Neighborhood Walk and Talk, This Thursday

Neighborhood Walk

The neighborhood walk that was cancelled last month has a new date. May 5, 2011, Thursday, 6:00pm.

Officer Jaron J. Black, PGCPD Community Liaison for North College Park will be there to answer your questions about police coverage in Northern College Park and recent crime incidents.

Meet at the Greenbelt Metro Station Lackawanna Street Entrance.

I took a similar walk last summer. During the walk, we distributed public safety related pamphlets to the neighbors, placed them on the windshields of the vehicles parked on the streets. We talked to a few neighbors and told them about the recent spike in crime incidents, including a much publicized assault incident .

Maryland Day, 2011 Tomorrow

Join thousands of area residents and students at the 13th annual Maryland Day tomorrow. a family-friendly event with 400 interactive exhibits and workshops. Discover all that Maryland has to offer!

There will be live science experiments, an insect petting zoo and fresh ice cream from the campus dairy just to name a few of the many many different activities. Maryland Day starts tomorrow morning at ten.

For more information, please check event’s website: http://www.marylandday.umd.edu

Zoning Ordinances Get Mixed Reviews

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The recently introduced zoning ordinances that would give the City of College Park more authorities over zoning related matters received mixed reviews in a public hearing last Tuesday night. Please see the video above.

According to the City, those additional powers will include “review of alternative compliance from landscaping requirements, certification, revocation, and revision of nonconforming uses, and minor changes to approved special exceptions.”

Under Pressure, City Cuts Off Speed Camera Program

Speed Camera near Duvall Field

Speed Camera near Duvall Field

Soon after installing speed cameras in various parts of the City, residents started to complain about the confusion they faced surrounding the operating hours.

Except the one on Rhode Island Avenue, near Duvall Field, all cameras have been operating round the clock; non-stop.

The one near the Duvall Field, is located near the Berwyn Christian School. The law requires that all cameras must operate near the “School Zone”. It was unclear, however, why the City decided to operate the rest of the cameras round the clock, even though they also operate near the one or more school areas.

The different timing of the operations caused confusion among some residents. Some residents were even concerned about the idea of having the speed cameras altogether. They think cameras are means of collecting revenues, and not a mean for ensuring public safety, as the City officials want them to believe.

Earlier this month, the City has decided to change the operating hours of all cameras and make them consistent. All cameras will now operate from 6am to 8pm, Monday to Friday. They will not operate during weekends.

[Interview]: WaPo Says Dernoga ‘Asked Money’ from NCP Property Owner

Tom Dernoga

Moments before the Prince George’s council was to vote in 2007 on a site plan for a project that property owner Joe Lasick had a little piece of, former council member Dernoga pulled him and three others involved into a hallway.

Lasick said Dernoga told them that the measure wouldn’t pass that day unless the group gave $200,000 for county schools.

Mr. Lasick is a property owner in North College Park, just north of MD 193. The property was burned down in an arson fire in late 2004.

I became unglued and said, ‘You can’t do this to me.” Lasick said. “I was shocked. I never thought he would say this to my face.”

According to an explosive Washington Post report , Mr. Dernoga asked county developers to pay up to $1 million for community projects in exchange of favor in their developments.

In defending his action, Mr. Dernoga said,

You have these people making millions, and all this density and all the traffic [we’d] absorb on Route 1. You mean to tell me you have nothing to help out our schools? I found it greedy on the part of the property owners.”

Dernoga said that project would have cost the main developers $120 million and that $100,000 would have been a “drop in the bucket”.

Lasick’s deal to sell his College Park property for $4 million fell apart, he said. By the time the project got all of its approvals, the economy crashed.

Everything was taking so long to do, I couldn’t figure it out,” Lasick said.

The Post also says Dernoga had asked for the donation from other developers in the county before the plans were even filed. Mr. Dernoga’s behavior has been criticized and prompted Maryland legislators to pass an ethics bill that would ban Prince George’s council members from asking anyone who is seeking legislation or approvals to provide anything of monetary value.

The ethics legislation, was signed into law on April 12.

Joe Lasick (The Gazette)

College Park’s smart development blog ReThinkCollegePark says College Park residents are paying the price for Dernoga’s actions.

The delays he introduced for developers, including for those who didn’t make donations, meant that many parcels of land on Route 1 never got developed during the real estate boom, and we’re stuck with strip malls, parking lots or vacant land instead of useful properties that house residents or shops and contribute to the city’s tax base.” – charged blog editor David Daddio in an opinion piece.

Speaking of north College Park community, Mr. Dernoga thinks he always supported residents’ interests first.

Generally, I supported the wishes of the NCPCA (North College Park Civic Association) and I’m unaware of any significant matter in which I deviated. In fact, a couple of times when I disagreed with the citizens in principle, I tried to find a compromise and mostly came to their side.” – Dernoga said in an interview to me yesterday.

When asked about Mr. Lasick’s allegation that his development was stalled by the insistence of donation money, Dernoga said: “I have offered to speak to him about his claims for two year and he will not speak to me. So, I have no reason to speak to him [through you]”

I the mean time, Mr. Dernoga remains defiant on his stance against Washington Post’s alleged “Dernoga Money” affairs.

Please don’t expect me to apologize… Sorry, no apologies for fighting for my communities.” – a defiant Dernoga comments.

PGPOA Claims Responsibility of Referendum Petition

Prince George's Property Owners' Association

For the past several days, the City officials and residents were wondering who was behind a controversial referendum petition. Now, it has finally found its source.

Yes, PGPOA (Prince George’s Property Owner’s Association) is responsible for initiating the petition drive to get the two proposals on the City ballot” – said PGPOA member William Chicca in an email to me.

Many of the members of PGPOA are residents of the city and are very concerned about the direction the city government is going in trying to impede and even suppress rental of single family homes” – Mr. Chicca said in explaining the reason why PGPOA initiated the petition drive.

It appears that PGPOA has hired Petition Partners, an Arizona company, to circulate two charter amendment petitions in the City. The City has denied any affiliations with Petition Partners in any way.

These petitions seek to impose two amendments to the City Charter. If Petition Partners obtains the signatures of 20% of the qualified voters of the City on the petitions, and the amendments are otherwise lawful, then the City will be required to place both questions on a ballot for a vote in the council election.

The petition drive has left City officials understandably concerned – so  much so that it has recently warned residents on City’s website with the consequences of the petition if it gathers enough signatures.

According to the notice, the City warns its residents by saying that the passage of the petitioners’ demand will eradicate rent control ordinances and requirement that the landlords pay a trash collection fee. It also says the petition would prevent residents from claiming the Homestead Property Tax for owner occupants with a principal residence in the City and prohibit the City from licensing and making annual safety inspections for rental properties.

But Mr. Chicca disagrees with these allegations.

The petition is to uniformly apply the rent control program to ALL rental units in the City, other than those actually owned by the State of Maryland at the University. ” – said Mr. Chicca.

The basic issue is equity and fairness.  If rent control is good for the single family homes and the small apartments – why isn’t it equally good for the high rise rentals?  Why should the high rise rental buildings receive an unfair advantage in setting rents when compared to single family homes?” Mr. Chicca added.

Pointing to the City’s position on the petition, Mr. Chicca said: “As usual, the City is blowing smoke to distort and confuse the issue and saying the sky will fall if the initiative passes.  They certainly do not want political backlash and opposition from the owners of the high rise units, and don’t want to appear unfriendly to new high rise development, which rent control will do.”

The second amendment in the petition would cap the amount of money that can be raised by City taxes to the amount collected as taxes in fiscal year 2011, forever.

This is about the tax cap – similar to the County tax cap.  Government has an insatiable appetites for money and experience dictates that it will raise taxes as high and as often as they can.  The initiative is intended to put city government on a monetary diet – controlling how high they can raise taxes. ” – said Mr. Chicca.

Earlier, some City Council members expressed their frustrations with the group or person initiating the petition.

This (petition) is basically being run by a group of cowards who don’t want to reveal who they are,” said District 4 Council Member Marcus Afzali in an interview with the College Park Patch.

We know those behind the petitions will not come out in public and have the courage to claim responsibility for their actions and explain their intent in supporting these petitions.” – Afzali added further with a prediction.

Volunteers Mark Earth Day by Fixing North College Park Rain Garden

Dozens of volunteers gathered at the Duvall Field at 10am  yesterday  to mark this year’s Earth Day. Their mission? –  fix up a rain garden at the north east corner of the field and plant trees there. County council member (Dist  1) Mary Lehman, College Park’s Mayor Andrew Fellows and Dist 1 council member Chris Nagle took part in the event.

North College Park’s Sex Offenders List

Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services provide a list of registered sex offenders in the state. The purpose of providing such a list, as its website says, is only for informational use and is subject to restrictions on use by the various publishing states, including prohibition against using such data for retribution against any individual. You can know more about the use of the list and the other related questions here on the Frequently asked Questions section.

The list below shows the sex offenders living in north College Park area.

[mappress mapid=”46″]

Police Puzzled over UMD Student’s Death

University of Maryland Police is still unsure about what caused the death of the 21 year old student Adewunmi Omisore Adepegba.

Adepegba was found unresponsive and not breathing on Field House Drive near Lot Z at about 9:45 p.m Tuesday night. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital shortly thereafter.

University Police and Prince George’s County Fire Department officials responded to the area and found Adepegba unresponsive, not breathing and without a pulse Tuesday night.

It’s rare, although not unheard of, but certainly it’s rare,” said UMD police chief David Mitchell. “We have such a young population, and you never expect that to happen. But unfortunately, it did.”

 The cause of death has yet to be determined, and officials are waiting for results from the medical examiner’s office. Bystanders performed CPR on Adepegba until paramedics took over, Brady said. He was pronounced dead at Washington Adventist Hospital at about 9:45 p.m.

In a statement, the UMD public safety department said “Our deepest sympathy is with the family of Mr. Adepegba during this time. We appreciate the community’s assistance and quick response in this sad and unfortunate occurrence.”

City to Spend More on Contract Police, Public Saftey Staff

Prince George's Police

The Council had its second and final work session on budget recently and made a few changes to the proposed FY 2012 draft budget.

The most significant of largest of which was a substantial increase for additional City contract police, which we are using the speed camera revenue to pay for. 

Most of these items will come from revenue the City  was able to reallocate due to the additional public safety funding from the speed cameras. 

Funds that the City would have otherwise spend on contract police this year will go into undesignated reserves, and then be available to spend next year.

The changes fall within the guidelines laid out in the FY2012 draft budget:

An increase of 0.72 FTE in Contract Police Officers (in Public Services, Speed Enforcement, program 2025) to certify speed enforcement camera citations

The  changes related to the public safety program in the FY2012 draft budget includes:

  • An additional $150,000 for part-time contract police coverage.
  • About $35,000 for the hiring of a part-time public safety coordinator, to assist the Neighborhood Watch coordinators and act as a liaison with the police. 

The City of College Park does not have a police service. The city residents pay nearly $1 million to hire 6 contract police officers (3 pat time and 3 full time) from the county, because the police service from the county’s regular police PGPD is not enough.

NCP Residents Ask City to Remove Acquisition of #1 Liquor from Budget

#1 Liquor at Route 1

Steve Groh and Terry Schum presented the proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to the North College Park Citizens Association on Thursday night on behalf of the City Manager. 

The NCPCA voted unanimously to ask the Council to remove the acquisition of #1 Liquor at 8200 Baltimore Avenue from the CIP.  “Members did not feel that this commercial
property would well serve the City’s open space needs.”
– wrote NCPCA president Mark Shroder in an email to the Mayor and teh Council.

True the store is an eyesore, but that should not be a good reason to spend money” – said Larry Bleau, who brought the motion in the meeting.

Back in late 2009, the City council voted to try to buy the property or to try to get it condemned if its owner refuses to sell. The City plans to build a small park at the location.

Sunnyside Residents Express Concerns over Proposed AT&T Cell Tower

AT&T’s attorney Greg Rapisarda at NCPCA’s April 2011 meeting

A group of Sunnyside residents expressed concerns over AT&T’s plan to build a 120 ft cell tower in their neighborhood.

AT&T’s attorney Gregory Rapisarda was at NCPCA’s April 2011 meeting to introduce the plan to north College Park’s residents.  According to the plan, AT&T will install the tower at the end of the Odessa Road. Please see the proposed site plan at the end of this post.

“AT&T has a need to provide and improve its wireless services in the College Park area.”– said Mr. Rapisarda to the residents as the primary reason to install the tower.

But that failed to convince some dozen or so Sunnyside residents present at the meeting. Signs of worries were quite visible on the faces of these residents.

Couldn’t you find another place to put this huge tower? It’ll be quite an eyesore” – commented one resident.

Mr. Rapisarda said AT&T identified and evaluated several potential co-location opportunities, including (1) the US Department of Agriculture building, (2) the 300 State Police tower that is approximately 1/2 mile away, (3) a 155′ Verizon tower approximately 1/2 away, and (4) a rooftop at the Sterling Building. 

In each case, either the radio frequency engineers concluded that those locations would create significant overlap with existing coverage and would not allow AT&T to meet its coverage objectives or the landowner was unwilling or unable to lease space.” – said Mr. Rapisarda explaining why his company needs the tower to be placed in the proposed location.

But our service is just fine” said a resident. “And I have Verizon” – said another resident.

And what about the health effect of the tower?” – asked one concerned nearby resident.

There is absolutely none” – answered back Mr. Rapisarda, noting his references from WHO and American Cancer Society.

I think the jury is still out there..” – answered the resident, pointing to the ongoing debate on the issue.

Residents asked how much AT&T would be paying the City as a rent in exchange of using the proposed City owned property.

Sorry, this is a confidential matter. I cannot disclose that figure” – said Mr. Rapisarda.

Hmm, not quite; some information about AT&T’s negotiation with the City already leaked out earlier in an online listserv discussion, where District 1 Council member Patrick Wojahn revealed initial AT&T offering as less than $2000/month. When this was mentioned in the meeting, one resident charged “They (city leaders) sold us out for $1,200?”, according to this Patch report.

Though members did not take any position on the proposed tower at the end of the discussion, I was very happy to see and meet so many residents from Sunnyside in the meeting.

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March 2011 NCP Crime Report

Fight Crime

In March 2011, 58 crime incidents have been reported in north College Park.

When compared with the February data, the figures have gone down slightly (from 62 to 58), yet the incident figures are way too high for a small neighborhood like ours, with an average of 2 incidents happening every day on average.

The high crime figures should only remind us the importance of getting involved in activities such as Neighborhood Watch program.

March crime data has the following breakdowns across types of calls.

Assault: 3
Break and Entering: 5
Recovered Stolen Auto: 4
Robbery: 1
Stolen Auto : 9
Theft: 11
Theft from Auto: 18
Vandalism: 7
Date Time Type of Call Address
3/1/2011 2012 Stolen Auto 9500 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/2/2011 2149 Theft From Auto 9000 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/2/2011 1722 Theft 9000 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/3/2011 1303 Robbery 9000 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/3/2011 1120 Stolen Vehicle 9300 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/4/2011 1700 Vandalism 9300 Block CHERRY HILL RD
3/5/2011 2257 Vandalism 9200 Block SPRINGHILL LN
3/6/2011 1814 Assault 4800 Block HOLLYWOOD RD
3/6/2011 1631 Theft 9600 Block 52ND AV
3/8/2011 1251 Theft 9800 block 49TH AV
3/9/2011 738 Theft From Auto 9500 block 48TH AV
3/9/2011 813 Theft From Auto 9100 block 49TH AV
3/9/2011 838 Theft From Auto 9500 block 49TH PL
3/9/2011 850 Theft From Auto 4800 block HOLLYWOOD RD
3/9/2011 1133 Theft From Auto 9000 block BALTIMORE AV
3/10/2011 1002 Theft From Auto 9600 block BALTIMORE AV
3/11/2011 1310 Theft From Auto BALTIMORE AV/ CAP BELT IL NO HY
3/11/2011 2120 Vandalism 9300 block CHERRY HILL RD
3/12/2011 1446 Theft 4700 block CHERRY HILL RD
3/12/2011 1003 Stolen Vehicle 10000 block BALTIMORE AV
3/14/2011 1236 Theft 9300 block CHERRY HILL RD
3/15/2011 1622 Breaking & Entering 9300 Block CHERRY HILL RD
3/15/2011 2121 Breaking & Entering 10000 Block 52ND AV
3/15/2011 1733 Theft 4700 Block CHERRY HILL RD
3/15/2011 1707 Vandalism 9500 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/15/2011 1353 Stolen Auto 9500 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/16/2011 1250 Assault 9900 Block RHODE ISLAND AV
3/16/2011 618 Theft From Auto 9900 Block 51ST TE
3/16/2011 804 Theft From Auto 9500 Block 50TH PL
3/16/2011 818 Theft From Auto 4800 Block INDIAN LN
3/16/2011 940 Theft From Auto 4800 Block FOX ST
3/16/2011 1043 Theft From Auto 9700 Block 52ND AV
3/16/2011 1220 Vandalism 9700 Block 52ND AV
3/16/2011 2130 Stolen Auto 9500 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/17/2011 1003 Theft From Auto 10000 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/18/2011 1303 Vandalism 10000 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/18/2011 1848 Stolen Auto 10100 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/18/2011 1540 Recovered Stolen Auto 10000 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/18/2011 1608 Recovered Stolen Auto 5200 Block HURON ST
3/19/2011 945 Theft 4900 Block LACKAWANNA ST
3/20/2011 2140 Theft 5200 Block KENESAW ST
3/21/2011 809 Theft From Auto 4800 Block ERIE ST
3/21/2011 1609 Stolen Auto 9400 Block BALTIMORE AV
3/21/2011 1630 Stolen Auto 9400 Block RHODE ISLAND AV
3/22/2011 640 Breaking & Entering 4900 block HURON ST
3/22/2011 550 Theft From Auto 4700 block CADDO ST
3/24/2011 1412 Breaking & Entering 4700 block MUSKOGEE ST
3/24/2011 1727 Breaking & Entering 9400 block 52ND AV
3/25/2011 1923 Theft 4900 block IROQUOIS ST
3/26/2011 1439 Assault (Arrest) 10000 block BALTIMORE AV
3/26/2011 1917 Vandalism 9300 block CHERRY HILL RD
3/27/2011 1821 Stolen Auto 10000 block BALTIMORE AV
3/29/2011 751 Theft 6000 block SPRINGHILL DR
3/29/2011 1609 Theft 9800 block BALTIMORE AV
3/30/2011 728 Theft from Auto 3600 block MARLBROUGH WY
3/30/2011 1355 Theft from Auto 9700 block 52ND PL
3/30/2011 2050 Recovered Stolen Auto 10100 block BALTIMORE AV
3/30/2011 2230 Recovered Stolen Auto 9100 block BALTIMORE AV

Grow Local, Eat Local – Be a Locavore

Grow local, eat local

Who is a locavore?

Locavores are…people who value local as their primary food criterion.

Like last year, the Committee for a Better Environment will be hosting a workshop on “Living like a Locavore” on May 7, Saturday (1-3pm) at the Old Parish House (4711 Knox Road, College Park).

Jessica Prentice from the San Francisco Bay Area coined this term for World Environment Day 2005 to describe and promote the practice of eating a diet consisting of food harvested from within an area most commonly bound by a 100-mile radius.

Linna “the locavore” Ferguson will also return to College Park to discuss how to:

  • Integrate local food into your lifestyle;
  • Identify local food networks; and
  • Get the most local food you can by growing your own with the world-famous method, Square Foot Gardening—a small space, intensive growth approach.

Residents Review Gateway Park Designs

Nine competing designs were on display at Thursday’s  NCPCA meeting for public comments. The City has also sponsored a design competition among UMd landscape architecture students. NCPCA earlier formed a committee on the proposed park and came up with a design based on preliminary ideas. I took pictures of some of the designs and posted them above.

The City will also scan the designs and post them to its site in order to seek residents’ reviews.

Residents also gave their feedback on the designs, which NCPCA will publish at a later time. NCPCA members present in Thursday’s meting also passed a motion thanking the University of Maryland students for their creative and hard works in the design project.

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