KabirCares.org

Hollywood Business to Make a Face Lift Using Facade Improvement Program

We talked about this program a few weeks ago and also discussed some design ideas at the NCPCA meeting. This program is the result of the City’s efforts to reinvigorate the Hollywood Commercial District, which is located in the northern portion of the City along Rhode Island Avenue. The area is home to more than 40 retailers, including anchor tenants in MOM’s Organic Market and REI, as well as several small office buildings.

Since their construction, primarily in the 1960’s, the majority of buildings in the district have not been significantly renovated. The result is a series of outdated storefronts, which presents a hurdle for attracting retailers. In order to incentivize investment from the business and property owners, the City created this program in October with repurposed funds from a State grant.

Eligible uses include exterior improvements such as awnings, doors, lighting, masonry work, painting, signage, and windows. Applicants are approved on a first come, first served basis with dollar-for-dollar matching grants available for a minimum of $2,500 and a maximum of $25,000.

In order to generate interest in the program, City staff obtained conceptual designs from the Prince George’s County Planning Department and the Neighborhood Design Center to showcase potential improvements. With these designs in hand, staff approached business and property owners to discuss the facade program and gauge interest in proceeding with the improvements.

Early discussions have been positive, with several of the owners expressing interest in the program. In 2015, We expect to continue working with the businesses and property owners to progress with their applications and eventually receive approval to construct the improvements. The results of these changes to the facade will benefit the existing tenants by creating a more welcoming environment for patrons, while also making the storefronts more attractive to potential tenants.

Just to note, the facade improvement program is different from the Hollywood commercial streetscape project that we discussed at Davis Hall last week. The main goal of the streetscape project is to make the public spaces in the area look more attractive. With the facade improvement program and the streetscape project we hope to bring positive changes to Hollywood.

The first property taking benefit of the program is the one located at 9913-9921 Rhode Island Avenue. The property is a 4,800 SF of retail and was built in 1961. The improvement list includes removing existing sheet metal parapet, replace with EIFS, surface & paint building. They already have resurfaced the parking lot and got the County permit for the facade work two weeks ago. The facade improvement work will begin soon. Here is a picture of the conceptual design of the project.

9913 rhode Island

Spay / Neuter Your Pets For Free

Spaying / neutering can help prevent pet homelessness

At last night’s Four Cities’ meeting, it was announced that residents within Zip Code 20737, 20740, 20783 (which includes college Park), can now spay / neuter their dogs and cats for free.

The program is initiated by the City of Greenbelt, but will be supported by the partnership of: Greenbelt, City of College Park, New Carrollton and Berwyn Heights.

Having your dogs and cats spayed and neutered can help reduce pet homelessness. There are more than 5 million dogs and cats living in animal shelters; over 50% of these are estimated to be euthanized.

There are also over 70 million stray dogs and cats in this country. A fertile cat will give birth to 4-12 kittens every year; a fertile dog will give birth to 4-6 puppies each year. Dog and cat over population is the major contributing cause for dog and cat homelessness, and the high rate of unnecessary euthanasia in shelters.

The program is absolutely free for low income residents, but others are encouraged to contribute, if they can. The major barrier for low-income pet owners to having their pet sterilized is the cost of surgery. The Maryland Statewide Spay/Neuter Fund was created to fund spay/neuter surgeries for low income/at-need pet owners.

More about the program can be found here.

In Pictures – Community Meeting on Hollywood Commercial Streetscape Project

UPDATE (Jan 29, 6:16pm) : The presentation slides have now been updated here. The slides have the design concepts and cross sections towards the end.

Thanks everyone who came to last night’s community meeting on the Hollywood Commercial streetscape project and gave their feedback. Staff will post the preliminary design to our website soon. When it’s posted, we’ll let you all know.

Here are a few ideas we discussed at the meeting:

  • Wellness trail / circuit and exercise stations around MoM/REI shopping complex
  • Gateway signage and streetscape amenities
  • Benches, bicycle storage, popup park, bioretention cells
  • Mini circle at Edgewood Rd. and Naragansett Pk way
  • Pedestrian refuge and special paving at Edgewood Rd and Rhode Island,
  • Shared bicycle and pedestrian way on both sides of Rhode Island just north of Edgewood rd
  • Bicycle boulevard north of bicycle / pedestrian way
  • New planting in storm water facility on the west side of Rhode Island Avenue and south of Edgewood Rd
  • Pedestrian scle streetlights on Rhode Island ave in front of REI / MoM shopping center
  • Access improvements at the Hollywood Shopping center
  • Gateway signs on I-495 overpass
  • Intersection improvement at Rhode Island and Niagara Rd (needs future study)

The architect will present the design to the City Council in early March, when we’ll talk about the design further and the next step about its implementation. In the mean time if you have further comments about the plan, please let me know.

Here are a few pictures I took.

Tonight: Community Meeting on Hollywood Commercial Area Streetscape Project

Tonight, at 7pm, at Davis Hall, we’ll hold a community meeting on the Hollywood Streetscape project. The architect will present lots of exciting ideas on how to improve the Hollywood commercial district around the intersection of Rhode Island avenue and Edgewood Rd. Please do not miss this opportunity. We do really need your feedback.

Please see below for more details. See you all tonight.

COMMUNITY MEETING – Hollywood Commercial Area Streetscape Project

When:
Wednesday, January 28th at 7:00pm

Where:
Davis Hall – 9217 51st Avenue, College Park, MD 207403

What:
The City of College Park has retained a consultant to propose conceptual alternatives for improvements in the Hollywood Commercial District such as enhanced bike facilities, expanded sidewalks, landscaping, parks & open spaces, and stormwater management facilities. Please attend this community meeting to hear the presentation and provide feedback on changes you would like to see.

For more information, visit this page on the City’s website:
www.collegeparkmd.gov/hollywoodstreetscape

North College Park Crime Map – Jan 18-25, 2015

Please see below last week’s crime map and let me know if you have any questions. Thank you.
[mappress mapid=”208″]

Theft

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[1/21/15]
#L15021 THEFT 03:33 04:52 9700 Blk 51ST AVE,
[1/23/15]
#L15023 THEFT 12:41 13:24 9800 Blk RHODE ISLAND AVE,

 

Hollywood Farmers Market Seeks Your Input

NL_banner_2014_1

The 2014 season at the Hollywood Farmers Market has recently ended and the market committee is gearing up to make the upcoming 2015 season even better. In order to help improve the market, the committee is seeking your feedback about the 2014 market season. Whether you had a chance to come to last year’s market or not,please take a few moments to fill out this short survey.

http://goo.gl/forms/TXXsfZmWeO

We appreciate your help. Thank you.

College Park May Face Cuts in State’s Open Space Grants

Recently, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Governor stated that reductions are necessary due to reductions in revenue estimates for this current FY 2015. Accordingly, the Board of Public Works made approximately $400 million in cuts to agencies’ general fund budgets for the remaining fiscal year.

At this time, DBM proposes to transfer a total of $11.8 million in what had been unencumbered special fund balances (cash) from Program Open Space (approximately $3 million stateside and $8 million local) to the General Fund.

College ark and other Maryland municipalities use the Program Open Space grants to acquire land and develop them for public uses (such as park etc.)

At this point, POS Local projects may move forward. However, the Department of Natural Resources is requesting that counties not bring forth any cash-funded POS Local projects. At this point POS Stateside must limit cash expenditures to existing bills due payment; and only to bills that must be paid in cash associated with projects well underway where timing warrants payment, and where GO bonds are not a payment option because of timing or eligibility issues for this source of funding.

It is still far from clear what the proposed FY16 budget submissions will contain. However, our City staff contacted the County coordinator for Program Open Space funding to determine what impact the cuts would have on College Park.

The total reduction statewide is $8.1 million, of which Prince George’s County will lose approximately $1.8 million. Since College Park represents approximately 3.52 % of the total County population, the City’s portion of the cut will be $64,127. Not including this anticipated cut (a budget reconciliation bill must be passed in the current session), and the City’s Program Open Space funds that are already encumbered, the City at the end of FY14 had approximately $2 million in total Program Open Space funding (for both acquisition and development).

Riding with Police in College Park

Riding with police

Riding with police

I had an opportunity to ride with our College Park (contract) police last night. I was at the Bowie dispatch center a few years back, but this is the first time I saw how our dispatch “actually” works in a police car.

During my 2 hour long ride, we toured several streets in all four districts of the City. In the beginning of the ride, the police officer had to respond to a high priority dispatch call (with sirens on) involving an emergency incident at MD 193 and Rhode Island Avenue. I met several police officers and our fighters there.

I must say it was quite a experience. I want to thank our police for their service to College Park residents.

City May Spend $1 million More to Join State Pension Plan

At last Tuesday’s work session, the Council discussed and approved the spending of upto $1 million more to join the State pension plan.

If you can remember, back in July 1 last year, the City joined the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System (MSRP) as participants in the Reformed Contributory Pension Plan. Some of my colleagues and I did not support joining the State pension system because of high cost of joining the plan and other risk factors.

When the City joined the plan, the plan’s actuaries estimated that, to purchase 60% prior service for existing city employees, it would cost the city $1.6 million. The City was aware that the amount was subject to change based on a final actuarial valuation that would take place in late 2014. The City’s plan was to borrow against its reserves the amount necessary to purchase into the plan and then pay the funds back into its reserves over time.

Staff has now found that the final cost of 60% prior service is now $2,631,128, approximately $1M more than we anticipated.

The Council discussed whether we should be paying the extra $1 million upfront or in installments. If the City is to pay upfront. The City’s Unfunded Accrued Actuarial Liability (UAAL), or the amount of assets needed to fund the city’s pension plan into the future, actually decreased from about $4.8m to about $4.7m, because. The City was to receive a credit, however, of 6.2% of payroll for the pooled system’s unfunded liability (about $3.1 million), because the City was not part of the plan previously. Because the MSRP overall valuation has improved in the last year, however, the credit for the unfunded liability has been decreased to 5% of payroll, or about $2.1 million. The improved valuation, however, should decrease the cost of the MSRP in future years.

The City’s current unassigned reserve is about $5.56m, or about 36.87% of the FY 15 expenditure budget. The City decided to dedicate $300,000 of that to design of undergrounded utilities on Route 1. With that and the requested $2.6 million for the MSRP, it would bring the city’s reserves down to about 19.1% of the current FY 15 expenditure budget. Our options at this point are to: 1) Pay the entire cost upfront and extend the length of time to repay our reserves from 5-6 years to 8-10 years, or 2) Pay the amount originally proposed from our reserves and finance the remaining $1m. Doing this over 24 years would cost $2.3 million.

The Council voted borrowing the entire amount from our reserves.

City Gears Up for 2016 Budget Process

City Budget

City Budget

The City is gearing up its work on the 2016 fiscal year budget. It has already started with giving out budget worksheets to individual departments last week, encouraging individual departments to maintain the same level of expenditures for another year and cut whenever possible.

The City has received preliminary numbers for tax revenue for FY 2016, and the City will likely receive a 2.64% increase in property tax assessments without taking the homestead tax credit into consideration. There are no other new developments in the pipeline for the coming year. However, we expect to get new revenue stream from a few new developments in near future. These new revenues will be reflected in the FY 2017 budget.

FY2015 will be the second year for The Varsity to receive its revitalization tax credit ($80,000).

State Highway Administration has given us an FY2016 estimate for highway user tax ($114,033 versus $113,583 we budgeted in FY2015). The one-time additional highway user payment we received in FY2015 ($257,038) is not scheduled to recur in FY2016, particularly under a new administration. Staff expects admissions & amusement (“A&A”) tax to be similar to FY2015.

It is too early to predict FY2016 speed enforcement camera revenue.

Council wishlists for budget items are due on February 13, 2015, and the City Manager’s proposed budget will be distributed to Mayor & Council on March 31. The Council will hold its budget worksessions will be on April 11 and 18 (if needed) with the budget ordinance introduced on April 28. The FY 2016 budget will be adopted on July 1st.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for next year’s budget, in terms of things that should be funded or might be cut.

UMD President Dr. Loh Appointed as the new Chair of College Park Academy

Wallace D. Loh

Wallace D. Loh

At a meeting of the CPA board last week, Senator Jim Rosapepe announced his decision to step down as board chair and Dr. Loh was voted the new chair of the
CPA board.

The meeting was attended by Mayor Fellows and Dr. Segun Eubanks, the chair of the PGCPS board.

Senator Rosapepe has been instrumental with his vision, energy, and leadership in conceiving CPA and making it a reality. Together with the existing board, and with the support of the City Council and PGCPS, he has been instrumental in the success of CPA in its first two years. He will continue serving on the board.

The CPA board voted to expand its membership as authorized by its bylaws. The new members include UMD faculty and staff who are deeply committed to public education and to the hybrid learning model of CPA. Several of the new members live in College Park. They are or have worked as principal of an elementary and/or high school, as member of the General Assembly, as a board chair of a school district, and as deans of UMD’s colleges. One is a parent of a CPA student.

Frank Brewer, the interim executive director of CPA, announced his re-retirement.

As a result, Dr. Loh thinks UMD will now be even more actively engaged in the operation of CPA and in its continuing success. Many parents of CPA students have inquired about, and sought, such increased involvement.

You can find more about this news here on the Washington Post.

Council to Discuss City’s Vacant Properties

Vacant / foreclosed house - a source of concerns

Vacant / foreclosed house – a source of concerns

At tonight’s worksession, we will discuss what actions the City could take to address vacant properties. It’s clear to everyone that vacant properties are detrimental to the quality of life in the City in several ways. Vacant properties leave a neighborhood susceptible to crime. Vacant properties do not contribute positively to the streetscape. Vacant properties become a burden and challenge for code enforcement. Vacant properties under-utilize much needed inventory in our real estate market.

At a minimum, the community would like to see these properties better cared for. Ideally these properties would be occupied.

We wish to discuss expansion of our City Code to include a Registry of Vacant Properties, mandatory for all vacant property owners. This initiative would require the Council to:

  • Define “vacant property” (e.g. does “unoccupied”= vacant, or does vacant= wuninhabitable”) and other related terminology
  • Clearly define the goals of a vacant property registry
  • Authorize staff to create an inventory, based on Council definitions, of vacant properties
  • Determine if there is a problem which justifies further financing, legislation, and enforcement
  • Authorize staff to create a reporting process structure and a database to support a registry
  • Adopt legislation including possible fines/fees to support the program

At this point, we have not proposed an annual fee or special tax, but believe it might be appropriate to implement a fine for vacant property owners for not complying with regulations. That said, we have discussed this issue understand that vacant properties legislation will increase staff workload. We believe regulation might be most effective if it were complaint based. Residents could report an alleged vacant property (via College Park Central) and then City staff could confirm the status of those properties.

We think a registry might be beneficial for the property owner because it could enable the City to have regular communications with vacant property owners and it could potentially enable police to address issues on the property in the absence of the owner.
By better understanding the volume of vacant properties in the City, we think we can better identify problems and solutions. Discussion should Include whether initiatives should address vacant properties in general, or case-by-case; and, if an annual fee, or a special tax would incentivize the return of vacant properties to occupancy.

Locally, the City of Mount Rainier here in Prince George’s County has adopted legislation addressing vacant properties, and the City of Takoma Park in Montgomery County has discussed the issue. We’ll look into these legislation at tonight’s worksession.

North College Park Crime Map: January 12-17, 2015

[mappress mapid=”207″]
Theft

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#L15012 THEFT 11:53 12:37 9300 Blk CHERRY HILL RD

Theft from Auto

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Location

#L15012 THEFTA 06:18 07:06 4800 Blk BLACKFOOT RD,
#L15012 THEFTA 09:10 09:41 4700 Blk CHERRY HILL RD
#L15012 THEFTA 12:22 13:01 9600 Blk BALTIMORE AVE
#L15012 THEFTA 13:01 13:43 9600 Blk BALTIMORE AVE,

County Seeks Input on Zoning Reforms

After approximately ten months of outreach and research, Clarion Associates’ consultant team released the Evaluation and Recommendations Report for the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations Rewrite.

This document reflects the consultant’s conclusions for how the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations should be restructured.

The County is asking to attebd one of the three countywide listening sessions in January 2015 and share your throughts and ideas on what the Prince George’s County’s 21st Century Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations should emphasize.

Read the Evaluation and Recommendations Report here.

ATTEND A LISTENING SESSION

TUESDAY, JANUARY 27
Parks & Recreation
Administration Building
6600 Kenilworth Avenue,
Riverdale, MD 20737
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

WEDNESDAY
JANUARY 28
Southern Technology & Recreation Complex
7007 Bock Road,
Fort Washington, MD 20744
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 29
Wayne K. Curry Sports & Learning Complex
8001 Sheriff Road,
Landover, MD 20785
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

City Activist Amelia Murdoch Passes Away

A long – time College Park activist Amelia Murdoch passed away around 10 am last Friday.

There are no plans for a service at this time. Amelia will be cremated and her ashes interred with family in Philadelphia. There may be a memorial gathering of some kind at her home in the spring.

Amelia is well known for her environmental activism. Here is a video showing Amelia in a College Park stream cleanup in 90’s. (courtesy of CM Wojahn)

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