On City’s Environmental Wastes and Emissions

College Park Wastes and Emissions

The Committee for a Better Environment (CBE) of the City of College Park has recently released data on the waste and emission generated by various entities within the city.

The largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is the stationary energy use at the University of Maryland, emitting 54 percent of total emissions. This is largely due to the high numbers of students living on campus and the relatively large and densely packed buildings compared to other areas of College Park.

However, it is also important to keep in mind that one reason the University might seem like such a large emitter is that it keeps better track of its emissions beyond general electricity and analogous data is not available for the general community. For instance, residents do not report when they use propane for their backyard grills, but the University tracks many of those types of emissions.

The second largest contributors are stationary commercial users, which comprise 21.5 percent of the total.

The third largest contributors are the on-road vehicles, which contribute 16.8 percent, followed by residential users, wastes, and finally aviation at, 6.9 percent, 1 percent, and .1 percent respectively.

Police to Outreach to Metro Riders Today

Dubbed Operation Blue Tide, the PGPD and Metro Police will jointly start a campaign to outreach the Metro riders to curb crime in Metro’s PG county stations today. Here is more.

The Redistricting Dilemma – The Other Way to Fix Disparity

University of Maryland

Recently, I came across this interesting post by our NCPCA president Mark Shroder, who brought the important issue of redistricting, that the City has recently went through. (Btw, Mark wrote another post later to clarify the matter a little further).

I’m glad Mark brought the issue to everyone. There really is a disparity between the residents of District 1 and the other  3 districts, when it comes to voter representation.

The main reason for this disparity can be traced to the number of residents in these districts actually voting in council elections. In the last few elections, district 1 voted in large numbers when compared to those in other 3 districts. The ratio is as high as 3 to 1.

What this mean, as Mark rightly pointed out, district 1 voters are far less powerful than that of the voters in other 3 districts, even though the 4 districts are equal number of residents registered to vote.

So why this has been happening? Mainly, the other 3 districts constitute a large number of student population, who seldom go to the voting booth.

So how do we address this unbalance? disparity?

One way to fix this, is by dividing the district boundaries in a way that would truly represent the areas based on folks who actually go to voting booth. This may make district 1 smaller, but the disparity in representation will be gone.

However, this design is based on the assumption that students are not active participants in this electoral process, even though they do “reside” in the city.

I think, there could be another way. And that is by making our students realize that it’s their lack of participation that is causing this disparity.

True we can keep this student-resident debate going as long as wish, but I think getting our students involved in City’s electoral process more involved will be a win-win situation.

Students can be residents’ partners when improving our communities and neighborhoods in the city, thus getting them involved in City’s civic and neighborhood matters can only bring fruits.

Metro Security Camera Schematic

WMATA has recently released the electronic version of the schematic plans for the camera and call box locations along the Lackawana Footpath to Greenbelt station. Please see below.

Schematic for cameras and call boxes

Greenbelt Metro and MD 193 Sector Plan Workshop

Greenbelt Sector Plan Map

The MD Park and Planning (M-NCPPC) has finalized the time and location for our second community workshop. It will start at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 21, 2011 at the Greenbelt Youth Center located at 99 Centerway.

The focus of this workshop will be on the Capital Office Park, Golden Triangle Office Park, University Square, Charlestown, and Belle Point. Topics to be discussed include land use, transportation, public safety, and the environment.

Upcoming workshops in the fall will focus on the Greenbelt Metro Station and portions of the MD 193 corridor west of Kenilworth Avenue.

You can learn more about the sector plan by visiting the project website at www.pgplanning.org/greenbelt.htm, or by contacting Chad Williams at 301-952-3171 or via e-mail at chad.williams@ppd.mncppc.org.

Summer Safety Tips

Neighborhood Watch

As the summer season is upon us, here are a few useful tips for neighbors, drivers and parents.

Tips for Homeowners
• Keep doors in your home closed and locked including your garage doors. An open door is an invitation.
• When choosing you vacation spot you might want to do some research to find out if the area you are visiting is safe, to start checking for beautiful and filled with nature spots, see here the blog voyage Costa Rica.
• Plan for vacation by having your mail and newspapers stopped or having a neighbor pick them up. Leave inside lights on timers to create the impression that your house is occupied. Be sure to set your alarm system. Have a lawn service or neighbor mow your lawn. • Avoid home improvement scams and deception burglaries by taking a proactive approach. Be particularly alert to anyone in your neighborhood looking to perform home repair and asking to gain entry into your home. Ask to see identification and let them know you are going to call and get verification from their company before allowing them inside. If they are legitimate, they won’t mind the wait.

Tips for Drivers
• Do not leave valuables or cash in your car. If you must leave items in the car, lock them in the trunk. If you have folding rear seats, make sure those are locked, too.
• Be alert for children playing in neighborhoods and residential areas. Young children may be more concerned about catching a ball that rolls into the street than watching for vehicles coming toward them.
• Drive safely and slowly around parks and playgrounds. More children are out playing during the summer.

Tips for Parents
• Provide a list of phone numbers of neighbors, family, and friends that your child can call in an emergency. Make sure your child knows how to dial 911 and when it is appropriate to do so.
• Know the route your child will take to and from a given location. Remind your child never to take a shortcut or deviate from the agreed-upon route.
• Establish rules for using the Internet. Children should have adult supervision when online. Make sure your child knows to never give out personal information on the Internet.
• Require your child to check in with a parent before leaving the house and when returning home. Teach your child that there is safety in numbers and that it is best to be with a group of friends when going places without an adult.
• Provide a bike helmet and require your child to wear it as well as brightly colored or reflective clothing.

Hollywood Elementary to Cut Teachers, Staff

Hollywood Elementary School

Hollywood Elementary School will be losing 2 classroom teachers and  the reading recovery teacher, the school Principal Barbara Caskey said in an email.

“The pre-k program will be half day so we lost that position plus a paraprofessional.  The media position was cut to .4 so we lost that position.” – Ms. Caskey said.

The school will have some larger classes next year with fewer services to help students.

As many as 700 teaching positions will be slashed in Prince George’s County next school year, marking another year of reductions for the cash-strapped school system, according to this report.

The cuts came as part of the new school budget, which was approved recently.  The board earlier anticipated some 1,132 positions cut to close $85M budget gap.

Teachers have been asked to take advantage of the early retirement incentive program. 500 teachers have already applied for early retirement.

Students will face growing class sizes and new fees. Class sizes will increase by about one student in most grades, particularly in middle schools, where about 250 positions are targeted for reduction. A new athletic fee will charge high school students $50 to participate in school sports.

Metro Agrees to Plant Trees, Maintain Vegetation Across Creek

Cleared stream near Greenbelt Metro

Along with agreeing to install security cameras near the north College Park entrance of the Greenbelt station, WMATA has also agreed to plant trees and maintain vegetation across the creek that runs under the pathway connecting to our north College Park neighborhood.

Right after the sexual assault incident last year near the Metro entrance, the Metro authority (WMATA) did a brush a cleanup around the pathway causing a major uproar among some residents.  To them, Metro’s cleanup was too aggressive and probably destroyed the small stream that runs near the brushes.

These residents and City’s Committee for a Better Environment (CBE) sent a letter to Metro asking them to replant the stream area to restore the environment there without sacrificing public safety of nearby residents and Metro riders.

According to the plan, Metro plans to restore the stream bed near the entrance. After removing sediment deposits they plan to install a new rock-bed in the channel. They will plant 5 or 6 new trees. With respect to the area between the stream and the Hollywood Park fence, they will permit natural growth of the vegetation in this area and on the side between the Metro station and the stream they will allow natural growth for a 20ft buffer (from the stream).

WMATA estimated it will take about a year for the vegetation to fully grow back. Maintenance staff will keep other areas trimmed to prevent the overgrowth that we saw prior to last year’s big cutting.

Though ot was not quite what the residents and the CBE asked for, it’s good to see that Metro is responding. We’ll have to see how well they maintain the area now.

Residents Take a Peek at Draft Pattern Book

College Park Pattern Book Meeting, June 20, 2011

A handful of residents, City officials and architects gathered at the City Hall to take a look at the first draft of the pattern book.

Back in January, the City awarded a contract to a Pittsburgh based contracting farm, Urban Design Associates (UDA) to develop the book and make this available free to everyone interested in the city.

The principal architect at Urban Design Associates, Eric Osth unveiled the draft document at Monday’s meeting. In an hour long presentation, he highlighted the

The 72 page draft pattern book has 6 major sections (A to F).

Section A covers an overview of the book, including content like how to Use this pattern book and the City’s permitting process.

Section B goes in details in covering the 11 major neighborhoods of the city, namely, Cherry Hill/North and South Autoville, Berwyn, Calvert Hills, College Park Estates/Yarrow, College Park Woods, Crystal Springs/Patricia Court, Daniels Park/Branchville, Hollywood, Lakeland, Old Town and Sunnyside.

Section C covers various architectural patterns of City’s houses, such as victorian, colonial revival, craftsman and cape cod.

Section D talks about house placement and composition for new constructions, additions / ancillary structures, renovations and transformations / restoration and materials / manufacturers.

The section E covers sustainability part of housing designs and improvements, such as site design, energy efficiency, living environment, outdoor livability, environmental / ecological Considerations, energy efficiency, water conservation / quality, native plant use, maintenance, environmental protection during construction, and green design resources.

The final section F talks about how the ideas in the pattern book can be implemented through either homeowner or neighborhood led efforts.

The City will likely be printing a few copies of the final pattern book to keep at City Hall and possibly at Davis Hall, and then have a few copies that they will make available for purchase at cost.  There seems to be no plan to make print copies available for free.

District 1 Town Hall Meeting, Tomorrow

Mary Lehman

Join Councilwoman Mary Lehman with special guest County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III for an informative update on the budget and county initiatives.

You will have the opportunity to ask questions, meet new heads of county agencies and get the latest from Department of Environmental Resources, Public Works & Transportation, PG Fire Department, PG Police Department, Office of Management & Budget, PG Public Schools, Revenue Authority and more.

The meeting will take place at Martin Luther King, Jr. School, 4545 Ammendale Road Beltsville, MD 20705, tomorrow at 7-9 PM.

For more information, please contact Bridget Warren, Chief of Staff BEWarren@co.pg.md.us

Should the City Oppose a Referendum Petition?

William Chicca of PGPOA at NCPCA

The PGPOA (Prince George’s Property Owner’s Association) representatives came to NCPCA meeting last week to make their case to north College Park residents.

The residents passed a motion against the proposed changes that the PGPOA wants to make to the City’s charter. I also personally felt that the petition has languages that may pose problems to the City, if the referendum passes in November ballot (more on that later).

The residents have every right to make their opinions about the petition, but the whole discussion made me thinking of an important question – should the City of College Park, as  a government entity oppose the PGPOA petition, or any petition, for that matter?

Let’s set aside the details of the petition language for now. The City allows any group of residents to put a referendum question to its Mayor and Council election, provided that group is able to collect signatures of 20% of total registered voters. The subject of putting an issue to referendum was given by the City, thus shouldn’t the City allow any group to campaign for any change they want to the City charter?

I think the City should have taken a neutral role on any referendum petition, instead let the residents debate and decide whether they like it or not.

It’s like a judge allowing a citizen to bring any case to his court as long as that citizen fulfills the procedure to submit that case. Until the case is brought and heard in his court room, he stays away from giving his verdict on the case, nor does he allow his jury to make an opinion in the case.

I saw a “Dear Neighbor” letter from a group of residents opposing the petition, and I thought that was quite informative in convincing many residents to make their minds why the proposed changes are bad for the City.

I also think the residents made a good case in last week’s NCPCA meeting against the Charter amendments.

Personally, I didn’t like the way PGPOA handled the petition business from the beginning. Residents should have been told from the outset that it’s them who are behind those petitions. It took them a few weeks to come forward and solve that mystery. I also think if the referendum passes, it will potentially prohibit the City from collecting revenues / taxes from new developments. Thus, I will most likely vote against the referendum questions, should they appear in November election.

At the same time, I think the City should “officially” stay away from asking residents whether they should sign on a petition or not. They should rather stick to verifying 20% signature rule that they introduced to allow others to change City Charter. At the end, the City should let the residents decide the rest.

Pattern Book Public Meeting Tomorrow

College Park Pattern Book

The public meeting about the pattern book will take place this upcoming Monday, June 20, at 7 pm in City Hall.

Join city planning staff and consultants from Urban Design Associates, a nationally recognized architecture and urban design firm, to preview the draft pattern book for improving homes and neighborhoods.

Learn about the design characteristics and architectural styles in your neighborhood and how this do-it-yourself guide can be used for your home projects.

Get information on renovations, additions, landscaping, energy efficiency as well as materials and manufacturers. Provide your comments before this guide is finalized.

NCPCA Elects a New Board

Mark Shroder, NCPCA President (the Patch)

This is the month of June, the time when NCPCA elects a new officers’ body.

In its last week’s meeting at Davis Hall, members elected four officers. Mark Shroder and I (duh!) were both re-elected for another year as president and secretary. Bob Seward was elected as vice president and former president Larry Bleau was elected as our new treasurer.

Congratulations to Mark, Bob and Larry.

Joe Smith decided not to run another year as a treasurer. He has been an excellent help in not only keeping track of NCPCA funds, but also doing many other things in the background, most notably sending monthly mails to members. I know it’s not an easy job.

Let’s also thank our outgoing vice president Bill Robertson, who is perhaps the most senior member of NCPCA. As Mark said, Bill has been an active community activist, even before he was introduced to NCPCA in the early 90’s.

Greenbelt Metro to Get Cameras, Finally!

Greenbelt Metro north entrance

It took a 300+ signature petition followed by a rape last summer and years of violent crime incidents to get Metro Police agree on this.

Greenbelt’s Metro’s north College Park entrance will be getting four cameras this summer.

Metro Police disclosed this information in a stand-up meeting with the City and State officials yesterday early morning at the Metro’s north entrance.

In last March, Metro announced that they received a grant to install 153 cameras across the Metro systems, however Metro said the cameras at the Greenbelt Metro would most likely be installed inside the station.

Metro said four cameras and two call boxes will be installed by the end of this summer. One camera will be placed where riders come out of the tunnel and it will scan the area around the tunnel entrance including the area where the bikes are parked. The three other cameras will be placed along the path.

All the cameras will be have the capability of live monitoring as well as being recorded.

Cameras will be able to be seen at the station manager’s kiosk and in WMATA police’s downtown offices. The cameras will be equipped with an IP address and WMATA thinks the City’s contract officers and Prince George’s Police will be able to log-in to view what is occurring on the cameras. Signs notifying the public that the area is under 24 hour surveillance will also be installed.

This exciting news shows an example how residents and City officials can work together to make something good for the community.

Learn Gardening and Win a Free Rain Barrel!


Come and attend Gardening Workshop this Saturday (June 18) 10 am to 12 Noon at Davis Hall and win one of 10 Free Rain Barrels!

The workshop will cover water conservation and gardens, including seven basic principles to ensure that you save water, money and time.

Kimberley M. Knox—community outreach manager for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) will be on hand to present the workshop and answer your questions. Ms. Knox is the coordinator of WSSC’s native-plant demonstration garden, member of the Beltsville Garden Club, and editor of Landscaping for Water Conservation: Xeriscape!

To Register: Please email janiso@erols.com or call Elisa Vitale at 240-487-3538, X2.

Following the workshop, CBE will hold a drawing to give away 10 60-gallon rain barrels, which will be provided to College Park residents only (must attend the workshop to be eligible and must show current proof of College Park residency (e.g., driver’s license). Note: If you received a free rain barrel at our last workshop, you are not eligible for this drawing.

After the drawing, Barry from Aquabarrel® will provide details of the assembly of the EarthMinded™ RainStation™. For more information about Aquabarrel’s products (and to see the rain barrel you may get for free), go to http://www.aquabarrel.com/CollegePark.

Non-residents who attend the workshop may pre-purchase a rain barrel that Barry will deliver.