KabirCares.org

Bike and Ride Opens at College Park Metro

Yesterday, WMATA opened a bike-and-ride facility at the station, which sits about a mile east of the University of Maryland Campus. The 2,400-square-foot facility designed to provide secure, covered and inexpensive parking for 120 bicycles. Mayor Fellows was there at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Historic Church Aims to Expand

College Park AME Church

At tonight’s worksession, the Council will discuss an application by one of  City’s historic Church to expand its current facilty.

Built in 1920, the current Church is a single-story, 3,665-square foot, brick, “L”-shaped building.

Embry A.M.E. Church in Lakeland has applied for a special exception to build an one-story, 18 feet tall, approximately 1,603- square feet extension at the northwestern comer of the existing building. The proposed addition will contain offices, bathrooms, and other supporting rooms and will not increase the number of seats in the church’s sanctuary, nor the parking requirement for the church. A small shed along the southern property line is proposed to be removed. No parking is currently, or proposed to be, located on-site. In order to construct the addition, the church needs to obtain three things:

1. A special exception in order to have a church located on a lot size of less than one acre. The church is not actually proposing to increase in size and has long been located in the community at this location, but the construction of an addition triggers the requirement for a special exception. In order to be granted a special exception, generally the church must meet a setback requirement of 25 feet for each lot line, and the church currently does not meet this requirement. It only encroaches on the setback requirement on two sides, and the church is requesting a variance from this requirement on both sides

2. A departure from the number of required parking spaces. An on-street parking agreement, between the applicant and the City of College Park provides 50 on-street parking permits for the applicant’s employees and members. Four designated spaces along the Lakeland Road frontage of the site currently provide handicapped parking for the church. The Church currently has 28 seats and the proposed addition does not contemplate an increase in the number of seats in the church’s sanctuary and would not increase the amount of traffic generated by the church.

3. Alternative compliance with the requirements of the Prince George’s Landscape Manual. The Landscape Manual requires certain buffering requirements from adjacent properties, which the church is unable to meet due to the lot size. Instead, the church has developed a landscape plan with 10-foot buffers and a number of local and native trees.

The application is scheduled to go before the Prince George’s County Planning Board on May 31,2012, at which time the Planning Board will determine whether it will hold a hearing or transmit the application directly to the Zoning Hearing Examiner (ZHE). Upon transmittal to the ZHE, the ZHE will schedule a hearing and make a recommendation to the Prince George’s County Council for final review and action.

Staff is recommending that the Council support approval of Special Exception request with a few minor conditions relating to the architectural elevations.

The staff is also recommending that the Council support approval of the departure from the number of required parking spaces and alternative compliance to the requirements of the Landscape Manual.

Rent Control Discussion Comes Back to Council

House for Rent

After the Council blocked the rent control petition last week, here comes another discussion on a similar subject. This time the Council will discuss the actual law.

This is not the first time the Council will discuss the renewal issue. About a month ago, the Council discussed City’s current rent control laws in its April 17 work session. The law is going to expire soon, and hence the urgency of discussing this again to see if the City should renew or not.

The April 17 discussion was put on hold so that the Council could get more information, in addition to what it received from the Sage Group report that recommends to renew the law.

Please read my previous post that I wrote about the report and the law before April 17 worksession.

Depending on tomorrow’s discussion, the Council may or may not take the renewal issue in its May 22 regular meeting.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

NCP Crime Stats: May 5 – 11, 2012

[mappress mapid=”68″]
Date of
Incident
Time of
Incident
Incident
Type

Location
05/06/20121027THEFT4700 Block CHERRY HILL RD
05/09/2012234AUTO, STOLEN & RECOVERED9300 Block CHERRY HILL RD
05/10/20121441B & E, RESIDENTIAL9000 Block ST ANDREWS PL
05/11/2012642B & E, RESIDENTIAL9700 Block 51ST PL
05/11/20121920AUTO, STOLEN9600 Block MILESTONE WAY

Cafritz Hearing Ends Without a Vote

After six days of testimonies and cross examinations, Prince George’s County District Council finally adjourned the public hearing yesterday. It’s unclear when the Council will finally vote on the zoning application. Thanks to NCP resident Mathew Byrd for the 2 part videos on yesterday’s hearing.

College Park Community Foundation Set for Formal Launch

A life-long giving for College Park?

A group of residents have been working for months to form a non-profit community foundation to help support other non-profit and volunteer activities in the city through fundraising and networking.

The group will finally form a steering committee to formally start the foundation’s activities at 6:30 p.m. on May 17 at College Park IHOP (opposite to Shoppers).

If you’re interested in forming the steering committee for the College Park Community Foundation, please visit http://collegeparkfoundation.org/ or contact council member Patrick Wojahn at pwojahn@collegeparkmd.gov

City’s First Bike Park and Ride to Open Next Week

Bike and Ride station at the College Park Metro

College Park’s Bike & Ride facility is set to on next Tuesday, May 15 at 10:00 AM.

This will also the first Bike & Ride facility of its kind in the Metro system. More information is online at the Metro site here.

The Bike & Ride facility is a secure, enclosed parking structure with space for more than 100 bikes. The enclosed 2,400-square-foot room is located on the first level of the parking garage.

Bike & Ride users will need a personal access card to enter the Bike & Ride, providing a second level of security beyond a bike lock.

Bike parking in the facility is charged at a rate of 2 to 5 cents per hour.  There are no monthly or annual fees.  A one-time $5 charge is applied for new customer ID verification.

Metro has been testing the facility for about a month with a selected group of users allowing  them to try out the new system and evaluate how it works.

If you plan to attend the grand opening next week, Metro is strongly encouraging you to arrive on bike – having as many attendees as possible coming on bike will send a great message to our community.

City to Offer Free Downtown Parking Starting Next Month

City garage

Come downtown this summer and see what’s happening in College Park!

Parking will be free in the downtown parking garage on Saturdays and Sundays from June 2 to August 12.

The parking garage is conveniently located on the corner of Knox Road and Yale Avenue, across from City Hall. Check out one of our new restaurants or visit an old favorite.

Also visit the Sunday Farmer’s Market located in the City Hall Lot.  Parking on Sundays is always free downtown.

There are plenty of places to suit your taste – explore the options at www.shopcollegepark.org.

Get reacquainted with downtown College Park this summer with free weekend parking in the parking garage!

Budget Public Hearing Tonight

City of College Park

Not happy with the way the City is planning to spend your hard-earned tax dollars in 2012-2013 budget?

Do you think your tax money will be better spent somewhere that you do not see anywhere in the budget?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I suggest you to come to City Council chamber tonight at 7:00pm and speak.

The FY 2013 CIty budget was officially introduced at the last official meeting on April 24, and this week will be the public hearing.

The budget includes no change in the property tax rate and maintains most services at the same level as the current fiscal year, with increases in both code enforcement during nighttime and weekend hours and in funding for the contract police program.

The total revenues and expenditures come to about $14.7 million, with a use of unassigned reserves of about $150,000. This use of unassigned reserves still allows the City to reach its goal of maintaining at least 25% of its annual budget in the unassigned reserves.

The budget also includes the following significant expenses:

  • $400,000 for renovations to City Hall
  • $100,000 for the College Park City/University Partnership, which will be used, together with University funds, to hire a staff person to support the ongoing collaborative efforts between the University and the City
  • $80,000 to support the College Park Academy public charter school
  • $4,100 for a one-day retreat for the Council and senior staff
  • $25,000 for a business recycling incentive program
  • $4,000 additional funds for tree replacement

The budget also includes direct grants to the following organizations:

  • $4,000 for Meals on Wheels
  • $12,500 for the Boys & Girls Club
  • $32,500 for these College Park Arts Exchange.

Also, please take a look at the summarized version of the revenue and expenditures in this year’s budget that I posted here earlier.

PGPOA Referendum Petitions – How the Council Should Vote?

A sample of PGPOA petition paper - Source: College Park Board of Election Supervisors

In tomorrow night’s regular Council meeting, the City Council will vote on two referendum petitions that Prince George’s Property Owners’ Association (PGPOA) submitted to the City recently.

According to City Charter, the Council last month referred the petitions to the Board of Election supervisors (BOES) to get them verified. The BOES looked into all of these petition signatures and found that they did not conform to the standard set in the Charter. The City’s attorney also chimed in with her own opinions saying the petitions were “legally insufficient”.

You can read the background of this petition saga in my previous post here.

At stake in tomorrow night’s vote is the fate of several thousand signatures that ordinary citizens put on the petition paper. It appears that whoever designed the petition paper did not carefully look into the City charter about the required format of such petitions.

That said, can we hold the ordinary residents responsible for the omission of their district numbers, when there was no space or column on the petition paper they could write on? Also, how things would have been different if these residents did not willfully write their district numbers, even when the petition papers had a space for a district number? I wish our City code was a bit more clear to distinguish between these two scenarios.

Interestingly, I came across a similar case in New Mexico, where the Supreme Court judges debated the ambiguity of their own election law. Last month, the Court okayed the petitions despite the lack of district number on petition papers.

Please let me know how the Council should vote at tomorrow’s Council meeting.

Regardless, I do think the PGPOA petitions themselves are either unnecessary or they may potentially harm the City in long run. If enacted, the City may not be able to provide an expanded quality service through potential new revenues it may generate from new developments and new businesses. But this is  a subject that I’d like to keep separate from the issue of validating petition signatures.

NCP Crime Stats: April 28 – May 4, 2012

[mappress mapid=”67″]
Date of
Incident
Time of
Incident
Incident
Type

Location
04/28/20121332AUTO, RECOVERED9000 Block AUTOVILLE DR
04/29/20121116THEFT FROM AUTO9100 Block RHODE ISLAND AVE
04/30/20122057THEFT9800 Block RHODE ISLAND AVE
05/01/20121046THEFT4700 Block CHERRY HILL RD
05/03/20121313THEFT4900 Block NANTUCKET RD
05/04/20121407THEFT9600 Block MILESTONE WAY

College Park Receives Long Awaited Bike Sharing Grants

Capital Bike share

Last Tuesday, College Park received the good news that it has been awarded the long awaited BikeShare grant from the State of Maryland.

College Park was one of the first seven winners of State’s new Maryland Bikeshare Program grants to help Maryland communities plan, establish or expand bikeshare programs. The total value of the grant is $2.5 million. College Park will potentially receive $350,000 of the grant.

The winners of grants to implement bikesharing systems are: Baltimore City, Montgomery County and joint partners with University of Maryland at College Park and the City of College Park. The winners of grants for feasibility studies of potential bikeshare stations are: Frederick City, Howard County and joint partners with Prince George’s County and the City of Greenbelt.

The grant-winning projects include both feasibility studies for several jurisdictions and actual implementation and opening of bikeshare stations for others that are further along in the planning and design process. The winners are divided into two categories – funding to implement a bikeshare facility and funding for a feasibility study to determine potential bikeshare station locations.

The Bikeshare Grant Program is funded through the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program and will cover 80 percent of the total project cost. Local jurisdictions are required to pay a 20 percent match.

By announcing the grant, Govt. O’Malley’s office said “Bikesharing allows Marylanders an affordable option for short-distance trips as an alternative to public transportation, driving or walking. By getting out and taking a bike ride, we also learn to enjoy more of Maryland’s natural treasures, help reduce the impact on the land, improve our fitness and well-being, and enhance our quality of life.”

According to the grant application, the following stations were proposed:
1. Regents Drive parking garage
2. Stamp Student Union
3. McKeldin Library
4. Eppley Recreation Center
5. College Park Metro Station
6. Downtown near the Knox Road and U.S. Route 1 intersection,
7. The Varsity student apartments
8. the Hollywood Shopping Center.

The grant application proposed a total of 64 bikes will be available part of the network.

With the announcement of the grant, I’m sure City residents will be engaged in a lively debate on where exactly the grant money should be spent to build BikeShare stations.

I came across this interesting BiCycle Bug’s Blog, that asks for more diverse locations of bicycle stations. In terms of the proposed Hollywood station, it writes:

There will be a station at the Hollywood Shopping Center. This location by itself is great. It contains both a MOM’s and REI and can be reached by the Trolley Trail and Rhode Island Ave bike lanes. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a hike from the other locations (2.5 miles to UMD and 3.0 miles to the College Park metro bikeshare station). Because of this, officials seem to have added the final proposed station at Greenbelt Road and University Blvd solely for the purpose of being a leap-frog station and not as its own destination.

Please also see also a map here showing some proposed locations I took from the post above.

Group to Offer Workshop on “Solar Energy in Your Home”, Tomorrow

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels on rooftop

City’s Committee for a Better Environment will host a workshop on “Solar Energy in Your Home” at the College Park City Council Chamber at 10am, tomorrow

Join the experts to learn about:
· Purchasing own your own photovoltaic (PV) solar panels
· Maintaining solar panels
· Benefiting from available federal and state incentives
· Signing up for a company-owned solar panel installation (a low- or nocost
option).

Speakers include
– Dr. Victor Yakovenko of University of Maryland professor of physics, solar panel homeowner
– Doug Hinrich, Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) solar program manager
– Brian Desmond, Standard Solar (a private company that focuses on the construction, integration, and financing of solar energy systems)

Cost and Registration is free but registration is requested. To RSVP, contact Elisa Vitale at evitale@collegeparkmd.gov or 240-487-3538.

Buses Replace Trains Between Greenbelt & Fort Totten, This Weekend

Greenline May 4 - 6, 2012

Metro’s efforts to rebuild the Green Line will continue over the weekend of May 4-6.

The work will begin at 10 p.m. Friday, May 4 and continue through system closing on Sunday, May 6.

Buses will replace trains between Greenbelt and Fort Totten to allow for NTSB-recommended switch replacement. The following 4 stations will be closed:

Greenbelt
College Park
Prince George’s Plaza
West Hyattsville
Green Line trains will operate normally between Fort Totten and Branch Avenue.

Metro is advising that customers using shuttle bus service should add up to 50 minutes to their travel time. Customers who normally drive and park at Greenbelt should consider using New Carrollton Station on the Orange Line as an alternate.

For the latest, please check here.

Ideas on Rhode Island Avenue Crosswalks

It’s been a while residents in north College Park have been discussing the issue of pedestrian safety at the Rhode Island Avenue (between Edgewood and MD 193).

The NCPCA also discussed this issue in the past several times.

The City and the County will soon have another opportunity to discuss this matter further. Based on my research, I’ve compiled a list of possible ways to make safe crosswalks that may be suitable for Rhode Island. Please see these options below and let me know your thoughts on them.

1.      Raised, textured crosswalk.

2.      Brick crosswalk.

3. HAWK signal When not activated, the signal is blanked out. The HAWK signal is activated by a pedestrian push button or passive pedestrian sensor. The overhead signal begins flashing yellow and then solid yellow, advising drivers to prepare to stop. The signal then displays a solid red and shows the pedestrian a “Walk” indication. Finally, an alternating flashing red signal indicates that motorists may proceed when safe, after coming to a full stop. The pedestrian is shown a flashing “Don’t Walk” with a countdown indicating the time left to cross

4. In-Street Signs

In-street crosswalk signs can be installed at un-signalized pedestrian crossings to make the crosswalk more visible and increase driver yielding. They are placed at the crosswalk on a median, but should not obstruct the pedestrian path of travel.


5. Flashing yellow beacon: Cheaper than hawk lights but somewhat debatable. The County put in a pedestrian activity flashing yellow beacon at the Trolley Trail where it crosses Paint Branch Parkway. That introduced a relatively unfamiliar traffic feature which made pedestrians feel a false sense of security. That was because motorists view a yellow light as a signal to yield not stop. At least 3 people were hit.