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City to SHA: Undergrounding Utilities Should Not Delay Route 1 Funding

Power lines on Route 1

In a recent Council worksession, Mayor Fellows stated that there have been efforts to divert funding for Route 1 redevelopment to somewhere else. Someone in the General Assembly commented in a hearing that they believed the City wished to tie reconstruction of Route 1 to undergrounding of utilities, which could be prohibitively expensive.

In last week’s meeting, the Council decided to send a letter to State Highway Administration (SHA) encouraging them to continue progress on Route 1 design. The letter also advises SHA that the question of undergrounding utilities should not delay funding for U.S. Route 1.

Here is the complete text of that letter:

The City of College Park’s support for the reconstruction of Route 1, including the undergrounding of utilities, is long standing and well documented. At the request of both the city and the University of Maryland, the SHA hired consultants during the planning phase of the project to provide cost estimates for placing all of the utilities found along the corridor underground. In 2000, this cost for the entire corridor from College Avenue to the Beltway was estimated to be $25,726,950 while the cost of relocating overhead utilities to new overhead utilities was estimated at $14,000,000.

The SHA advised that cost sharing would be necessary in order to pay the difference between utility relocation and utility undergrounding and that the SHA would work with the city and others to identify funding models to accomplish this. The city agreed with this approach and retained its own consultants to examine tax increment financing (TIF) and special assessments as possible financing mechanisms to help fund the undergrounding of utilities. Consultant recommendations presented to the City Council included designating a Route 1 TIF district in the lower midtown section of the corridor currently undergoing redevelopment and utilizing both city and county incremental tax proceeds. A TIF district has not yet been created for this purpose based, in part, on the lack of accurate information regarding cost estimates and construction schedules.

The Central US 1 Corridor Sector Plan and SMA approved in 2010 for the revitalization and redevelopment of the corridor recommends a comprehensive utilities undergrounding program and requires developers to assess the feasibility of placing utilities underground in a redevelopment project. Undergrounding utilities is usually not possible on a site-by site basis making a comprehensive undergrounding plan even more important. Development conditions have been placed on several previously approved projects that require the applicant to pay their fair share of the costs of undergrounding utilities (typically not to exceed $200,000) at such time that a comprehensive process is established. Most of these conditions will expire if a process is not established by 2020. Other applicants have been required to pay a lump sum to the city toward the future undergrounding of utilities. The city currently has $10,000 on hand for this use which would be returned to the applicants if undergrounding does not occur.

When the engineering phase of this project was initiated, Mr. John Jenkins, Project Manager, contacted city and university staff for a meeting in May 2012. The city and university made it very clear at this meeting that the undergrounding of utilities was a priority that needed to be addressed from the beginning of the design process. Cost sharing for construction, not design, was again discussed and it was acknowledged by Mr. Jenkins that the recent development of high rises on Route 1 might preclude the relocation of utilities to another above-ground location within the SHA right-of-way making undergrounding a necessity. Mr. Jenkins provided a utility relocation flow chart that described a very deliberate SHA decision making process involving all stakeholders in assessing the options for the relocation of utilities (see attached).

Based on this information, the city understood that the issue of whether or not to underground utilities would be decided during the design process with the full participation of the city and other stakeholders. To date, the city has not been presented with any specific design information about the Route 1 plans or with any specific utility information or cost estimates. Mr. Jenkins provided a briefing on the status of the engineering project at a City Council meeting on January 2, 2013, and in response to a specific question about the undergrounding of utilities, advised that further discussion would be needed this summer after additional utility location information was obtained by SHA. In an email following this meeting from Mr. Jenkins to Terry Schum, the city’s Planning Director, Mr. Jenkins stated that he had asked for a determination of whether or not utility companies had prior rights on Route 1 and made a request for a survey crew to go out to determine the location of all existing underground utilities that should be completed by March
The city respectfully requests that a meeting be held as soon as possible with all appropriate SHA staff and project stakeholders in order to clarify the next steps and timeframes in regard to the design and funding for the Route 1 project. We are interested in reviewing any specific design plans and utility information that may be available at this time. The undergrounding of utilities remains a priority for the city and we are willing to further the discussions regarding the financing mechanisms that have already been investigated.

It is not our intent to hold up the design process in any way, or to impede full funding of the project. It is our goal to be a full participant in the process and to obtain the best possible outcome for the city, county and the state. We look forward to hearing from you.

Good Neighbor’s Day, 2013

Department of Public Safety is Joining the University of Maryland, City of College Park and M-NCPPC Department of Parks and Recreation for Good Neighbor Day, Saturday, April 6

Department of Public Safety is participating in Good Neighbor Day, Saturday, April 6, 2013 from 9 am to 1:30 pm.

Good Neighbor Day is an annual volunteer service day, which renews the University of Maryland community’s commitment to being a good neighbor in the City of College Park. Volunteers are needed for a variety of projects, including:

– Cleaning up the Old Town playground;
– Cleaning up the Old Parish House;
– Picking up trash during a 5K Lakeland Discovery Trail Hike;
– Serving as a Lakeland history expert and curator at Lake Artemesia along the Lakeland Discovery Trail Hike;
– Donating and sorting non-perishable goods for donation to area food banks;
– Participating in an interactive workshop about the history of College Park’s Lakeland neighborhood at the College Park Community Center;
– Repairing the Paint Branch Elementary School basketball court; and
– Assisting with neighborhood clean ups.

Your participation is also encouraged by dropping off non-perishable goods at the College Park Community Center, 5051 Pierce Avenue, on Good Neighbor Day for donation to area food banks.

Tonight’s NCPCA Meeting: Action Plan, FBI Relocation and Sector Plan

NCPCA - It's Your Neighborhood Association

Today is the second Thursday of teh month and thus the day for our NCPCA meeting. Here are what we’ll be discussing at the meeting.

The meeting will start with a discussion on City’s Strategic and Action Plans. At a recent Council worksession, the Council discussed new ideas to add to our existing FY 2013 Action Plan for FY 2014, and also discussed which actions from the current Plan are still in process and should be carried over to next year. This week, the Council will finalize the draft FY 2014 Action Plan for public review. The Action Plan will then be placed online for public review on the City’s website, and will be up for discussion either this month or next at the North College Park Citizens Association. On April 9, the Council will hold a public forum on the Action Plan, and all public comments will be due to the Clerk’s office by April 30. The Council will then finalize the Action Plan at its first regular meeting in May.

In addition to discussion on Action Plan, we’ll also discuss FBI relocation sites and the newly approved Greenbelt Metro Sector plan.

As always, the meeting will start at 7:30 pm, at Davis Hall. See you all there.

Community Programming Forums

Community Programming Forums 2013

The College Park Youth Service Center will be hosting two Community Program Forums next week.

Both forums will take place on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. The first session will be from 10-11 am and the second one from 6:30pm to 7:30 pm

Please come out and let them know what programs you are interested in for your community and we will see if we can provide the program.

The programs are suitable for all age groups – seniors, teens, adults and youth.

Participants can choose a program in the area of arts, sports, music and games

Tonight’s Council Meeting, March 12, 2013

College Park City Hall

This is what we have on our agenda for the regular meeting tonight:

Proposed Consent Agenda:
1.13-G-33 – A Letter of Recommendation for AlHuda School. The Council will consider sending a letter in response to Al-Huda School’s request that the City provide a recommendation for the school. As some of you know, the School is planning to move to a new facility in Western Howard County in Fall 2014. Al-Huda requested this letter so that it could obtain financing for the new school.

Non-consent agenda:
2.13-G-36 – Award of FY2014 Contracts for Dental Insurance and Worker’s Compensation. The Council will consider awarding contracts for FY2014 insurance coverage for workers’ compensation, general liability, and dental insurances. Council will consider retain the current contractors for each of these insurance policies – this would keep our premiums constant for dental insurance at $43,000, allow for a slight decrease of workers compensation insurance at $173,488, and allow for a likely $10,000 decrease in liability insurance premiums to $143,030.

3.13-G-37 – Approval of Litton Technology Center Plan. After a few worksessions discussing it, the Council will consider recommending conditional support for the Preliminary Plan of Subdivision for the Litton Technology Center, a part of the M Square development near College Park Metro station. The Council and City staff were concerned about the nature of the proposed development and the lack of walkability and mixed use transit-oriented development in the project due to potential security issues around a high-security Federal government tenant. Although the portion of the area of land under consideration for development further from the College Park Metro is subject to a development cap, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has indicated that the are subject to the cap should be flexible.

4.13-G-34 – Approval of a Letter Supporting Bill CB-6: County Councilmember Eric Olson has proposed CB-6 before the County Council Committee on Planning, Zoning and Economic Development (PZED). This bill is part of an ongoing discussion of how to encourage transit-oriented development in the County, especially development around the County’s Metro stations. This bill will be considered by PZED on Thursday, March 13 at 6 pm, so the Council will consider supporting the bill at this week’s Council meeting.

5.13-G-39 – Approval of a Letter Supporting Bill CB-12: Another proposed Bill to encourage transit-oriented development is CB-12, the “Transit-Oriented Jobs Act of 2013,” sponsored by Councilmember Franklin and five others County Councilmembers. This legislation came out of meetings that followed legislation that Councilmember Franklin introduced last fall, which many municipalities, including College Park, opposed. It requires that developers engage in a pre-application conference in order to encourage citizen participation and input before an expedited review process.This bill will also be considered by PZED on Thursday, March 13 at 6 pm.

6.13-G-35 – approval of a Letter to SHA Supporting Route 1 Redevelopment. In last week’s Council worksession, Mayor Fellows stated that there have been efforts to divert funding for Route 1 redevelopment to somewhere else. Someone in the General Assembly commented in a hearing that they believed the City wished to tie reconstruction of Route 1 to undergrounding of utilities, which could be prohibitively expensive. In tomorrow’s meeting, the Council will consider sending a letter to State Highway Administration (SHA) encouraging them to continue progress on Route 1 design. The letter will also advise SHA that the question of undergrounding utilities should not delay funding for U.S. Route 1.

7.13-CR-01 – Introduction of a Charter Amendment to Create Special Taxing District to Improve Public Safety. Please see my yesterday’s post to know more about this.

8.13-G-38 – Appointment of the Board of Election and Other Appointment:The Council will consider the biennial appointment of the Board of Election Supervisors, as follows: Jack Robson, Terry Wertz, Maxine Gross, Linda Lachman, and Charles Smolka. In addition, Jack Robson will be designated as the Chief of Elections. The compensation for the Chief of Elections shall be $480 for each of the next two years. The compensation for the Supervisors of Elections shall be $360 in an election year. Also, the Council will consider appointing District 1 resident Tricia Homer to the Cable Television Commission. Thanks to all of our residents who volunteer to serve on these boards and committees!

Council Eyes Creating Special Taxing District to Improve Public Safety

In tomorrow’s Council meeting, we will be introducing a proposed Charter Amendment to allow for the creation of special taxing districts for the purpose of expanding concurrent jurisdiction of the University of Maryland police and the use of monitored closed-circuit cameras in different parts of the City.

This Amendment comes out of recent discussions with the University about increasing the ability of the University of Maryland police to prevent crime in areas heavily populated by students. Through special taxing districts, only the taxpayers in the impacted areas would be paying the costs of that increased coverage.

The City Charter currently only allows the Council to establish special taxing districts in the City for infrastructure improvements such as lighting, storm drains and parking facilities.

None of the neighborhoods currently under consideration for special taxing districts to be used in this nature are in North College Park.

Please note, in tomorrow’s Council meeting, the Council will only amend the City Charter to allow taxing district. The actual creation of the district will follow another discussion at a later time.

A public hearing on this amendment will be held on Tuesday, April 9, at 7:15 pm.

NCP Crime Stats: Feb 28 – Mar 06, 2013. Man Dies in Domestic Incident

Please see below last week’s crime stats and let me know if you have any questions.

UPDATE: Major Brewer of Prince George’s Police reported regarding a death that occurred last night as a result of a domestic incident. Apparently other members of the household were holding down the decedent after calling 911. When police arrived it was discovered victim had passed. No weapons were used. Currently called a homicide but may change after autopsy and investigation is completed. Incident was in 9700 block of 52nd Ave. We’ll let you know as we receive more information.

[mappress mapid=”106″]
Date of
Incident
Time of
Incident
Incident
Type

Location
03/01/2013552THEFT FROM AUTO5200 Blk PADUCAH RD
03/01/2013857THEFT9500 Blk 50TH AVE
03/01/2013913THEFT FROM AUTO5200 Blk PADUCAH RD
03/02/2013420THEFT9500 Blk 50TH AVE
03/03/2013624THEFT FROM AUTO9100 Blk BALTIMORE AVE
03/04/20131331THEFT9500 Blk 50TH AVE
03/05/20132028THEFT FROM AUTO4700 Blk CHEROKEE ST

School Superintendent Search Narrowed to Three Candidates

After an extensive national search, the Prince George’s County Board of Education has identified three candidates for the position of Superintendent of Schools.

The finalists are:

  • Dr. Eric J. Becoats, superintendent of schools for Durham Public Schools in Durham, NC;
  • Dr. Alvin L. Crawley, interim superintendent of schools for Prince George’s County Public Schools; and
  • Mr. Harrison A. Peters, chief of schools for Chicago Public Schools in Chicago, IL.

“We set out an ambitious timeline for our superintendent search and we are happy we attracted these qualified candidates,” said Board of Education Chair Verjeana M. Jacobs, Esq. “During the next few weeks, the public will have an opportunity to interact with the three candidates and provide their input to the Board as we select the next leader who will further the mission of our school district.”

Becoats serves as superintendent of Durham Public Schools. Previously, Becoats served as chief administrative officer for Guilford County Schools in Greensboro, North Carolina; director of community economic development for University Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; assistant superintendent for planning and development for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte, North Carolina; and chief of planning for Baltimore City Schools in Baltimore, Maryland. He holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Crawley serves as interim superintendent of Prince George’s County Public Schools. Previously, Crawley served as deputy chief of programming for the District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, DC; assistant superintendent and director of special education for Arlington Public Schools; and assistant superintendent for special education and gifted programs for Chicago Public Schools. He holds a doctorate in instructional leadership from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Peters serves as chief of schools for Chicago Public Schools. Previously, Peters served as chief area officer for Chicago Public Schools; principal of Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, North Carolina; and principal of Robinswood Middle School in Orlando, Florida. He is currently completing his doctorate in organizational leadership at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

During the past several months, the Board has engaged the public in numerous community forums and town hall meetings related to the superintendent search. Additionally, the Board received thousands of responses to its superintendent search survey.

In the coming weeks, the finalists will visit Prince George’s County to meet with the community. The Board is expected to announce the new superintendent before July 1.

Council Approves Greenbelt Sector Plan, GSA Received 35 FBI Relocation Proposals

FBI Headquarters in D.C.

The County Council, acting as the District Council, voted 9-0 to approve the sector plan and the SMA in their session last week.

Over the next weeks and months M-NCPPC staff will issue formal notification of plan approval and zoning changes and will work on incorporating the revisions made by both the Planning Board and the District Council into the sector plan and SMA as the M-NCPPC prepare for the publication of the final document. Please keep an eye on the project website www.pgplanning.org/greenbelt.htm for updates.

The M-NCPPC hopes to post final versions of the Council’s resolutions of approval and the analysis of public testimony on its site within a week or so, and will continue to make periodic updates.

On another news, the General Services Administration proposed swapping the FBI’s dated headquarters downtown for a new campus in the area and says it received 35 proposals by last Monday’s deadline. Please read more on that here.

Council Discusses Aging in Place for College Park’s Seniors

Aging in place

In last Tuesday’s worksession, the Council discussed the possibility of creating a Senior Advisory Committee, to review the services that the City provides for seniors and recommend additional activities and services that the City could provide for its senior citizens.

The mission of the Committee is to advocate for and assist the City Council in providing creative and meaningful activities and services for older individuals. The Committee would also make recommendations to the Mayor and Council and how to best assist in the “Aging in Place” process so that our seniors could remain an active part of our city/community.

Some objectives of the committee include:
1. Coordinate and strengthen public support for seniors and a multipurpose Community Center.
2. Formulate and recommend plans to assist in meeting the critical needs of older adults and adults with disabilities
3. Provide a channel for the dissemination of information regarding senior programs, activities and services.
4. Identify ways in which the city and university community could coordinate inter-generational activities, programs and services with outside stakeholders.

According to the proposal, The Senior Advisory Committee would consist of members appointed by the Mayor and Council with two representatives from the City who will serve as a liaison to the committee. The terms for the all appointees would be two years and they can be re-appointed to additional terms and serve without compensation.

Other cities in the area, such as Howard County, Bowie and Greenbelt, have committees such as this to make recommendations to seniors and have programs to retrofit the homes of senior citizens to allow them to remain there as they get older.

One concern about forming such a committee is about additional funding the group may ask to Council. A similar program in the City of Bowie had to be closed due to such funding issue.

The Council asked the Family and Youth Services to take a look at the possibility of forming the committee.

Changes Proposed for City’s Neighborhood Watch Group

Nation of Neighbors portal for College Park residents

In last night’s worksession, the Council discussed a set of recommendations for City’s Neighborhood Watch group to make it run more efficiently.

Due to concerns about the divided authority of the Neighborhood Watch leadership under the structure that the Council set up a couple years ago, and the lack of success in getting the Neighborhood Watch infrastructure built up, the existing Neighborhood Watch steering committee recently decided to propose a restructuring of the Neighborhood Watch leadership.

Specifically, the Steering Committee recommends:
1. Expanding the Committee membership from 3 to 5;
2. Have one appointee from each Council district, and one at-large appointment made by the Mayor;
3. Refocus steering committee efforts to adopt and provide support for an Internet communications system, using an established program, “Nation of Neighbors,” supported by the Committee and the City and made available for use by each Neighborhood Watch group in the City;
4. Assign the City’s Public Safety Officer the task of planning and implementing Neighborhood Watch training and developing a “Neighborhood Watch Academy” with the assistance of COPS officers and existing Neighborhood Watch leaders;
5. Utilize Committee members as “Nation of Neighbors” district monitors to provide points of contact with police, rumor control, and user input appropriateness;
6. Utilize the Committee to continue to provide recommendations to the Mayor & Council, and to support neighborhood program development; and
7. Encourage each neighborhood to develop programs unique to its demographic and volunteer participation.

The Committee also recommends returning the annual National Night Out event to individual neighborhood events instead of a centralized City event, and considering having a larger City Public Safety Day later in the year when more residents are around.

The Council will consider a resolution to reorganize these recommendations by the Committee.

Council to Discuss Marketing Analysis of College Park Station Area

[mappress mapid=”105″]

In July 2012, the City of College Park was awarded a grant through the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board to enable a consultant to conduct a market analysis of the 14.2 acre area located between Paint Branch Parkway and the College Park Airport.

City staff selected AECOM to analyze the market potential for this area and provide recommendations for its redevelopment. Given the drastic changes in the real estate market since that report, this analysis provides a realistic and in-depth look at the development potential of the study area.

The analysis is data-driven, as AECOM used various sources to compile demographic and economic information, real estate trends, and the context of the study area. In particular, the real estate trends are important indicators used in forecasting demand and absorption rates of commercial and residential property.

Using those sources of information, AECOM analyzed potential demand for residential, office, and retail development in the study area over a period from 2013 to 2023.

Highlights of the analysis include the following:

  • The residential for-sale market is largely unproven in the surrounding areas
  • The residential rental market in College Park has been driven by student housing development with less precedence for market-rate housing;
  • There is likely to be minimal demand for new speculative office space in the near-term due to high vacancy rates in Prince George’s County, including a number of buildings near Metro stations. College Park, however, is a bright spot in the county office market with higher rents and lower vacancies than average.
  • Retail vacancy is relatively low in College Park.
  • The study area represents near-term opportunities for residential development with retail and limited office space.

Between 2013 and 2023, AECOM recommends potential development program for 314 residential units, 150 for-sale single family attached, 60 for-sale multifamily, 104 for-rent multifamily, 125,000 square feet of office space, 32,000 square feet of retail space, 6,500 square feet of food and beverage, 3,600 square feet of health and personal care, 7,200 square feet of shoppers goods, 7,100 square feet of full-service restaurant and 7,600 square feet of limited-service restaurant.

AECOM will present their findings at tonight’s worksession and answer questions.

Police Arrests Suspect in North College Park Murder

Edwin Morales

According to this police report, the Prince George’s County Police Department arrested a suspect for the murder of 20-year-old David Esequel Avelar in north College Park. The suspect is identified as 20-year-old Edwin Morales of the 3300 block of Monterey Lane in Southeast Washington.

He was arrested on March 1, 2013, in the 3000 block of 14th Street in Northwest Washington.

On February 24, 2013, at approximately 4:00 am, patrol officers were called to the 9100 block of Baltimore Avenue in College Park for the report of a shooting. Upon arrival, patrol officers found Avelar suffering from a gunshot wound. He was taken to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

The investigation reveals the murder is gang-related. Avelar had been attending a party at a hotel on Baltimore Avenue. A fight broke out in the parking lot between the group the victim was with and a second group attending a separate party at the same hotel. Detectives have determined Morales shot Avelar during the fight.

Morales is charged with first and second degree murder and related charges. He is in custody in Washington, D.C. awaiting extradition to Prince George’s County.

Thanks to our Police for doing a great job!

Maryland Senate Passes Gun Violence Prevention Act

Gun violence

Last Friday, the Maryland Senate passed Gov. Martin O’Malley’s comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation.

Among its provisions, The Firearm Safety Act, SB 281 will:

  • Require buyers to provide fingerprints, complete safety training, obtain a license and undergo background checks before they purchase handguns.
  • Restrict purchases of military style assault weapons and limit the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
  • Give state police the authority to suspend or revoke the licenses of gun dealers who sell guns to criminals or otherwise violate Maryland law.
  • Prevent individuals who suffer from mental illness and are a danger to themselves or others from having access to firearms.

SB 281 now goes to the House of Delegates, and in the next few weeks, the legislators will hammer out a final agreement.

The Baltimore Sun ran a story on the debate. You can read it here.

College Park City Council also discussed the gun violence in our last worksession. Recently two UMD students and a Lanham resident became the victim of gun violence in College Park.

Update to FY14 Real property Tax Assessment

As a follow-up to our Feb 5 worksession discussion of FY14 budget guidance, we received the FY14 proposed homestead tax credit.

Accordingly, our Director of Finance has updated the assessment schedule. We are now projecting that, at the current rate, FY14 real property tax will be $358,762 lower than FY13.

Though it’s a loss, it’s a good news, as this new figure is lower than the “worst case scenario” of $714,953.