution by local non-profits.

May 8 2020 State Highway Administration releases a letter to the NDC’s traffic consultant, stating that four different SHA departments have reviewed the project and that the development would increase traffic, cannot be built without reconfiguration of Junction roadways, and there is no state money for reconfiguration through 2025. It also questions many other aspects of the plan.

May-July 2020 Residents get wind of backroom negotiations by the City to try to figure out some other way to accommodate the Junction development. Resident Andrew Strongin asks to see communications on this topic for the six-week period after the SHA’s May 8th letter. The City Attorney writes back that there are indeed over 200 communications on the Junction in this period, but that it will cost $985 to have him review and possibly redact the documents (due to “attorney-client privilege” or “executive privilege). A GoFundMe campaign raises the funds in a matter of hours, due to public outcry. The City drops the fee, and releases the documents. A text from the Mayor attempting to pressure the SHA is revealed.

July 2020 At a series of City Council meetings, residents request that the City re-evaluate the Junction plan for a retail and office development in light of the pandemic, the recession, Black Lives Matter, and the climate crisis. The City declines, saying they will look at and vote on the plan only immediately prior to the final Planning Board vote.

July 20 2020 Developer submits to the County’s DRC the revised Junction plans (here and here) responding to the March 2019 DRC comments. This sets in motion deadlines leading to the final County vote. New drawings finally depict the Columbia/Poplar facade, leading to public outcry:

High vantage point minimizes mass.

August 2020 Under persistent pressure by attorney and resident Andrew Strongin, the City acknowledges three documents that were not originally posted anywhere. One is a July 14th response from the developer’s traffic group to the SHA, stating that they are assuming in their plans that the C0-op’s entrance from 410 will be closed, and all entrance and exit to and from the Co-op’s Sycamore lot will be from Sycamore.

August 2020 Despite the fact that the City refused to hold work sessions on the plans, and that questions about the plan have gone unanswered, Councilmember Kacy Kostiuk arranges two zoom meeting with one neighborhood of her ward, with the Mayor, and City and County staff, to “listen to” neighbors angry about the effect of the proposed development on Columbia Ave. The rest of the City is not invited to these meetings. Questions are collected. It becomes apparent that the developer cannot, in fact, legally force the closure of the Co-op’s entrance from 410.

August 2020 The City posts a false description of the process, urging people to wait to weigh in with the County until later in the process, even though the County staff very clearly urged residents to weigh in now, or it will be too late. The City also falsely states that SHA has not weighed in, when SHA has already documented serious issues with the project.

August 2020 Over 100 people, including City Councilman Jarrett Smith and Junction business owners, sign a letter urging the County to consider the racial equity and social justice impacts of the proposed development. The letter states, “…we ask that you do what the City of Takoma Park has not: cast a critical eye on a proposal that threatens the destruction of a racial minority-majority business community…”

November 6 2020 and January 15 2021 The developer submits to the County what is believed to be the final revisions of the plans, comprising over 50 documents. (Search for those dates HERE and HERE). The bike share is moved to BY Morrison Park (“the triangle”), reducing small public space there. The bus stop is placed in the “public space” in front of the development (but is not depicted in the 3D renderings).

Driveway into the garage, next to “public space.” Bus stop not pictured. Balcony is for private use.
Columbia side, “trees not shown for clarity of building facade.” No public use of balcony, terrace, roof.

December 2020 County responds to the November 2020 plans HERE. Recommendation is made for right-turn only going into or out of the garage/driveway onto Carroll Ave, diverting traffic onto residential side streets, including the curvy Columbia Ave, and encouraging U-turns.

December 31, 2020 The State Highway Administration (SHA) releases their long-awaited Takoma Junction Vision Study. It does not describe or recommend reconfiguration of the Junction, and points out that there is no money for such a reconfiguration.

January/February 2021 Two County reviewing offices, Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and of Planning Services (Right of Way), recommend against the lay-by, HERE and HERE.

March 10 2021 City Manager gives an update at City Council meeting, stuns the community by saying the lay-by is the only safe delivery solution, neglects to mention the County (MCDOT) letter finding the lay-by unacceptable and not safe. An elaboration of this statement with unsubstantiated claims about unsafe conditions of current deliveries on the lot, and other unsubstantiated claims about the economic effects of the development, is posted on the City’s “FAQ” page (later retracted by the City).

March 29 2021 Although the SHA still hasn’t ruled on the lay-by, the City announced a schedule for the final review sessions and vote on the project in April and May.

April-June 2021 The City creates an online feedback form to gather public comments on NDC and the Junction. 396 comments are submitted, with some 380 of them opposed to the plan and/or the developer.

April 12 2021 The City begins the first of three planned review sessions for the plan. The first is a presentation by the developer, City staff, and County staff, followed by breakout rooms for residents to ask questions.

April 13 2021 The City posts a letter from the State Highway Administration, which finds the layby unsafe and unacceptable. The City cancels the April/May review, but implies this is just a postponement while the developer attempts to figure out another format for deliveries and waste pickup.

April 15 2021 A lawyer for NDC sends a letter to the Co-op instructing them to cease and desist all deliveries on the City lot effective immediately, and terminating the sub-lease and giving them 30 days to vacate the lot. The Co-op responds with a letter the next day.

April 17-18 2021 Some 200 residents protest for two days at the Junction with signs including “Save the Co-op” and “Drop NDC Now.” The story is on the nightly local 6 o’clock news, WOWD, and WPFW.

April 19-22 City holds three consecutive closed meetings with no public comments, at least two of them about the Junction. Mayor and Councilmembers have stopped responding to resident questions on the Junction with substantive replies “due to the legal nature of the situation.”

April 21 2021 Co-op update to community states that NDC’s termination of Co-op deliveries on the lot is now scheduled for April 26th. And, no evidence of unsafe conditions on the lot have been submitted to them, by anyone.

April 22 2021 City issues a statement saying they have “retracted in full” the “FAQ” City website page with (apparently) false allegations about the unsafe conditions for current deliveries on the lot.

April 23 2021 City updates their statement explaining that they “requested” that NDC rescind the cease-and-desist and sublease termination by noon on April 23rd. They report that there was no reply from NDC.

April 26 2021 Co-op supporters take over the Junction for a third day of protest, asking the City to #DropNDCNow.

April 27 2021 Co-op sues NDC and City for breach of contract, in order to maintain access to deliveries.

April 29 2021 Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak writes about the Junction, stating, “…this — this messy, exhausting, divisive fight — is what democracy looks like.”

May 2 2021 Co-op Board President Diane Curran goes on WOWD’s Talk of Takoma with Eric Bond to explain why the Co-op had to take legal action to stop NDC from evicting them from the lot.

May 13 2021 Montgomery County Circuit Court judge grants a Preliminary Injunction preventing NDC from evicting the Co-op from the lot while they await trial.

May 17 2021. The State Highway Administration (SHA) rejects the layby as unsafe, for a second time.

May 18/19 2021. NDC  writes back to the SHA, submitting the plan yet again. They include a new plan, reducing the layby length from 140 feet to 85 feet, which would exclude the largest trucks, and the pallet jacks needed to unload them. This new layby plan, never seen by the public, would apparently violate NDC’s Development Agreement with the City, the City’s 2018 Resolution, and NDC’s mediated Cooperation Agreement with the Co-op.  All three agreements state that any plan must accommodate Co-op deliveries

May 24 2021. A letter from the SHA to NDC reminds NDC why they have already rejected the layby twice. But SHA also agrees to review NDC’s new plan for a shorter layby. It remains unclear whether the City staff or City Council have seen, or approved, this new plan.

June 3 and 4 2021. NDC rescinds their threat to kick the Co-op off the lot (for now). But they persist in (presumably false) allegations about safety on the lot, allegations retracted by the City. The Co-op continues to remind everyone that they have been safely receiving deliveries on the lot for the past 20 years. The City remains silent.

June 4 and 5 2021 The City announces a final work session to review the NDC plans on June 16th, and a final vote on the plan a week later, June 23rd. The resolution they craft approving or disapproving of the plan will then be sent to the Planning Board.

June 7 2021 The Co-op sends a letter to NDC, pointing out that the proposed shorter layby is “inconsistent with” the terms of their mediated agreement requiring accommodation of Co-op deliveries.

June 8 2021 At the “request” of NDC, the Mayor, City Manager, City Attorney, NDC representatives, and possibly others, meet with the Secretary of Transportation, and the head of the State Highway Administration, about the “the timing and approach of the review of the layby proposal for the Takoma Junction development site plan.”

June 11 2021 The Co-op sends a letter to the City stating that NDC’s new plan for a short layby would break all the agreements to accommodate their deliveries, and requesting additions to the City’s draft resolution that would clarify the City’s commitments to the Co-op.

June 16 2021 SHA sends NDC a letter rejecting the longer layby for a third time, and rejecting the shorter layby as even less safe.

June 16 2021 At the City Council work session, the Council agrees unanimously (7-0) to craft a resolution to disapprove the NDC plan, based primarily on the fact that no approvable loading zone was submitted. You can watch their decision on the video at time 3:28:30. The formal vote will follow a week later, on June 23rd. The draft resolution should be posted on the agenda by Friday.

June 22 2021A Development Plan That Never Belonged.” Guest opinion piece in Maryland Matters by Taylor Dibbert.

June 23 2021 Takoma Park City Council votes unanimously (7-0) for a resolution to disapprove NDC’s proposed plan for Takoma Junction. This resolution constitutes the City’s official final input to the County’s Development Review Committee (DRC) and Planning Board. Unless the DRC or one of the partners withdraws (City or NDC), the Planning Board will now vote on the plan. It requires a supermajority (at least 4-1) to overturn the City’s disapproval.

June 24 2021 The City posts a statement and the final resolution disapproving the plan. That City statement notes that “despite the City’s recommendation that NDC waits until work with SHA had resulted in an SHA-approved design, NDC insisted on presenting the plan to the Council.” They also note that the project is tentatively scheduled to go before the County’s Planning Board in late July. NDC issues a statement implying that they are not walking away.

July 2021 We learn that the County’s Planning Board has tentatively scheduled their Public Hearing and vote on the NDC plan for September 9th. This is one day after the City Council returns from their six-week summer break. Ten days prior to the hearing, the Planning Board staff will release their report and recommendation to the Board on the vote. NDC’s fourth extension to get approval from the Planning Board will expire on September 16th.

July 14 2021 NDC submits yet another revision of their plan for the loading zone, in response to SHA’s rejections. SHA is due to respond by August 19th.

August 19 2021 SHA “Returns for Revision” the latest NDC proposal. And apparently, the tentative date for the Planning Board public hearing and vote has been delayed until later in September.

August 27 2021 The developer submits a request for a fifth extension of time to complete the County review process and bring the plan to the Planning Board for a vote. On September 3rd, the Board staff issues a recommendation to deny the extension. The Board will vote on the extension on September 15th. If the extension is denied, they will move on that day to vote on the plan itself.

September 3 2021  The County’s Planning Board posts the agenda with a scheduled vote on the Takoma Junction plan for Wednesday September 15th (tune in online starting at 11:15am). The County staff has posted a report recommending that the Board vote to deny approval for the project. The staff also recommends not giving a fifth extension to the developer to obtain approval.

September 7 2021 The State Highway Administration sends a letter once again refusing to approve the lay-by or the plan. They cite both the danger of the layby, and the danger of the sight lines for exiting the development.

September 15 2021 The Montgomery County Planning Board gives the developer a 90 day extension, their fifth extension, to get more clarity from the SHA about what they would need to do to get approval for the layby, and whether it is feasible. (On the video, the discussion starts at 2:13). (This occurs after Seth Grimes appears before the Planning Board and urges them to approve NDC’s plan).

October 4 2021 Planning Board Chair writes a letter to the SHA pressing them to explain what design for the deliveries and the exit/entrance would work, or state there is no practical way to safely accommodate those needs.

October 14 2021 The Co-op voluntarily dismisses their legal claims against NDC (the developer) and the City. It would appear that they feel safe enough now using the City lot to drop the suit and prevent further legal fees from piling up. They retain the right to refile the claims at anytime, including if NDC tries to evict them from the City lot again.

The lot Hans Riemer called “moribund,” entirely filled, on Monday afternoon Nov 29 2021.

October 25 2021 County Councilmember Hans Riemer writes a letter filled with misinfomation to Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, pushing for approval of the project and for the Board to “press” the SHA for yet another review (they have rejected four different lay-by submissions as unsafe). CVT responds with a call for the Council to censure Councilmember Riemer for this inappropriate attempt at influencing the process. Council President Tom Hucker does not respond to CVT’s letter.

November 19 2021 SHA replies to the letter from the Planning Board, reiterating that it is the developers job to submit a design for them to assess (not SHA’s job to figure out a design that would work). They also decline to say no design could ever work, despite the Board’s request for them to do so.

December 15 2021 Planning Board staff hosts a (private) meeting with the SHA, NDC and City of Takoma Park staff in what the NDC lawyer describes as an attempt “to help facilitate communications and bring the matter to some type of resolution.” They also state that NDC has asked the City to cut down trees on private property adjacent to the proposed site, to improve the safety of the proposed exit/exit drive.

December 21 2021 NDC writes the City Manager and asks them to cut down the trees on the private property adjacent to the proposed site.

December 30 2021 NDC’s lawyer writes the Planning Board to request that the Board give them approval “conditioned on future SHA approvals” for the layby and the exit/entrance drive.

January 3 2022 The Planning Board asks the City for their response to the idea of a conditional approval.

January 7 2022 The City writes the Planning Board, reminding them that City council “voted unanimously to recommend that the Planning Board not approve the current plan.” And they explain why the City Council “was deliberate in not recommending approval of the site plan conditioned upon State Highway Administration (“SHA”) approval of the lay-by.”

January 7 2022 The Planning Board posts an agenda for their January 20th meeting with Takoma Junction on the agenda, including attachments with much of the correspondence that has occurred since September. The Planning Board staff reposts their report from the September meeting, including the recommendation for denial of the project. They also post a new update from the Planning Board staff, with new research refuting the idea that there are comparable lay-bys in use, in the region, (although the link to this doc is no longer on the postponed agenda).

January 11 2022 The Planning Board postpones the Takoma Junction agenda item to January 27th. The agenda is HERE. A new attachment, Attachment 6, has new correspondence with the overwhelming majority of residents asking for the Board to reject the project, and not give conditional approval.

January 27 2022 The Montgomery County Planning Board votes unanimously to deny approval of the Takoma Junction plans.

March 3 2022 The Takoma Auto Clinic (Johnny’s) goes up for sale. Without this lot, no one (including NDC) can create a development with the footprint proposed by NDC. Months later, Johnny takes it back off the market (it remains open).

March 31 2022 The Planning Board mails out the resolutions denying approval of the process, triggering the 30-day window for NDC to appeal the decision in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

November 30 2023 City Council announces an agreement in principle with NDC to end their relationship at the Junction.

Community Vision Takes Stand on Cell Tower Safety at Local Building

Colleen Cordes delivered a letter on behalf of Community Vision for Takoma this week warning of predicted “alarming” cell tower radiation from multiple antennae on a Takoma Park apartment building, and the racial equity issues of this potential health threat. The City weighed in to demand more information before a new antenna is approved. The issue, and Colleen, ended up on the local news. Here is our letter:

Funding an Alternative Plan

There is great interest in the community in any number of alternative plans for Takoma Junction, with either more public space, smaller commercial space, or both. The developers maintain that they cannot afford to give us the smaller 34,000 sq ft from their original drawing, or more public space, or space for proper off-site unloading in the back of the development.

One response would be for the City to recognize that some of the open public space has great value to the community for multiple reasons (just as we recognize that the wooded slope has great value), and that the City can and should include significant public open space, even if it isn’t “cost neutral.”

But there are also lots of sources of funding out there for visionary and transformative community space–for innovative open space, city placemaking, hubs and incubators–for a design that would benefit more than just people who can afford upscale retail. Ideas that have gained traction include a food hub, a crafting/maker hub, a job training hub, and a small business incubator.

Below are some possible funding sources other than commercial developers. This is a crowd-sourced document. Please email additional resource ideas to

1. State Funding

  • Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund – direct grants and low-interest loans are available for developments and infrastructure
  • Economic Development Opportunities Fund (Sunny Day fund) – grants and loans especially for projects that incorporate employment training or creation for populations with high unemployment
  • Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority – taxable and tax exempt bonds to the city for development of particular projects including those related to clean energy
  • Community Development Block Grants
  • Maryland Venture Fund – if we included a Impact Hub for start-up small businesses
  • Maryland Economic Adjustment Fund
  • Maryland Industrial Projects Fund – if we created a partnership with University of Maryland with our Impact Hub focused on food businesses
  • Maryland Jobs Now – investing in workforce oriented projects (think a training program for lower income residents interested in business start-ups in landscaping, composting, backyard gardening, home based graphic design, etc.)

2. Philanthropic support

  • Annie E. Casey – for Impact Hub focused on environmental problem solving start-ups, from tree care to composting
  • Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation – for workforce development for high  unemployment pockets of Takoma Park
  • Abell FoundationThe Abell Foundation encourages initiatives that attract resident investment in neighborhoods, promote sustainability, increase economic development opportunities and nurture entrepreneurial talent to increase the livability of neighborhoods, the number of residents, the number of jobs and the size of the tax base.
  • Town Creek Foundation

3. Impact Capital (non-profit investment firms)

4. TPSS Co-op members 

5. Other funders interested in community building and placemaking, such as those listed here: 

6. Community crowd-sourcing and other forms of resident investment, including IOBY

Sign the Petition

Whether you are primarily concerned about traffic congestion, pedestrian and biker safety, gentrification from rising rents at the Junction, or the threat to the Co-op, now is the time to take action. We only have a few weeks until the final Council vote.

If you only have 30 seconds, please sign the PETITION to ask City Council to reject the current plan. It is time to reclaim the Junction as public land for the public good, and come up with alternatives for best use of this community space.

On the sidebar on the left, you can see a whole list of additional ways to communicate to our elected officials on the Junction situation in the final weeks before the final vote.

Please sign the PETITION here.

Then, send the link to friends, and post on your facebook page, and on your neighborhood listserve.

Now is the moment to insist that elected officials represent the community.



Welcome to Community Vision for Takoma, an informal network of over 1000 Takoma residents and nearby neighbors, who want a Takoma Junction revitalization that uses public land for the public good. We also work on other issues relating to health, safety, and economic well-being, structural racism and gentrification, and transparency, accountability, and increased public participation in local government.

We are concerned that plans for the development of the publicly-owned property at the Junction–land that was secured for the purpose of benefiting the residents of the community–have evolved into a developer-driven project that will not be affordable for small, locally-owned businesses, or inclusive of all Takoma residents, exacerbating  racial and socioeconomic segregation. We also believe that the plan would: exacerbate the Junction traffic congestion and related safety concerns; eliminate space for community activities and public gathering; drive up rents in a commercial neighborhood of businesses owned by Black people and people of color; and threaten the survival of the community-owned grocery store which is one of the largest employers in the City and the only unionized service business.

What We Stand FOR at the Junction:

  • Visionary placemaking at the Junction to create a town square open to all
  • Use of public space that is inclusive and welcoming without requiring consumption
  • Preservation of affordable retail spaces
  • Support for innovative, local, independent small businesses
  • Pop-ups, coffee shops, food trucks & Union-Market-style business incubator space
  • Respect for the “low and open” small town neighborhood architecture
  • Prioritizing innovative programming over building massive permanent structures
  • Prioritizing pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport
  • Continued support for our only downtown grocery store
  • Optimized use of public space for public events, music, and art
  • New landscaping and preservation, improvement, & expansion of green space
  • Celebrating a commercial neighborhood where a majority of business-owners are people of color
  • Highest environmental standards
  • Improvement in Junction traffic
  • Improvement in Junction safety
  • Development prioritizing public good rather than maximum income
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