Vote for Change

We Have a Choice to Make Right Now.

The City of Takoma Park is in trouble.

  • We are spending more than we are taking in,
  • City staff and manager salaries keep growing while the population is flat,
  • The relationship between the Council and unions is so bad they’re considering an outside mediator,
  • Climate change is bringing bigger storms and the City’s stormwater response is inadequate,
  • And the NDC lease, and threat of litigation, still hangs over the Junction.

Right now, you can vote for candidates who want to “continue the work” of the current Council, are endorsed by the current Council, and/or want to continue to try to work with NDC.

Oryou can vote for change–for candidates who are unafraid to confront the way things have been going in the City and work to correct our course.

CVT has endorsed Jarrett Smith for Mayor, Mark Sherman (Ward 1), Randy Gibson (Ward 3), and A.J. Campbell (Ward 5) as candidates best equipped to navigate us out of our current troubles, and return Takoma Park to its historic position as a progressive leader.

Why the Junction is Still Important

Some candidates would prefer to forget the failure of the development plan at Takoma Junction. They urge voters to move on. But the Junction is still essential for these reasons:

1)    NDC still has a 99-year lease at the Junction, preventing anyone else from making improvements there. Many of us would love to improve the esthetics, the stormwater system, and the infrastructure for both public use and low-impact pop-up retail use. But none of that is possible while NDC holds the lease.

2)    The Junction is very much an active topic on the City Council right now, but that conversation is going on behind closed doors. City Council has been holding closed meetings with the City Attorney about the Junction for over a year now, with the next one scheduled for this Wednesday.

3)    The vibrant new and old businesses at the Junction, including the planned arrival of an exciting new restaurant, the new bridal and nail salons, the bakery and butcher, and the Co-op, all rely on our City lot. The Junction has revitalized–the lot is full. We do not need new traffic, new cars trying to park, or new safety challenges for pedestrians, cyclists, buses, delivery trucks, and drivers.

4)   Several candidates have indicated they are still open to a new plan from NDC, despite this developer attempting to kick the Co-op and public off our public land.

For the Record

In the key 2018 vote on the Junction plan by the City Council, sending the plan to the County for approval, Jarrett Smith voted against the plan. Talisha Searcy voted for it (listen to her defend the project on the Kojo Nnamdi Show here).

In 2020, Jarrett Smith was the only Council member to sign a letter with 100 local residents to the County Planning Board, expressing grave concerns about the racial equity and gentrification effects of the Junction plan.

In 2021, Seth Grimes was still advocating for NDC’s Junction plan, urging the County’s Planning Board to approve the plan despite multiple findings that it was unsafe, and despite unanimous disapproval at that point from the City Council.

On his campaign website, Seth Grimes writes that he is “open to a new junction proposal” from NDC.

False Binaries

It has been suggested that we should all focus on the New Hampshire Recreation Center renovation and the Purple Line, rather than the Junction. This is a false binary.

CVT supports equity and investment in all wards, and is strongly in favor of a vibrant community-driven renovation of the Recreation Center, including exploration of affordable housing and satellite library services there.

It has been falsely stated that CVT is anti-housing, or anti-development, because we opposed NDC’s Junction plan. CVT is strongly in favor of exploring new affordable housing options throughout the City, including at the Rec Center and other locations on New Hampshire, at the old hospital campus, and at the old McLaughlin School campus. CVT also urges new efforts to prevent Purple Line displacement of low-income residents and small local businesses, through expanding residential and commercial rent stabilization, and increasing and improving affordable housing at the Crossroads.

This is the moment. Vote for change, and vote for a return to our progressive ideals.

CVT Endorses Sherman, Campbell

Mark Sherman (Ward 1), A.J. Campbell (Ward 5)

Community Vision for Takoma is endorsing two additional candidates in the City of Takoma Park 2022 election. After considering the Ward 1 Forum and Ward 5 Forum held this week, in addition to questionnaire responses, experience, and engagement with the life of our City:

  • CVT is endorsing Mark Sherman for Ward 1
  • CVT is endorsing A.J. Campbell for Ward 5

Mark Sherman has a deep understanding of multiple City issues, a long record of engaging with the City, and great dedication and sincerity. As a former journalist, he is committed to transparency, accountability, and the truth. He would bring his knowledge of environmental issues, transportation issues, and housing issues, and his perspective as a renter who is car-free and walks and uses public transportation exclusively. He also has the strongest record of the three candidates in this race of opposing the (rejected) plan for Takoma Junction.

A.J. Campbell is far and away the most knowledgeable and experienced candidate in the Ward 5 race in terms of engagement with City issues. She has already spent years helping to engage her Ward through meetings and written communication, and as an advocate on issues including passing Countywide legislation to require window guards to prevent children from falling. A.J. is frank, and funny, and would be a breath of fresh air on the Council. She also has the strongest record of the three candidates in this race of opposing the (rejected) plan for Takoma Junction.

Who else is CVT Endorsing?

  • CVT has endorsed Jarrett Smith for Mayor. Read the questionnaire responses from all three Mayoral candidates below our Mayoral endorsement.
  • CVT has endorsed Randy Gibson for Ward 3. Read the questionnaire responses from 12 out of 15 Ward candidates HERE.

WHO WE ARE: 

CVT is an informal network of neighbors who first came together around the use of public land at Takoma Junction, and continue to work on community issues. We do not have a formal organization. We work by consensus. At our center is a varying group of about 20 residents who meet regularly to discuss what’s happening in Takoma Park and to plan communications and advocacy. Our work includes attending City Council meetings, alerting residents to issues before the City, and encouraging participation in the City’s democratic processes.

CVT does not collect or donate funds to support candidates, and is not a Political Action Committee. 

Randy Gibson, City Council, Ward 3: Endorsement

Community Vision for Takoma is endorsing Randy Gibson for Ward 3, City Council. The City election will be Tuesday, November 8th.

After considering questionnaire responses, experience, and previous involvement in the life of the City, we believe Randy is the candidate who best aligns with the CVT mission of public land for public good.

Randy is a natural facilitator and mediator, who seeks to dedicate himself full-time to Ward 3 constituents and to the City. He has led a life of service around the country and the world, starting with Peace Corps service in Iran. Randy has a Masters in Political Science, spent a semester in Colombia, and has worked in economic development, and on fair trade issues. In recent years, he has been deeply engaged with environmental issues in the City through Takoma Park Mobilization’s Climate Action Coffee, and the Takoma Stormwater Solutions group.

Randy has the skills to address the issues and opportunities of Ward 3, a ward including hilly terrain and woods, bounded by Takoma Junction and New Hampshire Avenue.

You can learn more about Randy Gibson and how to support his campaign at FriendsOfRandy.org

Not sure if you’re in Ward 3? The boundaries have changed! See the new Ward 3 map HERE.

In this election cycle, CVT has only endorsed Jarrett Smith for Mayor, and Randy Gibson for City Council Ward 3, the ward including the public land at Takoma Junction. To research all the City candidates, we encourage you to read the CVT questionnaire responses.


WHO WE ARE: 

CVT is an informal network of neighbors who first came together around the use of public land at Takoma Junction, and continue to work on community issues. We do not have a formal organization. We work by consensus. At our center is a varying group of about 20 residents who meet regularly to discuss what’s happening in Takoma Park and to plan communications and advocacy. Our work includes attending City Council meetings, alerting residents to issues before the City, and encouraging participation in the City’s democratic processes.

CVT does not collect or donate funds to support candidates, and is not a Political Action Committee. 


City Council Candidate Questionnaire Responses

In preparation for the City of Takoma Park’s election on November 8th 2022, Community Vision for Takoma (CVT) sent questions to each of the 15 candidates for City Council. All but two candidates returned the questionnaires, below. (A few responses were edited to fit the limit on length.)

Topics included the climate emergency, the City budget, racial equity, the future of Takoma Junction, and affordable housing. We appreciate the time the candidates put into replying to these questionnaires.

The questionnaire responses below should help residents to make decisions on voting in the Council races. Not all candidates have websites (yet), but we encourage you to visit those websites linked to the names in the questionnaire responses, and to seek out the candidates at local events including the Takoma Park Street Festival on October 8th. You can also listen to speeches made about the candidates at the Nominating Caucus.

Also, tune in to the upcoming City Candidate Forums moderated by Eric Bond of Talk of Takoma (WOWD), streaming on Takoma Park City TV:

  • Oct 6, Candidates for Mayor 6pm
  • Oct 10, Ward 1 (6pm) and Ward 5 (7:30pm)
  • Oct 17, Ward 3 (6pm) and Ward 6 (7:30pm)

City ballots (separate from State/County ballots) should arrive by mail in October. Residents age 16 and up can register to vote in the City election, and do not need to be US citizens. City residents can vote:

  • by mail,
  • by drop-box,
  • or in person on November 8th.

WHO WE ARE: CVT is an informal network of neighbors who first came together around the use of public land at Takoma Junction, and continue to work on community issues. We do not have a formal organization. We work by consensus. At our center is a varying group of about 20 residents who meet regularly to discuss what’s happening in Takoma Park and to plan communications and advocacy. Our work includes attending City Council meetings, alerting residents to issues before the City, and encouraging participation in the City’s democratic processes.

CVT does not collect or donate funds to support candidates, and is not a Political Action Committee. 


City Council Candidate Questionnaire Responses

Ward 1

Shana Fulcher (Ward 1)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

Pedestrian safety, bicyclist safety, and traffic safety should be improved at the Junction before moving forward with the development. The intersection causes unease to everyone who passes through it. The parking lots on either side of the Co-op are awkward. The parking lot under consideration for development can be impossible to exit in order to get back into traffic.

I’m concerned about the legal and financial obligations the City might have with ending the current agreement with NDC as well as the City’s reputation. I would not want the City to lose money to NDC as a result of terminating the agreement. I worry about how other developers would feel about entering into an agreement with the City after ending its contract with NDC. NDC should present a plan that fits the City’s parameters including more greenspace and significantly reduced development. 

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

I would like to see a plan with more public use space that has protection from the elements with either a green roof or solar paneling. The Junction is at a major throughway for Takoma Park, so I want it to include architecture that is unique. I support finding a way to change the angle of the intersection at the Junction to increase visibility for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. Our city should reflect that pedestrians not only have the right-of-way but also the priority. The second that someone parks their car at the lot to the right of the Co-op, they become a pedestrian. If we want them to frequent the businesses across East-West Highway, we have to ensure that they feel comfortable crossing at that intersection.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

Yes. The services that the Takoma Park community values have likely changed since the inception of those services. We should reevaluate which services we want to spend our city taxes on. With Takoma Park incorporating in 1997, we don’t necessarily need to provide the same services we have historically provided. At the same time, the City has historically experienced difficulty negotiating with the County for reimbursement of duplicated taxes for services. At some point we have to accept that it makes more sense to get more services from the County.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

I do think that the City is doing a good job with some actions. I appreciate our efforts to protect the tree canopy and to create programs to plant more trees, even on private property. It is hard to address climate change locally when so many regulations are weakened nationally. I’ve seen many rain gardens going in on city property in the last few years and we should continue to address runoff. In order to support green construction of city buildings, we may need to slow down and put city goals further into the future. Developing in our city is a privilege and we should expect developers to treat it as such. We can expect developers to meet our higher expectations for environmental practices in order to build here. 

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

The City begins the budget process in November and does not solicit public input until April. I don’t think the current process places enough value on public input. The City Clerk and Employees should be more transparent earlier in the process. Stopping the growth in staff numbers will be hinged on reevaluating services that we want to provide.  My experience with the City staff is that they are working hard all the time so we would have to adjust our expectations of what our City staff’s output would be in order to reduce numbers. My family’s property taxes nearly doubled between 2018 to 2019. We had to seriously consider moving out of Takoma Park.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I’m not sure that I would agree that the process has been ineffectual because there are currently no metrics to measure success or failure. I would like to see metrics associated with our “racial equity considerations” process so that we are better able to recognize accomplishments and areas for growth. The City’s committees and task forces are meant to make recommendations to the City Council, but I would also like for them to be involved in advising the City Manager. In order to have a more inclusive process, I would like to see some committees and task forces assigned through invitation that is randomized and for us to publicize the honorarium that members receive.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

We should ensure that developers invest in greener measures now so that vulnerable families have protection against rising utility prices. These developments do need a variety of types of housing. We must be careful not to segregate our low income families from the rest of the community any more than they already are. We should not solely depend on new construction to make affordable housing for people.  The percentage of affordable housing should be heavily weighted when reviewing developer’s proposals. 


Mark Sherman (Ward 1)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

The city should never have leased the lot to NDC in the first place — the entire idea was wrong. The lease should be canceled immediately, and the council should quit being intimidated. In addition, the city attorney should stop trying to gag city council members on this issue — council members are not staff — they answer to us, not the city manager

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

The highest and best use of that land is for a parking lot that doubles as a delivery space for the adjacent grocery store. However, that doesn’t mean it has to look bad — it should be treated as green space with parking, and the corner at the back, near the fire station, should not be given away to a private business.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

No, I don’t — somehow, these surveys never amount to much, they’re just giveaways to the survey company, and every bad thing that has happened seems to have been preceded by a survey, so I place little faith in them.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

The tree ordinance was weakened by the current council — I would seek to strengthen it, creating a right to shade, especially for renters. We should also be trying to get people out of their cars — I propose giving free bus passes to all residents and taking additional action on transit.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

Staff should revert to the number of FTEs 20 or 30 years ago — we have become an overstaffed, over-consultanted, overengineered city — witness the library project. I am not well enough versed in the budget process to comment on that in particular. What’s really missing is a local press, to highlight what’s going on in the budget.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

Those questions don’t belong together — racial equity is not the same as making city governance more inclusive. My biggest recommendation is to make the city manager an elected position — i.e., the actual mayor. The person we call mayor now is actually the council chairperson.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

The rent stabilization allowance should be based on a wage index, not a price index. Just-cause legislation should be enacted by the state legislature to prevent landlords from arbitrarily terminating tenant leases. I am also concerned about the loss of rent-stabilized units under various conversion scenarios. And the buildings themselves should be protected under historic preservation rules whenever feasible.


Elizabeth Wallace (Ward 1)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

I encourage the City to find a way to end the current rent agreement of the lot to NDC. I agree that public land should be for the public good and the community should decide how the property would best serve the needs of the city at large. Having familiarized myself with the history of the Takoma Junction project, it seems several breaches of trust have ruined the foundation of what we hoped would be a positive relationship, and anyone in construction knows, you can’t build on that especially if it’s to last 99 years.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

Any new plan for the Junction should complement the other upcoming projects and amenities in Takoma. First focus on traffic flow, pedestrian safety, parking for existing businesses and food security. Perhaps move the Junction bldg to the Coop parking lot; design a circle to facilitate traffic; create a different parking pattern on Carroll; add city owned, refrigerated and dry storage for food security and a covered packing/picnic area; permeable parking; tiny house cafes/shops until we see what generates engagement before brick and mortar. 

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

Yes, a survey would be helpful, but one that is not based on opinion alone. It’s important that those answering the questionnaire know which services the city and the county already handle, if they’ve had experience with them and their satisfaction level, the reason why they’d like the city or county to handle it, and whether or not they see using those services themselves in the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. 

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

Right about the time the climate resolution was passed, climactic change was already a driver for the emergence of COVID. It was the city’s first test. In all climate issued, we need transparency projects management metrics. However, everyone was affected by COVID, suppliers and their workforces were undergoing massive change. It’s time not to point fingers, can’t redo, but pledge forward march! Since many construction projects are envisioned, green building and green space are first priority. 

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

The budget process seems to be a dreaded event by all. That must change in order that it be one that stimulates good and creative thought, not drudgery. Both the city 1 council and the residents need to see numbers on a quarterly, if not monthly basis so that patterns, trends, anomalies and other data are seen sooner rather than later. Also, it’s important to track whether or not project goals were accomplished on time and the man hours spent, including the TPPD. It’s impossible for me to say if we need to curb staff growth without those metrics. 

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I’d like transparency on the rubric/s used, but need to add the climate change lens as well, as CC already majorly effects all marginalized people. 2/ There are a few equity projects on the city website (bus shelters, park quality) but they are all ongoing. The reports don’t reflect how close they are to achieving their goals, if time was lost due to COVID or change of personnel etc. Again project management timelines! 3/ Perhaps use Targeted Universalism approach. 4 / Start with honoring them for their successes, naturalizations, etc. at council meetings. 5/ no room left. 

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

Rent stabilization stays in place! I’d encourage the county to create other areas as well. TP can be a long commute to some jobs. 2/ As an Airbnb host, I have insisted on having my home inspected so safe housing is a core value. 3/ I would advocate for affordable housing but suggest also mini city hall office, police substation?, community center, and shops. 1st renters could be TP residents from homes that were sub par. Landlords who get property tax allowances must be inspected regularly or may have to forfeit the subsidy.


Ward 2

Cindy Dyballa (Ward 2)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

The city’s 2016 development agreement with NDC and the previous council includes the lease. The city has been in discussions about this agreement, and it’s not appropriate for a current council member to publicly address topics such as status of confidential contract negotiations. I think a mutual resolution is important; a unilateral decision could bring costly and time-consuming legal action. As a 30-plus year Coop member I believe I’ve been taking into account their needs.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

The city’s original project goals still seem relevant: be a stimulus to the commercial district and its local independent businesses; improve its aesthetic appeal; and be environmentally sustainable and sensitive to context. The bigger question is how we arrive at an updated shared vision for the site’s use. I would look for options that generate city revenue (not impose large city costs) if possible, as well as support healthy local businesses and respect safety and site constraints.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

This, along with past city resident surveys, is a useful tool to help us balance city services, budget and revenues. I’m open to shifting some services. There’s challenges: targeting outreach to draw in new or infrequent participants; addressing city unions since services are delivered by staff; and working with the county on service transition, code changes needed, and likely costs. Example: we now pay a lower county waste fee than others, since the city provides most residential pickup.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

As sponsor of the city climate emergency and action framework, and a strong promoter of city and county climate, tree canopy, and stormwater action, of course I want the City to do more—in a way that supports our equity and other goals. Let’s build on current efforts such as our GHG targets, building energy efficiency programs, tree canopy goal and expanded planting effort, city EV policy, and green features in the library renovation, as well as expand public-private stormwater management

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

Our budget process has more public detail each year, because we asked for it. I still want more focus and clarity on the key information, decisions and necessary choices. City services need staff to deliver and manage them; wage increases for staff facing the same economy we do, and increases for their tools and equipment, means more spending. I’ve voted to keep a level residential tax rate, and I’m very cautious about adding staff; and we must also expand other city revenue sources.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

More tools and training can help city staff and council better use this tool. I’ve worked hard to recruit and appoint a more diverse group of residents to city committees, with stipends to cover their costs. To be more inclusive and address structural issues, let’s take practical steps like our recent ones, such as more targeted and varied outreach, neighborhood workshops with translators, assistance programs for our most vulnerable, and community navigators to connect residents with services.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

Half our residents are renters, so I’ve been focused on these issues, and strongly support rent stabilization; our housing strategic plan and housing fund; and affordable housing with needed zoning changes as part of the WAH and McLaughlin sites. I’ve stressed that we need stronger county rental housing inspections. I want solutions that serve more than one goal, such as bundling multifamily rehabilitation and energy efficiency improvements.


Ward 3

Mimi Diez (Ward 3)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

As there are no current discussions with this, and all the information I currently have is from the https://takomaparkmd.gov/initiatives/takoma-junction-redevelopment/ website, I don’t have enough information to answer. If and when any discussions do come up about the Takoma Junction and NDC, I plan to address these topics objectively and with the best interests of Ward 3 and the city in mind.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

My vision for a thriving junction is not an above ground parking lot that polarizes a city.I envision a place that is safe for people of all ages to gather, shop, & celebrate. A place where our home-grown entrepreneurs have ample space & where infrastructure can support their deliveries. There is more to Takoma Park than the Junction & we need to support safe transportation infrastructure, recruit/retain businesses & create safe & beautiful places in all Wards, not just the Junction.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

A survey conducted by the city is a great idea, however communication is already a challenge point in our community. Not everyone follows city announcements, has social media, or adequate access to wifi; flyers are lost or ignored. Surveys can assist this city in many ways, however we need to ensure that all voices are heard and not just the loudest.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

The city’s sustainability strategic action plan has recommendations to create a more resilient, equitable and sustainable community.I support the city’s plan to mitigate & adapt to climate related extreme weather events; in setting a realistic canopy goal; in replacing city fleet with electric at the end of its life-cycle; & I support LEED Certified buildings.All this comes with a cost, & I would dedicate my time in finding innovative ways to meet our sustainability goals.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

I don’t have enough information about this question to answer. However there are opportunities for improvement with how information flows in our community and if elected, I will work on improving city service delivery and finding innovative and sustainable program funding and budget management.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I don’t have enough information about this question, but one area where the Ward 3 can address structural racism is electing a Spanish speaking Latina candidate. Just as sustainability is “baked” into how the city does business, so to should we embed equity into city projects, initiatives and governance.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

Yes


Randy Gibson (Ward 3)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not? 

 I am not privy to the legal case between NDC and the City, so I don’t know what the City’s options are. However, it is my belief that NDC has acted in bad faith on the principles agreed to with the City. They have also demonstrated reprehensible corporate bullying with regard to the Co-op. These actions should render NDC unacceptable and ineligible for continuance of a lease contract with the City.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses? 

I start with 4 non-negotiables. 1) Business viability of the Co-op, and other local businesses, should not be compromised. 2) Environmental services, e.g. stormwater mitigation, provided by the woods must not be compromised. 3) Adequate public gathering space must be provided, and 4) Safe traffic conditions must be maintained. Beyond these, there are several good options for some sort of enhancement or development. And the City must do a much better job to study and compare different visions in a transparent way before contracts are signed.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not? 

Yes, we should ask our residents about their priorities as regards programs and services. Our City taxes are high and some wonder if we are getting our money’s worth. Tough choices may need to be made to prioritize city services and determine if the County could do better. One example is the County’s Rainscapes program which is much more generous in terms of incentivizing conservation efforts on private property. Policing, a very large part of our budget, is an area that deserves careful review.

Q4  Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set? 

Climate proclamations have not been matched with visible actions. There is an urgent need for a strategic analysis of stormwater risks and resiliency planning. Educating residents about how to help mitigate climate impacts is nearly absent.  Demonstration gardens to model green infrastructure best practices are needed.  An assessment of parks and green spaces is needed to account for the ecosystem services. Partnering with community groups could help educate the public. Home & habitat certification could incentivize energy and environmental best practices.

Q5  What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not? 

The current budget process is not clear nor transparent. I understand that even the Council has difficulty interpreting it.  Our growing budget is also not sustainable given the fact that population growth is not taking place. So, we must face some hard questions about what should be prioritized. Project based budgeting should be considered as a way to make the budget clearer and more transparent to residents and better account for expenditures.

Q6  Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism? 

The degree that racial equity considerations are meaningful is not clear to me and many other residents. To be effective the process must be forceful and sustained and may involve a change of culture for City staff.  Community, business and tenant organizations may offer viable partnerships for more effective outreach. Making those partnerships a business norm is one of my goals.

Q7  Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not? 

Yes, I would fully support our rent stabilization programs and the need to ensure that housing is completely safe and up to code.  I believe our economic and ethnic/racial diversity is a strength that is worth protecting. I seek to learn more about our housing programs and any threats facing them. I would support in concept the suggestion of converting the two sites mentioned for affordable housing but need to learn more the viability of such a proposal.


Alex Hadden (Ward 3)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

After years of consultation and planning, the failure to advance community benefit with the Takoma Junction Redevelopment has left Ward 3 voters dispirited. Ending the agreement with NDC would necessitate a financial, contractual, legal and commercial analysis that ensures the City preserves its reputation as a credible stakeholder able to attract future partners to stimulate our small business community, improve our City’s charm and livability, and advance our environmental and social values.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

After so many years of work and community feedback, there is a wealth of understanding of the exciting potential opportunities for the site. However, it’s likely to require reimagination or resolution of the City’s commitment with NDC to advance a new era at the site. In the near-term, the City should refocus and prepare for the reality of near-sourced growth in its planning and capital investment: nearly 1,000 condo units are being built within walking distance of every Ward 3 resident.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

Broad consultation should be a primary focus when the City Council considers planning and use issues of material municipal resources. A survey is one tool in soliciting feedback and engaging the community. However, a truly consultative process requires multiple strategies to equitably and holistically solicit community input. As Councilmember, I will provide multiple channels through which Ward 3 residents can communicate their concerns, starting during my campaign at http://www.alexforward3.com.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

Takoma Park has been a national leader on sustainability issues for generations. However, with limited resources and budget–and a desire to minimize residents’ tax burdens–the City should leverage existing and actionable household-friendly practices, incentives and investments that support residents’ ability to make clean energy transitions, become pedestrian-first, and combat direct environmental risks. We will not be a sustainable City until there is a sidewalk on both sides of every street.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

Most Ward 3 residents express concern of ‘value for money’ for their rising tax burden. Ward 3 faces unique challenges compared to other wards, due to historic underinvestment in communities along Eastern Ave and New Hampshire Ave. Important quality of life issues feel overlooked. Near-term improvements to the City’s information collection and response should be paired with long-term focus on service excellence, factoring in data- and risk-weighted resource allocation to affected areas.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I think Mayor Stewart and the City Council have made a concerted effort to improve racial equity considerations in City governance. I will wholly support the advancement of the racial equity framework on the City Council. In my community outreach, I hear underrepresented groups expressing fundamental concerns about livability: rising cost of living, underinvestment in Ward 3, City responsives, etc. Long-term, we need to increase voter participation among disaffected groups to amplify voices.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

Living in Takoma Park is aspirational for many and meeting a portion of that need will have to come from new housing stock. Rent stabilization measures should remain, so long as they do not create an environment that is unconducive to attracting more housing opportunities. Every City resident deserves a safe and code compliant home. Future uses of WHU and W-MS will require a rigorous evaluative and consultative process, drawing on lessons of the Takoma Junction Redevelopment process.


Ward 4

Terry Seamens (Ward 4)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

The Council and NDC are still in ongoing discussions about the project, its status and next steps. Although I would like to go into more detail, I cannot as a sitting Councilmember act unilaterally. The Council will have to decide when it is best to provide more information to the community. I believe that we (the Council) are currently acting in a manner that is in the best interests of Takoma Park taxpayers.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

I want the Co-op to be a healthy, viable and thriving business. The Co-op is an important part of TP’s character. I also believe that more storefronts in TJ would be good for the community. We learned much during the current process that should benefit the new council as they continue on this issue. I hope to continue to hear from community members about their desires, thoughts and opinions regarding this project so that we end up with the property fulfilling its best potential for a better TP.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

Surveys are a valuable tool in gathering opinions, but surveys can be a poor way to make community decisions. They may be unintentionally written or distributed in a biased manner or not provide sufficient background information to get informed answers. We operate in a representative democracy rather than a direct democracy. Community opinions are vital for knowing the direction residents want to take TP. Surveys, community meetings, & direct conversations are some of the tools I find helpful.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

Yes, I think we have been aggressive in addressing the climate emergency. It would certainly be nice to do more, but we are constrained by costs and staff time.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

Since joining the council over 20 years ago I have advocated for more transparency in the budget process and with few exceptions I’ve been pleased with the continued progress we made. I’ve been surprised there is little community push-back on budget increases. The council hears more advocacy for adding projects than cutting taxes. We get many complaints when we talk about cutting projects. Staff costs are a significant part of the budget and directly relate to what we can accomplish.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I think the current racial equity considerations we added to the agenda items are good in the sense it was a first step. Obviously, much more needs to be done. A more participatory process would be good, but would not in and of itself ensure that it is not racially or economically biased.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

Rent stabilization is why TP has much of the affordable housing in MoCo, therefore it should continue until there’s a better alternative. Unfortunately, maintenance is often inadequate to keep housing in good repair. Efforts to improve inspections have not kept many properties from degrading. Residents’ economic diversity is part of our community character that must be safeguarded. Remaining open-minded I can say the WAU and W-M sites present opportunities that could include affordable housing.


Ward 5

A.J. Campbell (Ward 5)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

For many years, the city has paid an obsessive level of attention to the Junction while ignoring other viable development projects. It is unclear if NDC will relinquish its lease without some considerations or even a lawsuit. I don’t think we would get another developer to take on the site. We are in a holding pattern for now.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

I would like to offer the Coop a chance to expand into the grassy area to the right and move its storefront to the property line in front. I would like to see a new seating space with a cafe or kitchen for cooking classes or demonstrations. For the parking lot surface, I would prefer to leave it open and add solar panels overhead. I would like to include a stage or bandstand in the back center for community use.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

The city surveys residents for each new plan and project, but do they listen? I am not sure the consultants we hire do a great job when they conduct surveys. Regardless, we don’t seem to listen to feedback when we get feedback. I think the city should invest in a real-time collection system and not keep paying the consultants.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

The city has a mixed record; there have been many infrastructure improvements like EV charging stations at select locations. The new tree giveaway is wonderful. The City wanted to buy an EV trash truck, but it was considered too expensive. Most of our vehicle fleet is still gas-powered. I don’t see any long-term movement towards an all-electric fleet.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

I recently held a budget zoom call with the community, and not one resident could tell me how much of our budget comes from property taxes vs. intergovernmental transfers. I could not tell you for sure because the city doesn’t seem to provide information on the net costs of each city service. The city does publish a budget breakdown but does not seem to go out of its way to educate the residents. We should change that.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I could not summarize the city’s racial equity agenda except for a vague notion of talking and examining. I get the lofty goals, but I rarely see anything that translates to direct tactical goals. We need to expand access to city and county services through a massive expansion of library services into every ward. While on the council, I will push to transform our library into a center of information and connection.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

Yes, I would protect rent stabilization. My first push would be offering tenants a one, two, or three-year lease. Creating stability in housing over three years allows for long-term planning with a stable rent. My second is to limit our annual rent increases. Our current system of rental increases is tied to the CPI. We have seen with high inflation how much that can impact rent costs under stabilization. I would like to see the city limit the increases to a maximum yearly amount.


Cara Honzak (Ward 5) Submitted late, on October 15 2022

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

As I consider the idea of severing the NDC agreement, it is a high priority for me that we give strong consideration to our City’s financial situation and potential liability, and the degree to which severing the agreement may discourage any new developers to engage with the City on the Junction. Yet, there is also a clear loss of trust in NDC and the process used by our City government and City Council on Takoma Junction development efforts. My focus will be to identify a middle pathway.

Q4 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

Although the public land belongs to the City, I think it is reasonable to view the Coop, the adjoining business, and the public land as being interdependent, and the Coop as a legacy business that is vital to sustain. Yet the public land belongs to all of Takoma’s residents, and sits at a major City junction. We must give voice to how the space can be optimized for maximum public good for the whole City, while doing our best to meet local needs in the immediate vicinity and sustain the Coop.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

Yes, I think this is important. If the City cuts some services altogether or in any significant form, then the City must have a mandate from its residents and an understanding of shared values across the City. However any survey would need to be done carefully so as to maximize participation, and ensure that our collective preferences are indeed accurately measured.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

I think the City has not yet responded adequately to the climate emergency. While I am pleased that we already have an ambitious 2035 target for mitigation, I believe resilience efforts should be a higher priority. I would begin with win-win goals for resilience, equity and mitigation, that are best buys, such as native tree plantings near pedestrian areas, green recreational space near high density housing, and emergency cooling and heating plans for residents.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

I would like to see the budget process become more transparent. At the same time, I am keenly aware that this will require substantial resources from the City, including significant additional staff time. I feel certain that if the City Council is collaborative with staff in exploring how this can be achieved, there are modifications that can be made to help residents feel more informed yet remain cognizant of this essential consideration.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I think that having a “racial equity consideration” process on Council agenda items is not entirely without merit. It has been my experience in institutions and government agencies that are seeking to address structural racism that taking the first steps towards compulsory reflection is absolutely essential, as is collating basic data. But to achieve greater participation and inclusion, and address structural racism will require us to engage in in depth, extensive dialogue on how to proceed.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

I believe strongly in rent stabilization in Takoma Park. It is vital for nourishing the greater equity that the City and surrounding areas need. As the Purple Line is finalized, it is essential to reap equity benefits. But Takoma Park needs to do better at ensuring that the County helps us keep buildings up to code and livable. I would also advocate for more mixed housing that motivates developers to modernize and provides middle income spaces that bring everyone up, including on the WAH site.


Yared Tebabu (Ward 5)

Did not submit responses.


Ward 6

Ambroise Agosse (Ward 6)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

Yes, I agree that the city promptly ends the agreement to let Neighborhood Development Company (NDC ) rent the lot because: first, the city density sounds already too high to handle that NDC project. Second, the  NDC project Transferable Development Rights (TDR) sounds not clear and also the environment impacts study. To rapidly end this, the city must take strong action to communicate and explain to residents the negative actions of that project on residents especially on traffic. We should have residents file petitions, multiply the protests, and if needed get expects to present to Montgomery county how this project could negatively affect residents of Takoma Park.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

At this moment, I do not have a clear vision. I will prefer to support the existing for future local business or open space.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

Definitely yes. The city should conduct semi-annual survey to determine residents’ needs for government services because everyone or most residents do not have access to the right information. Nowadays, information is the key of life. The city should conduct regular surveys to find out at least each household residents’ needs as they pay extra taxes. Montgomery county versus other counties, I think Montgomery county does its part and only our city Takoma Park needs to do something additional as they collect extra housing taxes.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

For the city that collect extra taxes on housing, I do not think they have responded adequately to the climate emergency.  Stronger action is needed.  For instance, the city can offer free or reduced price permeable driveways to residents as well as to build or renew existing sidewalks with the water retention best management practices.  There are so many best management practices that we can develop–protect existing trees, then plant new trees everywhere.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

The current budget process needs to be more transparent. Compared to other cities’ budgets, our city budget is not transparent.  To me, the city council should do more or have the office staff do more to offer extra services to residents as they collect extra housing taxes.  They are so many small things that we can do to significantly impact our residents making people happy to come live in our city.  We cannot continuously collect extra taxes from residents while we are not offering significant services that impact their life. The police services, library, and … are not enough to justify the extra housing taxes that we pay. 

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

At this point and to me, information is the key. We need to have stronger action on communication.  Website and newspaper letter are not enough to have people informed. We need to reinforce communication on target group. Information is the key.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

Yes, I will do as our population is not growing.  We need to work to make sure everyone has place to live in our city even low-income since everyone is needed for sustainable development.  Only rich people can not develop the  city. Everyone is needed so, rent stabilization program protection is important.  We need to offer more service to residents than try to displace low-income.


Raju Charles (Ward 6)

Did not submit responses


Mike Moore (Ward 6)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

I’m not opposed to modest commercial development at the Junction, possibly incorporating a residential component. However, the divisive debate surrounding the NDC project has so poisoned the well that I suspect nothing less than going back to square one has any chance of achieving a measure of consensus. As one of the mayoral candidates has persuasively argued, the city should strongly consider putting the entire situation on the back burner while we focus on a new rec center on NH Ave.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

I don’t personally have a vision as to the ultimate fate of the Junction, but I have an open mind with regard to creative solutions that achieve significant consensus.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

Absolutely. I’ve long felt that such a survey would be invaluable. Unless we find some way to substantially raise city revenues via creative development, sooner or later were going to be compelled to engage in a wholesale reevaluation of what we can continue to provide residents as opposed to turning to the county.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

Climate change is the overarching existential threat to the future of humanity, so we–and every other governmental and business entity–should be doing everything possible reduce our carbon footprint. I’m no expert, so I won’t presume to make macro suggestions without becoming much more familiar with the city’s current measures. I will say, however, that on a small scale I plan to push for vastly improved bicycle infrastructure, with a particular focus on the NH Ave. corridor.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

Yes, I definitely believe the municipal budget process needs to be far more transparent to residents. And as some residents have suggested, any new program that calls for increases in staffing and/or funding should trigger a hard look at cost-cutting—and potentially cuts in existing services—in other areas. We cannot continue to be what we consider ourselves—a paragon of economic and ethnic diversity—if we cannot sufficiently discipline ourselves to remain affordable for residents.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I don’t feel qualified at this time to comment on the specific equity considerations that are presumably baked into council initiatives. However, we certainly need to do everything feasible to ensure equity and inclusion of marginalized groups. Furthermore, as the parent of an autistic adult who has experienced the many challenges that face the neuroatypical population among us, I know we need to ensure that this extends to everyone who too often faces barriers to self-advocacy.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

I fully support rent stabilization and strongly support the city’s efforts to avert displacement of low-income residents and to ensure safe and healthful living for renters. I admit I’m not yet up to speed on the particular push for affordable housing on the hospital and school sites, but I’m open to the prospect of pushing for such projects.


Jason Small (Ward 6)

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

If there are no contracts in breach it will require a court action to stay a legitmate process.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

If there is an open RFP (Request for Proposals) process that includes the public and private interests then my Professional opinion is that this can be done. I have successfully worked on these issues.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

I think community surveys are a active part of good government. The home rule statute and its adjudication make so many of them crystal clear. I think duplication of services does not occur in practice, and that makes for bad government. This should be a regular normalized process. It is not the same thing to live in a municipality as it is the county. Home rule should mean cooperation.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

I think that resilience and sustainability go hand in hand, and that best practivces should be encouraged. The increasing rate of weather instability increases the need for real consistent priorization of these issues.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

I think we should do everthing to adehere to the constant yield rate during a recession. If you want a a level of engagement on issue based policy then you havew to have staff. I do think the lack of real communication with town staff makes unreasonable tension on both sides. I have seen the opposite of this in Price George’s county. I would rather have an engaged staff rather than a large one.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I think that most of the activities of this town are alienating on the basis of race and economics. I apppreciate the articulated need for it. I think there is not enough room to answer why. I think there are voices that do not particpate, and there is an obliviousness to the lives of pluralistic communities.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

Yes. Its classist and racist to do otherwise. I believe in the unarticulated values that non partisan public policy shows to the world. I do not think these values should be a distant memory. Best practices are discoverable about anything.


CVT Endorses Jarrett Smith for Mayor

Community Vision for Takoma (CVT) is endorsing longtime City Councilman Jarrett Smith to be the next Mayor of Takoma Park. The City election will be Tuesday, November 8th.

After considering the public records of all three candidates, including our observations over many years attending City Council meetings, and the responses on the CVT candidate questionnaires (see below), Jarrett Smith is our clear choice for Mayor.

If you wish to learn more about Jarrett, or support his candidacy, go to smithfortakomapark.com.

Jarrett has been the moral compass of the Council for the past ten years, often bravely voting in the minority to stand up for what’s right. Notably, he was one of only two Councilmembers, with Peter Kovar, to vote in 2018 against sending the unsafe and deeply-flawed Junction plan on to the County for approval. And he was the only Councilmember to join over 100 residents in a letter pointing out the racial equity implications of the proposed Junction plan.

Jarrett has pushed back against increasing taxes and the expanding budget, and against doubling the pandemic relief funds used to pay for library project cost overruns, and he has taken a righteous stance on many other issues. He has worked with quiet dignity for many years for the residents of his ward, while also engaging deeply with issues affecting all wards of the city. His many accomplishments include helping to found Lunch and Learn (a program supporting disadvantaged students with food and tutoring), and spearheading the successful Flower Avenue Green Street project. He also introduced the first City resolution on racial equity.

Jarrett has the most extensive leadership experience. He has served on the Council the longest (10 years) of any of the three candidates, having been elected for five consecutive terms by his constituents. He has also served as a leader in the county and state Municipal Leagues with elected officials from other cities. He is currently completing a Masters in Public Administration from UPenn.

Like half of all City residents, Jarrett Smith is a renter, and knows firsthand the challenges renters face. He served two terms as Chair of the Takoma Park Commission on Landlord Tenant Affairs (COLTA) before running for Council. He is a staunch advocate for protecting our rent-stabilized apartment stock, and for expanding affordable housing.

We encourage you to listen to all the speeches at the City’s Nominating Caucus last week. Residents stood up (starting at 1:45:00 on the video) to extol Jarrett Smith’s breadth and depth of knowledge, his nationwide network, his support for low-income residents and children and renters, his commitment to fiscal responsibility, his dedication to listening, and his many achievements.

We also encourage you to read the questionnaire responses below. Keep in mind that the two sitting Councilmembers are prohibited (we presume by the City Attorney) from saying anything about the on-going lease of our public land at Takoma Junction. It appears that Seth Grimes would keep the door open to a new plan from the same developer (NDC). And a reminder that even after the City Council voted unanimously to disapprove the Junction plan, Seth Grimes went to the Planning Board and urged them to approve it (at minute 2:31:30). 


 


 

Jarrett Smith, Questionnaire Responses

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to the the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

As a sitting councilmember, I am limited in what I can say about NDC due to legal concerns.  I can say that the Council is evaluating all of its options. 

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

We have learned that use of this space must be a consensus. We need to host gatherings open to the entire community, and lead discussions to explore the endless possibilities at Takoma Junction, a prime location with so much potential. Together, I believe we could plan a destination for residents from all over our county, DC, and Prince Georges County. With a talented reputable nonprofit developer and a forward-thinking city like ours, we could build something unique. The process Public Works used for consensus on the Flower Avenue Green Street project should be used at Takoma Junction.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be provided by the County? Why or why not?

Yes, I think residents should be surveyed on all the services that the city of Takoma Park currently provides. This will give everyone an opportunity to be heard.  This type of survey would serve to document what our residents want and allow us to measure every offering from a financial perspective.  On my watch, Takoma Park will operate in a fiscally responsible manner while delivering the services that have been prioritized by our very own city’s residents.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

The climate crisis is facing the entire globe. But we are a resilient city and forward-thinking when faced with challenges, and we must continue to lead and innovate in addressing climate change. We must continue our weatherize program and seek additional federal tax credits and grant programs for home energy efficiency. At every opportunity, the city must communicate ways to employ energy-efficient appliances, fuel-efficient or electric cars, solar panels, reduce wastewater, compost, recycle. And I have supported solutions to the stormwater threat, a byproduct of climate change, for years.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing. Why or why not?

Our new City Manager has made the budget process more transparent, and the budgeting process much more rigorous, to allow for more scrutiny for each budget line item. As Mayor, during our budget planning cycle I will convene a budget committee with representation from residents, councilmembers, and representatives of our unions to ensure there is adequate participation. This committee will be responsible for a cost-benefit analysis to justify every city expenditure. We will budget as necessary to continue to ensure the services provided are based on city priorities it can afford.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance. What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

Racial equity is one of the most important policy issues for Takoma Park, as and for the rest of the world. I would like to see our council and residents start at the beginning in preparing a strategy towards racial equity. This strategy would incorporate nationwide data to ensure we are taking a bottom-up approach and using the most comprehensive data to make decisions. As Mayor, any steps we take together to address racial equity as a city will be based on real and true information. These steps will be transparent, and they will be measured, so that we can truly begin dismantling structural racism.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county and is the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

Rent stabilization is part of our city’s character; we have maintained this city amenity for many years. But affordable housing is a Nationwide issue. I am committed to ensuring that this is a smart growth city, and will pursue additional senior and affordable multifamily housing. The former hospital and school properties are great locations to begin planning town homes, apartment buildings, electric car charging stations, restaurants, and shopping, green streets, etc. I would immediately put two site exploratory committees in place to begin a process for these opportunities.


 


 

Talisha Searcy, Questionnaire Responses

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

Given that I am currently on Council, I am limited in what I can say regarding NDC due to legal concerns. However, I can say that we are reviewing all options.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

Again, given that I am currently on Council, I am limited in what I can say due to legal concerns.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

We’ve learned from a number of community engagement activities in the City that a survey is not the best approach to solicit feedback from our diverse resident population. The City could conduct surveys, focus groups, and canvas multi-family building to understand what residents’ needs are. Special attention should be given to engaging residents in our multi-family buildings and immigrant populations. This information can be used to determine who should provide the service.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

I think the City is addressing the climate emergency. The City has projects that address the 2020 Climate Emergency Response Framework Resolution. The City used ARPA funds to make building upgrades. ARPA funds supported an apartment complex renovation to meet Green Enterprise Community standards. The City’s Library renovation will be LEED Gold. More work is needed on transportation. The City should maintain its targets/goals but we need to implement approaches.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

I think that the budget process can be more transparent. I am in favor of having a resident committee to provide feedback on budgeting process and ways to increase clarity in how the budget is presented and identify ways to increase resident engagement on the budget.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

I don’t think our “racial equity considerations” statements are sufficient. We have to consider equity first and not an afterthought. That means continuing to modify our community engagement approach. While on Council, I worked to transform our committee process and offer incentives to participation. Regarding structural racism, I think the City must continue to address recommendations from its public safety task force.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

I believe in rent stabilization as a vital tool to help maintain affordability in the City. However, it is important that the City also have funds available to support and advance the quality of housing in the City. The City has a housing shortage across the income spectrum. As we learned from the our recent briefing on the Takoma Park minor master plan, all types of housing is needed and I would support housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital and Washington-McLaughlin School sites.


 


 

Seth Grimes, Questionnaire

Q1 What is your position on how the City should proceed to end the impasse at Takoma Junction? Do you agree that the City must promptly end the current agreement to let NDC rent the lot? Why or why not?

Takoma Park should negotiate termination of NDC’s lease, absent a new development proposal acceptable to the city, the Planning Board, and other authorities. However neither NDC nor the city has lived up to contractual commitments. The city may be legally vulnerable and precipitous action to terminate NDC’s ground lease could be counterproductive. An NDC lawsuit would be expensive for the city and could prompt NDC action that would harm the TPSS Co-op. Let’s proceed carefully.

Q2 What is your vision for the equitable and inclusive use of the public land at Takoma Junction now, given what we have learned about the constraints of that space in terms of traffic, open space needs, safety, and support of existing and planned local businesses?

My responsibility as mayor will be to marshall a process that reelicits the range of community views and visions and organizes and distills them into an action plan. It will also be to improve larger junction conditions — to boost pedestrian, bicyclist, and road safety; to see to health of junction businesses, to make the junction an attractive destination — regardless what happens on the city-owned lot, and to promote business district vitality.

Q3 Do you agree that the City should survey residents to determine our needs for government services, and which services should be provided by the City, versus which services could be best provided by the County? Why or why not?

My work on the Takoma Park-Montgomery County service-duplication issue dates back almost 20 years! I served on the leadership team of the city Tax and Services Duplication Issues (TASDI) Committee, which solicited residents’ views on services that the city could turn over to the county and evaluated options. It’s a complicated matter involving many trade-offs. I’m open to being convinced that a service-duplication survey should be a priority now.

Q4 Do you think that the City has responded adequately to the climate emergency, or do you think we should take stronger action on issues including stormwater, city vehicles, preservation and expansion of the tree canopy and green space, and green construction of city buildings? What changes would you propose and what targets would you set?

The city would — shockingly — rely on offsets, “which at current GHG emissions levels would cost at minimum about $757,000 per year,” to reach net zero by 2035. This is a total cop-out. We must do better and take strong action on stormwater, fleet conversion, tree-canopy expansion, and construction. Public space planning is work in progress. Community involvement is key, with strong equity, representation, and inclusion criteria and changes and targets based on community and expert input.

Q5 What is your view of the current budget process? Do you agree that the budget process needs to become more transparent? Do you feel that the City Council should do more to curb the continuous growth of staff and spending, given that the City population is not growing? Why or why not?

Takoma Park’s budget process is backward. As mayor, I will turn it around with extensive up-front public-council-staff discussion of programs and services that will guide the city manager’s budget drafting. We should curb staff and spending growth and seek cuts based on a data-informed strategy. See, for instance, my 2020 article that notes crime trends down over 10 years, from 739 crimes in 2008 to 483 in 2019, unaffected by police understaffing. Cuts should possible.

Q6 Do you agree that the current “racial equity considerations” process on Council agenda items is ineffectual? What would you propose to create a more participatory and inclusive process to involve residents in City governance? What new steps should the City take to address structural racism?

My impression is that the city’s racial-equity evaluations are pro-forma, shallow, and often incomplete. Certainly they require more effort and then serious consideration of their determinations. I worked on inclusive processes during my council services. For an analysis, with points that still ring true, see my 2012 Race and Representation in Takoma Park, https://bit.ly/3eLdCPF. Regarding structural racism: I will advance discussion of various forms of reparations.

Q7 Takoma Park has the greatest density of truly affordable housing in the county, and the only rent stabilization program. Would you work to do everything you can to protect this rent stabilization, prevent the displacement of low-income communities, and ensure that housing for home renters is safe and up to code? Would you advocate for creating more truly affordable housing at the Washington Adventist Hospital site, and the Washington-McLaughlin School site? Why or why not?

I value and support and will defend Takoma Park’s rent stabilization while working to ensure that our city’s rental housing is safe and up to code. We do risk displacement, nonetheless, in part because a broad housing shortfall most seriously affects lower-income individuals and families. I not only would — I HAVE advocated creation of housing including affordable housing at multiple city sites and invite readers to visit sethgrimes.org/devlinks.


 

County Planning Denies Approval for Takoma Junction Plan

Sunset at Takoma Junction, January 2022

UPDATE: On January 27th 2022, the Montgomery County Planning Board voted unanimously to deny approval of the Takoma Junction plans.

*******

The Montgomery County Planning Board has scheduled a vote on the proposed Takoma Junction development for January 27th 2022. It was originally scheduled for January 20th 2022 but has been postponed by a week.

To send a written statement with your opinion about the proposed development to the Board before their vote, email Board Chair Casey Anderson at  mcp-chair@mncppc-mc.org, by noon on Wednesday January 26th.

The proposal has now been rejected by the City Council, the State Highway Administration (multiple times), and the community (96% of 385 comments on the City feedback page were negative).

The Board staff continues to recommend denial of the project, and this week reposted their report with that recommendation from last September. (This staff report was not presented or discussed in September, because instead NDC got an extension).

New information released on January 7th by the Planning Board, and linked to the original January 20th Board agenda, includes new documents and correspondence dated between September 2021 and January 2022, including:

  1. An update on what has happened since the Board gave NDC a 90 day extension, with new research, written by the Planning Board staff in preparation for the Board vote. Among other things, the staff refutes the assertions that there are comparable lay-bys in use locally.
  2. A letter from the Planning Board Chair to the SHA pressing them to explain what design for the deliveries and the exit/entrance would be safe, or to state clearly that there is no safe solution.
  3. A reply from SHA to the Planning Board, reiterating that it is the developer’s job to submit a design for them to assess (not SHA’s job to figure out a design that would work).
  4. Description of a meeting of the Planning Board staff, SHA, NDC and City of Takoma Park staff. The NDC lawyer described it as an attempt “to help facilitate communications and bring the matter to some type of resolution.”
  5. A letter from NDC to the City Manager asking the City to cut down trees on private property adjacent to the proposed site.
  6. A letter from NDC’s lawyer requesting that the Planning Board vote to give them approval “conditioned on future SHA approvals” for the layby and the exit/entrance drive.
  7. A letter from the City to the Planning Board, reminding the Board 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.”

For a dated chronology of these new letters and documents, see our updated Junction Timeline.

Planning Board Grants 5th Extension for Junction Project to Gain Approval

Planning Board Grants 5th Extension for Takoma Junction Project to Gain Approval

On September 15 2021, the Montgomery County Planning Board agreed to give Neighborhood Development Company (NDC) a fifth extension to obtain approval for their proposed Takoma Junction project. NDC now has until January 20 2022, (approximately 90 additional days), to attempt to get approval from the State Highway Administration (SHA) before returning to the Planning Board. To date, the SHA has found both the layby and the exit drive unsafe (in four separate rulings), despite multiple design attempts by NDC. 

In approving this fifth extension request, individual Planning Board members appeared to be unfamiliar with the details of the project. Notwithstanding the Planning staff’s recommendations that both the extension and project be denied, and the City’s recommendation that its own project be disapproved, Board Chair Casey Anderson nevertheless opined (watch starting at 3:15:00 on the video) that this would be a great project for the City if only SHA would approve the layby.  

Community Vision for Takoma (CVT) is taking this opportunity to straighten out some of the confusion, evident at the Board hearing, surrounding the current proposal. 

These are the facts:

  1. The layby is not the only problem cited by the City. 

The City Council voted on June 23 2021 for a resolution to recommend the Planning Board vote to disapprove the project. In doing so, the City Council cited not only the lack of approval from the SHA, but four other longtime issues NDC has been unwilling or unable to solve: lack of meaningful public space, a problematic rear facade, lack of parking for surrounding businesses, and inadequate stormwater treatment. 

The Planning Board may not concern itself with these issues, but the City does, according to their own resolutions and development agreement, and their vote in June. But the City needs to stand firm on these issues, explain them to the Planning Board, and pull out of the project if the Planning Board approves it. 

  1. The layby is not the only problem cited by the SHA. They have repeatedly cited the inadequate sight lines for drivers coming from the garage exit ramp driveway (the egress) as a continuing safety problem. 

NDC has pushed back by comparing their proposed exit to the current exit from the City lot. In a June 16 2021 letter from NDC to the SHA, NDC asserts, “We note that the same sight line issue exists today from the Intersection…and the entry point to the City’s parking lot on Carroll Avenue.”

However, this is a false comparison.

The proposed development would reduce the sight line by moving the driveway from the current location 40 to 50 feet to the west, closer to the fire station and blind corner. Additionally, the current lot is completely above ground, allowing exiting drivers to have a longer period to observe traffic coming from the west. The proposal, with vehicles exiting from an underground parking garage, limits that observation time. The proposal would also have drivers exiting from a darkened garage at the end of the workday and looking west into the setting sun. This visual adjustment time increases danger to bicycles and pedestrians as well as motorized vehicles in this heavily used area.

There are additional issues regarding the sight line. The September 7 2021 letter from SHA to NDC notes that there are other obstacles to the sight line (fencing, tree, parked cars), so the issue is not just one of absolute distance.

  1. No one should have been surprised by SHA’s repeated rejection of layby designs in 2021. Since the beginning, many concerns have been expressed about the layby. 
  • In 2015 when NDC was chosen by the City Council, Councilmember Seth Grimes wrote that the absence  of a layby in NDC’s initial design was one of the reasons he voted to choose NDC for the project. He said a layby would be a “step in the wrong direction,” and that the “Co-op has said this approach would be unworkable.” (NDC switched to a layby design only after winning the project).
  • In the spring of 2019, County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) reviewers noted that the layby “should be removed” because of safety concerns.
  • In the spring of 2019, the Chair of the County’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) agreed with a resident who called the layby “an abomination.”
  • In the fall of 2019, the HPC staff noted that Commissioners were “unanimous in their concerns’ about the layby,” but were told to back off, which they did.
  • In the spring of 2020, MCDOT again noted multiple reasons why the layby location could not be approved.
  • So in 2021, the SHA’s four consecutive rejections of layby designs should not have been surprising.
  1. Just because other developments have pickup or loading in front of the building doesn’t mean the Junction layby would be safe. 

In public comments at the Board hearing, and as the Board considered the extension, there was discussion of how some other county locations handle loading or pickups, and a suggestion that these should be considered precedents for the approval of the Junction layby. However, none of these other developments have the same specific constraints and conditions of the proposed Junction layby:

  • Marriott Headquarters (Bethesda) has a circle loop, not a layby.
  • Avocet Tower (Bethesda) has a smaller pickup and drop-off layby for cars, but would not accommodate large trucks. 
  • Ace Hardware (Takoma Park) has loading by trucks on the street, but was never analyzed by State or County reviewers because it is an informal arrangement.

Comparison Table 

Key Differences in the Four Projects


Project Variables
Marriott HeadquartersAvocet TowerAce HardwareTakoma Junction
Lay-by?NoYesNoYes
Pull-in, pull-out without right-angle turns?NoYesYesYes
Used for deliveries?NoNoYesYes
Trucks only (no drop-off/pick-up)?NoNoYesYes
Used for trash hauling?NoNoNoYes
Large trucks involved?NoNoYesYes
Deliveries/trash emphasize food-service?NoNoNoYes
Use shared by multiple properties?NoNoNoYes
Unconsolidated deliveries and hauling?N/AN/ANoYes
Delivery path conflicts with ADA route?N/AN/AYesYes
2-way adjacent traffic?NoNoYesYes
Adjacent stop line, crosswalk, and signal?NoNoNoYes
Adjacent bus stop?NoNoNoYes
Adjacent driveway?NoNoNoYes
Adjacent garage entrance/exit?NoNoNoYes
Requires crossing dedicated bike lanes? NoNoNoYes
Located down-block from a fire station?NoNoNoYes
Area needed for emergency access?UnclearUnclearNoYes
Routes traffic onto residential streets?NoNoNoYes
Routes traffic through unsignalized intersections?NoNoNoYes
Along block-long merge and crossing of two State Highway routes?NoNoNoYes
Visibility issues for approaching traffic?NoNoYesYes
Adjacent to walking route to school?NoNoNoYes
Approved by SHA & Planning Board?YESYESNot reviewedNO
  1. The community does not want to work with a company that tried to kick the Co-op off the lot. 

The most recent and relevant gauge of community support for this project is not the City election almost a year ago (when all incumbents were re-elected, whether or not they supported the development).

In April, NDC sent a cease and desist order to try to kick the Co-op off the lot, threatening its ability to function as a business. This aggressive action towards the Co-op caused some residents who had supported the development (or were neutral) to oppose it. We know this because of comments on the feedback page set up by the City last spring. Approximately 380 out of 395 comments opposed going forward with NDC and the project, or 96% of responses. Clearly, the City heard this feedback—which is the most recent and direct gauge of community opposition to the plan—before voting to recommend that the Planning Board disapprove the project. The relationship between the City and NDC is unclear at this point, and their weekly meetings on the Junction have stopped.

A Better Junction Design

A Lot Has Changed

A lot has changed in the pandemic. The office, retail and restaurant sectors are struggling. Some changes may be permanent, as people who can have shifted to working from home, buying from home, cooking at home. So why are we building offices, retail, and restaurants at the Junction, to compete with the struggling local businesses we all want to support?

Meanwhile, the pandemic has given us a new appreciation for the heroic role of a grocery store with union jobs and good health benefits as the central engine of the Takoma Junction economy, providing a safe sales outlet for over 100 local farmers, bakers, brewers, and more. The Co-op has led the nation in keeping both workers and shoppers safe. And, they have generously loaned use of both their own small lots and the large City lot they now rent from the developer, to non-profits sorting and packing and distributing food to the community in the pandemic. The value of this open space has never been more evident.

Reminder: A Lighter Design

Almost four years ago, we proposed a lighter, less dense design with more open public space, for the City’s Junction lot. And now, it seems more relevant and attractive than ever before.

This design creates space for events, outdoor markets, or community use, and preserves Co-op functioning, while adding a coffee shop, pub, food hub, and/or business incubator/worker training components. Imagine permeable pavers, solar lights, a stage, food trucks, pop-ups. This plan provides for off-street deliveries and waste collection at the back of the lot where they belong (removing the safety issues of the lay-by and making space for a bike lane). And it eliminates the problematic “not quite underground” parking while preserving surface parking to support local businesses. It utilizes “flex space” with thoughtful design and timed usage programming to accomplish more with less:

takoma junction_comm vision_img2 (2)
Takoma Junction - Site Plan - A4b (3) (1)

This plan was based on a Community Vision for Takoma group concept to transform the lot while preserving public space. The plan was fleshed out and drawn up by local design and construction professionals Joseph Klockner and Rick Vitullo. It is adaptable for multiple uses, is less expensive, and more sustainable, than the current design proposed by developers.

If you are wondering how our community could pay for this kind of community-oriented design, see some ideas here and here.

We invite your comments and suggestions on Facebook or at tjcommunityvision@gmail.com.

Racial Equity at the Junction

 A large group of neighbors and activists, Junction shoppers and business owners, along with City Councilmember Jarrett Smith,  sent this letter on racial equity this week to the County staff who are currently evaluating the proposed development at Takoma Junction. Community Vision for Takoma stands with this group of over 100 people who are urging the County to analyze the effect of the proposed development on racial equity at the Junction.

If you want to add your voice to these concerns, please send an email to Elza Hisel-McCoy, Montgomery Planning Board, at <elza.hisel-mccoy@montgomeryplanning.org> and simply say you join with others in the community of Takoma Park who are concerned about the racial equity and social justice impacts of the proposed development.

The Stormwater Issues

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 5.03.08 PM

 

The proposed Takoma Junction development plan is now going through the County approval process. But the City must still approve the tree plan, and the stormwater plan. So, stormwater experts with Community Vision for Takoma (CVT) analyzed the developer’s stormwater plan, and wrote this one-page summary of the many flaws in the plan.

 

TAKOMA JUNCTION DEVELOPMENT STORMWATER ISSUES

  • The City of Takoma Park has not reviewed stormwater aspects of the current proposal; the City’s approval letter in the record is based on the defunct April 2018 plan.
  • The City review of the older plan was incomplete; it did not consider many aspects of the proposal.
  • Neither the plan nor the City’s review considered the fact that nearby residents are already experiencing water management problems.
  • Currently most of the stormwater at the site flows from the City-owned parking lot to Carroll Avenue where it eventually enters City storm drains.  The developer’s plan would divert this water to a storm drain on Columbia Avenue.
  • Neither the City nor the developer conducted necessary studies including geotechnical, hydrogeological or storm sewer capacity studies.
  • Neither the soils at the construction site nor the soils on the wooded slope have been well characterized.  Clay layers in soil can make water management much more difficult; the limited studies available show clay layers on the site.
  • Stormwater can either run off over the surface or infiltrate the soil to become groundwater. This has implications for both surface drainage management and the ability of subsurface water to enter basements.  Neither the City nor the developer has studied groundwater at the site.
  • Neither the City nor the developer has assessed the potential impact of this additional stormwater on the downstream storm water management system.  It is not known if this system has enough capacity or what the potential impacts could be.
  • The proposed stormwater plan is under-designed given recent rainfall patterns and the anticipated effects of climate change in the future. The design, operation, and efficacy of the proposed stormwater management system is unclear.  The overall efficiency of the proposed green roofs has not been determined.
  • There is no analysis of water containing sediment that can accumulate in the large excavation proposed for this site.
  • In summary, it is difficult to see how this proposal meets the Maryland State guidance of controlling stormwater to the maximum extent practicable.
  • Based on all this, it is recommended that a refined comprehensive analysis, that (1) includes stormwater, groundwater and construction water and (2) is based on geotechnical and hydrogeological data, be undertaken by an independent competent authority with complete transparency.
  • This is a summary of a longer report linked here.