Trail Talk 3: Vacant House, Wild Animal and Code Enforcement

Vacant / foreclosed house - a source of concerns

One of the major complaints I’m hearing during my talks with my neighbors is the issue with the vacant houses and its effect on the quality of life.

Due to deep recession we’re in, our city is having a record number of vacant and foreclosed houses. Many rental houses are staying vacant because of lack of renters, who prefer to rent a cheap apartments instead of relatively expensive houses.

The vacant and foreclosed houses are causing a serious concerns among the neighbors who live next to these houses. A major complaint they have is that the rental houses are not kept in good condition by the landlords and the banks who own these houses. This, they think, is degrading the neighborhood and bringing the property values of the entire neighborhood.

I met a neighbor the other day who says her next door house is foreclosed, but the yards are not kept in good condition. She also suspects some wild animals probably live in the shed located in the backyard. This neighbor said sometime she wakes up in the middle of the night hearing animal sound. She is also afraid of her children at home.

Next day, I called the City, who did a good job in sending the code enforcement also someone from the animal control to take care of the situation.

The issue here I see is that, our City needs to have a better system in reporting and tracking these code enforcement related issues. Though currently, one can search the code violations on city’s website, but there is no online system to report and track these issues. Residents should also report these incidents anonymously, since some of them may be afraid of retaliations afterwards.

Trail Talk 2: WSSC Resurfacing Mess and the Fix

WSSC Resurfacing Schedule in Hollywood, October '11

As I was campaigning the other day on Nantucket Rd, I met a neighbor who brought a common issues on our streets.

The neighbor was pointing to the road resurfacing and the related landscaping issues that the WSSC has been doing.

First, it took WSSC for about a year to complete the water line replacement. There are some serious concerns on this work, which I reported earlier.

Then when it did the resurfacing, the landscaping work was not done up to its standard.

This neighbor showed me an area near her house where weeds grew in place of new grasses. I called City’s Public works and have them ask WSSC contractors to redo the landscaping on that street. If you have any such as issues on your street, please let me know.

As for as the final resurfacing work goes, please see the map on the left on the schedule. All resurfacing work should be done by this weekend.

College Park Spared from Tornado’s Wrath

I was en route to the NCPCA’s council candidate forum last night, when a tornado watch alert came from the University of Maryland.

The message was rather brief – “A tornado is forecast to strike the campus within the next 13 minutes. Seek shelter immediately.”. It was sent by UMD Alerts to all of its users.

Two more alters were sent later, but fortunately, the twister did not hit our city.

The USA Today is reporting that a suspected tornado, touched down in New Kent County and Louisa County, VA.

This situation happened just more than ten years after an F-3 tornado hit the campus, killing two sisters who were UMD students. The tornado continued on a 17.5 mile path and injured 55 others.

September 2011 Crime Map

Here is the September 2011 crime map for north College Park and the surrounding area. For details of each crime incident, please click on the red icon. You can also see the table at the bottom of the map below for the entire report.

[mappress mapid=”54″]

Read more »

Candidate Forum, Greenbelt Sector Plan at Tomorrow’s NCPCA Meeting

NCPCA - It's Your Neighborhood Association

Tomorrow is the second Thursday of the month and hence the day when we have our monthly meeting.

We’ll start the meeting with a candidate forum. Candidates who will participate in the upcoming November 8 council election will talk about themselves and what they want to do once elected or re-elected. We’re expecting to have all 10 candidates running in four districts. District 1 and 3 are contested, where as District 2 and 4 are not. Mayor Andrew Fellows is also running, uncontested. At the end of the forum, you will have opportunities to ask candidates questions.

Following the forum, members will discuss a few new developments on the Greenbelt sector plan. We’ll most likely talk about the community meeting we had in last September 22. The plan has also recently played an interesting role in county’s redistricting boundary plan, where Greenbelt Metro has been placed in District 3 or 4; previously the Metro was part of District 1, which includes North College Park.

Members will also vote on a revised NCPCA by-laws on some changes in the areas of membership and dues structure. I hope to see that passed by members.

See you all tomorrow.

Student Housing at the Book Exchange Site Faces Opposition

Book Exchange Elevation from College Avenue (Rethink College Park)

The Mayor and Council will discuss tonight the detailed site plan of the proposed Maryland Book Exchange Development.

The council agenda says it will disapprove the plan, citing the failure of the developer to come up with a plan consistent with the US 1 sector plan.

The proposed plan calls for 6 story – 334 unit student housing at the site. Some on the council think the building height is too high given the residential character of the nearby neighborhood.

The North College Park Civic Association (NCPCA) discussed this matter in its October 2010 meeting and members generally spoke in favor of the proposed development.

City Eyes to Extend Rent Control – But Should it?

House for Rent

City’s much controversial rent control ordinance is set to have an extension.

The ordinance first passed in 2006, however due to litigation with the Prince George’s property association (PGPOA), it only went into effect last year.

In 2009, the City paid a consulting firm [Sage Policy Group] to study rent Control in the City’s residential areas. Titled “There Remains a Rational Basis for Rent Stabilzation in College Park“, the group concluded this in its final report “Rental conversion continues, homeownership is falling and rents are on the rise. Research indicates that stable homeownership is associated with numerous societal benefits and that to the extent that homeownership declines, communities are less well-positioned to enjoy those benefits.”

Now the City is trying to extend the rent control ordinance by studying again the need of continuing the ordinance. In tonight’s council session, the Mayor and council will discuss just that.

It’s not quite clear how much this study would cost.

The primary goal of having a rent control is to prevent single family houses being turned into rental units. However, as we already have a record number of foreclosed / vacant houses in the city, and new student housing being added in downtown, does that tell us that there is less interest from the investors to buy residential houses and convert them to rental?

I’m not a big fan of the PGPOA (the landlord association), but do we really need to spend on another study – I wonder.

Metro Bike and Ride Construction Begins at the College Park Station

Bike and Ride construction at the College Park station parking lot

Metro’s planning website PlanItMetro is reporting that Metro’s contractor began constructing our first secure bicycle parking facility at the College Park garage.

It says, in the spirit of our “Park & Ride” facilities for vehicles, this facility will be called a “Bike & Ride.”

Temporary fencing is up around the site now while a new concrete slab is poured.  Steel walls are being fabricated and will be installed over the coming weeks, along with new lighting, cameras,  doors, and of course bike racks.

Metro is saying that it should be finished with construction this winter – unfortunately just as cold weather begins to discourage many cyclists, but the timing will allow us to work out any kinks before the spring.

According to the Washington Post, Customers can register to use the area and will receive an access card or fob that will permit access. The fee will be about 3 to 5 cents per hour, Metro said, but free bike racks will still be available at the station.

Purple Line Finally Gets the Go-Ahead

Rendering of Purple line (ReThink College Park)

After years of opposition, the Purple Line, the proposed 16-mile light rail that would operate between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, received approval from the Federal Transit Administration to move into a preliminary engineering phase.

Last summer, the UMd agreed to allow Purple line to run through its campus.

Essentially, yesterday’s news means that the FTA thinks the project is a good one and can actually be built. Now, more detailed plans will be discussed, including schedules, cost estimates and completion of environmental studies.

It is just one step in the process of getting the Purple Line rolling — but an important one.

“Governor O’Malley and I have made public transportation one of our top priorities because we understand that Maryland cannot continue to move forward if we are buried in gridlock,” Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said in a press release.

Next, Maryland Transportation leaders will go to the federal government asking for funding.

The line would connect the Bethesda and New Carrollton Metro stations, traveling east-west through Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

If all goes according to plan, the rail could be rolling by 2020.

[Source WTOP]

Trail Talk 1: Losing Hope, Neighbor Wants to Leave College Park

Quitting College Park

On my campaign trail, as I’ve been knocking doors of my neighbors and talking to them for the past few days, I’m hearing many stories – some good, some not so good. I’ll try to share some of them here with you and see if you have anything to share too.

Here is a neighbor, Jane (not her real name), that I met the other day and spent about half an hour talking different things about her life in College Park.

Jane is a retired federal employee. She has been living in College Park for more than 35 years. After retirement she’s been spending most her time at home.

“I’ve way too much time to find things in my neighborhood” – she said. “So expect me to complain about a few things” – she warns me at the outset of our discussion.

Jane said she is not a computer whiz, so she does not read online news. Most of her information comes from words of mouth, and some from local paper, such as the Gazette. But she is not happy with the fact that the Gazette does not have an exclusive edition covering College Park only.

“How do I know what is going on in that intersection?” – Jane refers to the recent construction at the Rhode Island and Edgewood Road. The county is trying to install traffic lights there.

“Why don’t my councilmember comes to me and keep me informed?” – she continues. “Do they need to come only during election year?” Jane opens up.

She is also concerned about the crime situation in her neighborhood.

“See that alarm?” – she pointed to the alarm system at the front porch. “Why do I have to pay extra to feel secure?” “Why can’t I enjoy my afternoon leaving my doors open?”

Jane invested in College Park through a property she bought several years ago. She doesn’t like the landlord association PGPOA, but she thinks the City has a double standard in dealing with residential rental properties and the high rise apartment complex across Route 1.

“I’m leaving” – Jane said with frustration. “And so will my neighbors, none of them said they will stay here any more”.

I tried to give Jane hope, citing a better way to get in touch with residents and some good improvement we’re working in the area od public safety. I also talked about redevelopment of Rt 1 in north College Park, that can revitalize our area in north College Park. She seemed to calm down a little, but years of frustration did not seem to completely convince her to stay in the city.

She said she will stay in College Park, not because she sees light at the end of the tunnel, but because of the poor housing market. She doesn’t have any other choice but to stay.

“Don’t worry, I’m stuck here at least for a few more years”. Jane said ending our conversation.

Patch Interview, NCPCA Candidate Forum

Patch Interview

Yesterday the College Park Patch published an interview that I gave early this week. Here I talked about the issues College Park, in particular our area in District 1 are facing and the ways to address them. Please check that out here.

Also, next Thursday (Oct 13), at 7:30pm, the North College Park Civic Association will be hosting a candidate forum. Meeting starts at 7:30pm. Candidates will speak why they are running for office this time, what they see as the biggest challenge for the city in the coming years and what they hope to accomplish during their next term in office. There will will also be a short period at the end for questions and answers from those attending that night. See you all there.

Alerts: Scooter Theft, Texting While Driving

I thought I should share with you two important alerts: one on the recent rise in scooter thefts and another a warning against texting while driving.

Police community officer POFC J. Black is saying that there has been a recent increase in the number of motor scooter thefts in the area of College Park.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent you from becoming a victim:

  • Please remember to properly secure your scooter and utilize any and all anti theft devices including wheel locks, scooter alarms, and armored cables.
  • All of these items can be picked up at your local bike shop.
  • Remember to park your scooter in a lighted area.
  • Report any suspicious activity to the County Police at 911 or 301-352-1200.
  • Please record the serial number of your scooter.

In case you have more questions, please contact Officer J. Black #3014 COPS-B, District I (5000 Rhode Island Avenue Hyattsville, MD 20781) at 301-699-2631 (W) and 240-695-7508 (C).

Beginning October 1st, if you are thinking of picking up your phone and reading emailsat a red light, don’t. The prohibition of texting and driving became law two years ago,but did not exclude reading texts. That loophole is now closed.
Maryland’s Texting While Driving Law takes effect on October 1, 2011 and prohibits all drivers in Maryland from using an electronic device to write, send, or read a text message while operating amotor vehicle in the travel lanes of the roadway.

Please note that this is a primary offense law and a misdemeanor crime. A first offense carries a fine of $70 and a second offense fine is $110. This law does not apply to texting 9-1-1 or using a GPS.

According to the US Department of Transportation, an estimated 800,000 vehicles nationally were driven by someone who used a hand-held cell phone during their drive last year.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 67 percent of drivers admitted to talking on their cell phones within the last 30 days, and 21 percent of drivers indicated they had read or sent a text or e-mail message. That figure rose to 40 percent for drivers under the age of 35.

Let’s Keep Greenbelt Metro within County District 1

Councilmanic District boundaries around Greenbelt Metro

A proposed county district boundary map for our area has put Greenbelt Metro in District 3.

Currently Metro is within councilmanic District 1.

The Greenbelt Metro development has always been a matter of concern for north College Park residents. Our area will be directly affected by any negative impact of the development there.

Residents are concerned about possible high rise constructions and also storm water management responsible to carry water from the Narragansett Run in north College Park. Failure during heavy rain could have catastrophic effects, such as flooding, on homeowners throughout the area.

If the Metro area goes into District 3, decisions about Metro development will largely be decided by county council representative in district 3. In other words, residents of district 1 will be in a weaker position to influence decisions made on these development.

Thus I think for the better interest of north College Park, the Greenbelt Metro should stay where it is now (in District 1). If you are concerned, you should write to the Clerk of the County Council (County Administration Building), at this address: 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD

Fire Damages NCP Home: Tips to Prevent Furnace Fires

Fire trucks on Laguna Street

I was driving on Rhode Island Avenue yesterday afternoon, when I saw fire trucks rushing to Laguna Street (east of Rhode Island Avenue). I followed them and later found that it was one of my neighbor’s home that caught fire.

Fortunately, the family was safe. The fire damaged some areas around the attic / roof area of the house and was believed to be caused by the heating furnace. Due to the recent waves of cold weather hitting our area, this neighbor turned on the heating for the first time this afternoon. If you want fireproof materials for your home, you can easily find them on sites like 防火門.

My thanks to BHVFD and CPFD for doing a great job in getting the fire under control.

In case you have a gas furnace in your house, here are a few safety tips you can follow to prevent fires due to furnace heating.

  • Keep the area around your furnace clean and unobstructed.
  • Keep the burner area of your furnace clean.
  • Schedule a duct cleaning every 2 years to maintain the cleanliness of your furnace.
  • Furnaces that require lubrication on the motors and bearings should be attended to by a qualified heating technician once a year, if it is not working is better to replace it, if you are looking for a small heater for the home then have a look there as they have some great selections.
  • Do not have anything combustible within six inches of your vent pipe.
  • Do not close off more than 20% of the registers in your house. This can cause high resistance and unnecessary heat build up in the furnace.
  • Do not store combustible material such as paint thinners, gasoline, etc. near your furnace.

North College Park Resident Featured in the Washington Post Article

Robert Boone on the Washington Post

Robert Boone, a North College Park resident has been featured recently in the Lifestyle section of  the Washington Post.

In case you didn’t know, Robert Boone has been an active member of the North College Park Citizens Associations (NCPCA), and a member of City’s Neighborhood Watch steering committee.

Let us all congratulate Robert Boone for his good hard work with the Anacostia Watershed Society. Thank you Robert, we’re all proud of you!

You can read the complete article here:

Anacostia River: An activist who wouldn’t take no for an answer