Kabir Cares

College Park's trusted source for daily news and updates since 2009

NCPCA BBQ – This Saturday

Please join your College Park neighbors for a cookout at the VFW (5051 Branchville Rd.) this Saturday from 1PM to 5PM! Catch up with friends and make some new ones, too! If you’ve never been to the VFW (5051 Branchville Road), you’re in for a treat! We’ll be hanging out in the lovely back yard area. To access the space, follow the sidewalk along the right side of the building to the backyard. No need to use the front door. There will be a few yard games and some arts and crafts!

Bridging Gaps in Mental Health Care: The Impact of Care Solace in College Park

In November 2023, a significant step was taken by the Mayor and Council of College Park to address the pressing issue of mental health care. They approved a groundbreaking contract with Care Solace, an organization dedicated to serving as a vital hub for residents’ mental health and social support needs.

Care Solace operates as a centralized platform facilitating care coordination across various levels of government and service providers. Their extensive network extends beyond state lines, with partnerships with school districts, municipalities, and counties nationwide. In Maryland, they’ve forged a partnership with the Harford County School District, showcasing their commitment to supporting communities across the state.

With the contract fully ratified at the end of December 2023, the services provided by Care Solace became available to all residents of College Park and city staff. The array of mental health coordination services offered includes a 24/7 online platform, multilingual access, and a “warm handoff” process ensuring seamless transitions between care providers.

One of the remarkable aspects of Care Solace’s impact is evident in the data collected since the service’s inception. With over 900 calls received from College Park residents, the majority of cases involve individuals between the ages of 18 and 59, highlighting the pressing need for accessible mental health support in this demographic.

The top reasons for calls include anxiety, depression, trauma, and stress, with a notable percentage reporting challenges related to suicidal ideation or eating disorders. This underscores the critical role Care Solace plays in addressing a wide spectrum of mental health concerns within the community.

Moreover, Care Solace’s commitment to inclusivity is demonstrated by their provision of services to individuals with public insurance or no insurance, ensuring equitable access to care for all residents.

Looking ahead, both city staff and Care Solace remain dedicated to raising awareness about this invaluable service and ensuring its continued utilization within the community. The initial data paints a promising picture of the program’s effectiveness in reaching its target population and filling gaps in mental health care services.

In conclusion, the partnership between College Park and Care Solace represents a significant milestone in the city’s efforts to prioritize mental health and well-being. By harnessing the power of innovation and collaboration, they are paving the way for a healthier, more resilient community.

Advancing Youth Engagement: Proposal for a Youth Advisory Committee in College Park

In recent years, the Mayor and Council of College Park have deliberated over the establishment of a Youth Advisory Committee (YAC), recognizing its potential to enhance youth engagement within the city. Despite previous discussions in 2020 and 2022 being deferred due to staffing constraints and the COVID-19 pandemic, the current landscape presents a ripe opportunity to revisit this initiative.

Since April 2022, with schools returning to full-time, in-person learning and the appointment of an education support specialist capable of serving as the staff liaison for a YAC, the conditions for its establishment have significantly improved. This report delves into the rationale behind why College Park should consider forming a YAC at this juncture.

The primary objective of a YAC is to amplify youth involvement within the city while furnishing the Council with insights into issues affecting the younger demographic. By instituting a YAC, College Park can foster open lines of communication for young residents, empowering them to advocate for themselves and boosting their engagement with local governance.

Drawing from research and National League of Cities (NLC) guidelines, a prospective College Park YAC could comprise 8-10 high school students from neighboring schools, convening 6-10 times per school year. While no high school resides within the city limits, College Park is home to students from various institutions, including Parkdale High School, High Point High School, and others.

Should the Council elect to proceed, staff seeks guidance on defining the YAC’s mission statement, charge, and initial goals. Additionally, deliberation on membership criteria, such as GPA thresholds, age requirements, and meeting attendance, is warranted. Staff will then propose a recruitment strategy and address logistical considerations.

Examining existing YACs in Maryland, such as Greenbelt’s and the Maryland Youth Advisory Council, provides valuable insights into structure and functionality. These councils, characterized by diverse membership and a commitment to meaningful engagement, serve as exemplars for College Park’s envisioned YAC.

Furthermore, the National League of Cities offers recommendations for authentic youth engagement, emphasizing the importance of valuing youth as partners, providing necessary support, and ensuring inclusivity.

In conclusion, the establishment of a Youth Advisory Committee in College Park holds immense promise for nurturing civic participation among its youth population. By embracing this initiative, the city can cultivate a culture of collaboration, empower its younger residents, and pave the way for a more inclusive and vibrant community.

City Council Approves Student Subsidy Pilot Program

At last night’s City Council meeting, the Council approved the much-discussed needs-based student housing subsidy pilot program for students living in College Park.

The proposal would allocate $150,000 to the program. The program will fund up to 60 grants of $1250 to Pell Grant-eligible students with qualifying off-campus rental leases and up to 60 grants of $1250 to full-time graduate students with qualifying off-campus rental leases and household incomes of 60% AMI or less. Applicants will be chosen by lottery, and awards will be issued by City staff once the required documentation is confirmed.

The vote to approve the grant was 5-3. Councilmembers Hernandez (D1), Esters (D2) and Mitchell (D3) voted in opposition.

This motion amended the original motion to allocate $225,000 for the program, with $1,500 each to 75 undergraduate and 75 graduate students.

Another motion to table the proposed program and create a housing subsidy task force failed by a vote of 4-3-1. According to the City Charter, five affirmative votes are required to pass a motion when the full Council (with eight council members) is present.

The Mayor and Council received quite a few comments from residents. Almost all student residents supported the proposed subsidy program, whereas nearly all non-student residents opposed the program. Regardless of their opinions, I want to thank everyone who attended the meeting or sent their comments.


Groundbreaking Moments: The Re-Launch of College Park Wood Clubhouse

Recently, I had the pleasure of joining community members, city officials, and staff for the groundbreaking of the new College Park Wood Clubhouse at 3545 Marlborough Way. Construction kicks off soon, and we aim to wrap it up by the end of the year. Thanks to everyone who came out despite the rain!
Stay tuned for updates and learn more about this fantastic project here: https://collegeparkmd.gov/cpwoodsclubhouse
(photo credit: The City of College Park, MD, Barbara DiMaria Pianowski)

Bike With a COP

Join the Prince George’s County Police Department for a bike ride this Saturday, April 13th at 9AM! The day will be filled with fun activities, drinks, and snacks at Lake Artemesia.

Tree Pruning Work: April 2024

Alplundh, Pepco’s contractor, plans to prune or to remove trees for power line clearance for their four year maintenance cycle. The work is tentatively scheduled to start the last week of April 2024 and will occur for approximately one month. To learn more, visit https://www.collegeparkmd.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=595

Can-Ducky Derby | April 20

Put on a big hat or bow tie and join us on April 20 from 1-4pm at the Old Parish House for the Can-DUCKY Derby…a fun backyard party like no other! This Kentucky Derby style party will include a live Dixieland jazz band, prizes for best hat & bow tie, and rubber duck races! Bring a canned good to receive a duck racer. Space is limited. Register at www.collegeparkmd.gov/duckderby24

Developer to Present Preliminary Plan for Former Campus Village

LV Collective announced plans for a 299-unit development at the former site of the Campus Village Shopping Center (photo credit: StudentHousingBusienss.com)

This development will take the place of the former Campus Village Shopping Center. If you recall, the City grappled with keeping the small businesses at the former shopping center in College Park when they were told to leave a couple of months ago. Thankfully, the City was able to retain some of the popular businesses, such as Taqueria Habanero, in College Park. A few others are negotiating with the developer regarding a plan to return to the retail area of the development once it is complete. The development will include additional shops, a community center, a co-working space, and other amenities. The City Council will discuss the preliminary submission plan at next week’s meeting.

LV Collective has submitted a Preliminary Plan of Subdivision (PPS) to consolidate 9 existing lots into one 2.71-acre parcel.

At the time of the Detailed Site Plan (DSP), the Applicant will seek permission to construct a mixed-use development comprising 299 student-oriented apartments, 13,305 square feet of retail space, and a 2,219 square foot community space at the location of the former “Campus Village” Shopping plaza.

The Planning Board is scheduled to review the Preliminary Plan on Thursday, April 18th. Park and Planning Staff reports are typically published 2 weeks prior to the hearing date. The Application includes two variation requests: 1. To waive the Public Utility Easement (PUE) requirements, and 2. To waive the 25-foot floodplain setback requirement. Both variation requests are common for developments along Baltimore Avenue and are typically granted. A Detailed Site Plan will be required before development begins. The Planning Board date is set for April 18, 2024.

The estimated construction cost is $124 million, with projected property taxes of $3 million annually once stabilized. The project itself will create 7 full-time jobs and 11 part-time jobs. Additionally, the 13,000+ square feet of retail space will generate additional jobs while supporting local businesses. An estimated 800 temporary construction jobs are projected. The Applicant is open to using College Park businesses and subcontractors.

The Applicant has collaborated with the Lakeland Community and has offered to provide a 2,219-square-foot Lakeland Community space free of charge in the proposed building. The City Council will consider supporting the approval of the Preliminary Plan of Subdivision 4-22034 with some conditions and two variation requests.

Council receive Final Report on Needs-Based Student Housing Subsidy Subcommittee

At next week’s meeting, the Mayor and Council will receive the final report of the Needs-Based Student Housing Subsidy Subcommittee.

The Mayor and Council established the committee during a Council Meeting on July 11, 2023. Subcommittee members include the Mayor and one Councilmember from each district, along with student liaisons, representatives from the Housing Authority of the City of College Park, and City staff, who participate in meetings as non-voting members. The Subcommittee presented to the City Council on January 23, 2024, followed by a public Information Meeting on February 6, 2024.

Updates were provided during the March 5, 2024, Council Meeting. Written comments on the proposal were received and considered. The Subcommittee met on March 14 and March 28 to finalize their report to the Mayor and Council. This report outlines the structure and administration of a City rental assistance pilot program, proposing $1,500 grants for approximately 150 residents. It discusses eligibility criteria, application, and lottery selection processes, noting issues requiring further review and possible next steps.

The City Attorney has been consulted regarding the proposed pilot program and would review the process and requirements of any proposed rental assistance program if the Council decides to proceed.

The Subcommittee addressed challenging issues regarding rental assistance, providing general suggestions for the application, eligibility criteria, and lottery selection process, noting alternative approaches when committee members differed on certain issues.

At this week’s meeting, the Council will receive the presentation and will consider releasing the committee for its duties.

You can read the final committee report here: Need Based Student Subsidy Draft Final Report 4.5.24.

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