Dog park update, poet laureate, home repair funding & parking

There’s lots of mundane stuff on the city council agenda for Monday evening, September 9, 2013, so I’ll call out just 4 items:

1) The council will be reappointing Merrill Leffler as Takoma Park Poet Laureate, per nomination of the city’s Arts and Humanities Commission. Congratulations and thanks to Merrill.

2) The council will vote on contracts for the city’s FY14 Exterior Home Repair Program. We have $80,000 in this year’s budget for exterior repairs, at no cost to the homeowner, for eligible households, with lower or moderate income, priority given to homeowners who are elderly, disabled, or a family with children. According to city staff, to date, 27 homeowners have applied for this year’s program. Additional applications will be accepted until the funds have been fully committed. Please contact Linda Walker at 301-891-7222.

3) An agenda item will include a dog park update. We’re Staff recommends moving ahead exploring a site nestled between the skate park at Takoma-Piney Branch Local Park, Heffner Park, which is reached from Oswego Avenue, and Takoma Park Middle School. There’s a map in the background doc. According to the staff backgrounder,

“The Heffner Park site is underutilized, has parking available and is not immediately adjacent to homes. The site is overgrown with invasive plants and is fairly large (about two acres); there are steep slopes on the property. The site may be a good location for a dog park, but the exact nature of the topography is difficult to determine because of the overgrowth.

“A next step is to clear out the undergrowth and determine if the site would work for a dog park. City staff is exploring the use of goats to do an initial clearing, with follow up trim/cleaning by volunteers and City or contract crews. If the site is determined to be appropriate for a dog park, development estimates range from $40,000 to $400,000 based on ;the size, fencing choice, site work, type of ground cover, and amenities (such as a water source) that are desired.”

4) The council will be voting on staff-requested technical revisions to the city’s ordinance on parking meters. For residents, the points of interest aren’t actually in the ordinance yet:

a) The city manager is looking into pay-by-phone for parking and into metered parking for the city-owned lot in Takoma Junction. Parking in the Takoma Junction lot is currently free but limited to 2 hours during weekdays. The TPSS Co-op leases parking spaces there.

b) I asked the city-manager to look into pay stations for parking. They’re used in many cities: You pay at a box and get a slip to put in your car. They boxes accept both coins and credit/debit cards. The Takoma Junction lot would be a good place for a pay-station trial.

c) I also suggested raising the rate we charge for street parking from $.75/hour to $1.00/hour, which matches the rate in Silver Spring. (The rate for street parking in downtown Bethesda is $2/hour.) According to city staff, the city currently takes in $70,000/year for parking and assesses $180,000/year in fines, a sum that includes residential-parking violations. A couple of my council colleagues opposed an increase in the metered-parking rate, characterizing it as “nickel-and-diming” residents. That’s true literally but nonetheless, I think an increase is completely reasonable. A higher rate will come closer to paying the cost of providing parking to users, and $.25/hour isn’t going to harm anyone.

Please let me know if you have questions or concerns.

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