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Good Neighbor Day, 2020

Good Neighbor Day is a collaborative partnership between the University of Maryland, the City of College Park, and The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). The event brings together the College Park community to beautify shared spaces, educate and engage in sustainable practices, and take pride in Greater College Park.

To register and know more about the event, please visit the event’s home page here.

City Looking into Automated Parking Enforcement Using License Plate Readers

License plate readers mounted on a parking vehicle

City is looking into a technology that will eliminate the need for physical parking permits (hang tags) and visitor passes, as residents of properties within these zones will now be able to apply for and register their vehicle(s) virtually by their license plate number(s).

While virtual visitor passes may also be applied for online through this process, physical visitor passes will still be available and may be requested in lieu of online visitor registration.

The current City Budget includes the purchase of License Plate Recognition (LPR) software for the purpose of enforcement of all permit parking zones city-wide.

In addition, the City Council eliminated annual fees associated with residentially zoned parking permits and visitor passes on June 9, 2020, further streamlining the permitting process for its residents.

While parking permits and visitor passes are currently renewed on an annual basis, staff is recommending allowing permanent permit registration by license plate to owner-occupied properties in the future.

To date, two city vehicles have been provided with LPR technology, which will eliminate the need for residents to obtain physical permits and visitor passes. This technology will improve enforcement efficiency and effectiveness. LPR will scan vehicle license plates and identify those which do not have residential parking zone permits. LPR will also allow for Parking Enforcement personnel to more efficiently patrol residential permit zones.

Added to online permit registration, no-cost permits, and permitting by license plate number, LPR technologically based enforcement provides the most advanced and cost-effective parking management and enforcement.

Costs associated with the purchase and installation of both LPR software and hardware for the two city vehicles, to include the 4-year extended warranty for advanced replacement coverage, totaled $107,140.12. However, with the elimination of physical permits having to be purchased annually at an estimated cost of $25,000.00, and an anticipated reduction in postage and supplies for mailing purposes, the costs for this system could be recouped in four (4) to five (5) years, and possibly even less time when factoring in revenue generated from non-compliance fines for permit restricted zones.

[City of College Park]

Emergency Rental Assistance Program Relaunched

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program is relaunching, however, this time landlords are responsible for submitting applications on behalf of renters who are experiencing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. Please share this information so we can ensure that those who need this resource are aware of the relaunch.

GreenPlay Report Adopted, without Comments from Council

At last night’s City Council meeting, the Council adopted the GreenPlay report “as-is”.
An amendment motion (by Kabir, Mackie) was made to accept the report with 3 comments was defeated by 2-4. Kabir, Mackie supported the amendment, whereas Kennedy, Rigg, Day, and Dennis opposed it. Then the Council voted to support the main motion (by Rigg-Kennedy) – “Accept the report As-Is”. It passed 4-2.  Kabir, Mackie voted in opposition. Councilmember Mitchell couldn’t join last night’s meeting due to a death in her family.

Personally, I felt very strongly to add 3 comments from the Council side, to address some deficiencies in the report and make it look more complete. Please see the comments I asked the Council to include here.

One particular deficiency I felt in the report was the lack of data used during the study period, as I noted in my comment #1. For example, the report could have provided a stronger and more accurate recommendation on future indoor facilities and programming needs by including facilities usage data. Specifically, College Park Community Center is the only community center within the city boundary, and GreenPlay should have collected the data of the usage and programming at this center over a period of its operation from the M-NCPPC, and use it in the study.

I commend GreenPlay for working on the study and coming up with recommendations to enhance the future recreational needs of our residents and seniors. We should also thank them for making some important edits to the latest version of the report to address some issues we discussed at our October 13 meeting.

However, it’s important to note that City used about $50,000 of taxpayers’ money on the report and, as a steward of that money, I felt that GreenPlay neglected to collect and use some very important data (in comment #1), and include other important information I noted in my comments #2 and 3.

How Busy is College Park Community Center?

College Park Community Center is the only fully functional community center within College Park’s boundary. As part of the recent discussion on the City’s recreation needs assessment, we’ve been told that facilities, including the College Park Community Center, is rarely used.

On the other hand, we often get comments from residents telling us that depending on the time of the day, the College Park Community Center facility could be found very full, so much so that people are often turned away.

So I reached out to Mr. Jim Bell, the Facilities Director at the College Park Community Center, and asked about the capacity of the center during pre-COVID days.

Mr. Bell responded..
“we are very busy most days. We run programs that are inclusive of everything from childcare to recreation. Last year, in addition to programmed operations we accommodated over 350 hours of requests via our Community Connect portal. That is for outside groups and in addition to our class programs, childcare programs, recreational drop-ins for fitness, and the gymnasium. We host programs for the recreation council, the University of Maryland, and various other entities.

Out of 45 community centers, it is safe to say we are in the top 10 percent and perhaps higher.”

Yesterday, I further requested Mr. Bell to provide us with the facility’s usage data of the center for the year 2019. Today, Mr. Bell sent the following data about what a normal summer week looks like this for the center.

Camps 5 – 1 in each room (MP, Dance, Class, Gym, Preschool) attendance collectively 110 participants, time 7 am – 6 pm
Daily Classes – fitness room -15
Aikido – M / W 30
Judo – T / Th 100
Fitness – M/ T /W /TH – 25
Teens – F – 20
Dance – Sa – 25
Line dance M – 10
Pickle ball W- 20
Basketball Sa– 40
Soccer – Sa -20
Drop-ins – 10
Rentals – 60
Private rentals every other week – 100 / 250
Meetings – 20

The total for the month during the summer is safely over 4500 participants a month. Mr. Bell told me he would see this as conservative and it does not include the outside soccer field usage. That is used by four groups and averages over 400 per week or 1600 per month.

The numbers for the winter would be about the same. This is because we are substituting childcare for camp. Childcare is regulated and limited age-wise differently. It averages about 80 participants daily instead of the 110 for camps. Indoor use in the gym does go up in the winter for uses such as basketball, volleyball, and soccer.

Thankfully, that statement in the GreenPlay report was corrected to only include City facilities and not the College Park Community Center. Unfortunately, GreenPlay never collected detailed data/statistics of the programming and usage at the College Park Community Center.

GreenPlay Recreation Report Gets Some Revisions, but Could be Even Better. What’s Next?

The GreenPlay consultant has made some edits to City’s report in the latest version. The latest version reflects edits suggested at the last Council meeting to pages 59 and 69 of the report.

Language suggesting that the City does not need a community center has been removed from the “Findings Section” on page 59 and the “Goals Section 3.5” on page 69. At the Oct 13 meeting, I specifically raised concerns about the statement, which is not substantiated with solid data. For example, the information on the usage of the College Park Community Center suggests that the center is fairly busy.

Specifically, language stating that a community center may not be financially feasible or necessary has been deleted, along with language regarding the difference between ‘desire and need’ for a community center.

Additionally, clarifying language to distinguish references to facilities and parks owned and operated by the City of College Park from facilities and parks owned or operated by other jurisdictions or entities was added in the “Findings Section” on page 59.

Could have been better..

That said, I continue to share some concerns about a few areas in the report. Here are a few ..

(1) The report could have provided a stronger and more accurate recommendation on future indoor facilities and programming needs by including facilities usage data in the report.  Specifically, College Park Community Center is the only community center within the city boundary, and GreenPlay should have collected the data of the usage and programming at this center over a period of its operation from the M-NCPPC.

(2) The statement  (on page 51) “City Park indoor facilities all fall east of Baltimore Ave. and north of the Paint Branch Stream, leaving Old Town and West of Baltimore Ave. without an indoor space.” could have been revised to include a more complete picture. First of all, the City facility Old Parish House is in the south of the Paint Branch Stream and is not included.  Furthermore, this section should have included the facilities that are under construction and will be available in a few months. For example, the new City Hall will have meeting rooms in it and is currently under construction. The report also does not mention the meeting space included at the City’s Calvert Rd property when it opens as a daycare facility. The City-owned property in College Park Woods, the former pool, has also not been included as College Park facilities by the consultant. The new facilities are “approved and are under construction”. They are not “planned” or in the “Concept phase”, as the GcreenPlay consultant stated in the communication. Furthermore, the report should state that Attick Towers and Spellman House are not owned and operated by the City.

(3)  The text (“A proposed new center should be funded by the M-NCPPC and the County”) in the “Finding” section (page 59) could provide more clarification, as M-NCPPC will be only building very large (60,000 – 80,000 sq ft ) community centers in the future, as part of the recommendations in the Formula 2040 plan. (http://pgparks.com/DocumentCenter/View/118/2040-Functional-Master-PlanPDF?bidId= , page 121, “A key recommendation of Formula 2040 is to move from the current model of building neighborhood-oriented community centers of approximately 20,000 square feet to constructing larger, 60,000- to 80,000-square foot, multi-neighborhood-serving community centers or what is referred to in the Plan as “multigenerational community centers.”)

What’s next?

With these shortcomings, the GreenPlay report does offer some good recommendations – such as expanding City’s green space, parks, and trails by acquiring potential lands. It also recommends expanding meeting space by renting vacant storefronts to meet future meeting room needs. Finally, it recommends improving communication to let more residents know about the recreational offerings throughout the City. It’ll be up to the City Council to adopt these recommendations in its current and future plans, in particular the 5 years Strategic Plan, which the City is currently developing.

The City Council is planning to adopt the GreenPlay recreation report at tonight’s City Council meeting. The council may adopt the report “as-is”, or approve it with its comments. Please send your comments to the City Council at cpmc@collegeparkmd.gov

Duval Field’s Final Design Project to Start Soon

At tomorrow’s meeting, the Council will consider approving the contract for Duvall Field design services awarded to KCI Technologies, Inc. in the amount of $264,093.

In the past, the City secured another consulting firm to get the community’s input about possible amenities that could be added to the new design. You can see a list of amenities residents asked here on my blog.

The final design project schedule calls for a 7-12-month design, and the permitting process involves preparing three conceptual design alternatives for review by the community and City Council and selecting a final choice for design development. This will be followed by a 9-month bidding and construction phase with completion expected by July 2022.

We’ll keep you posted as these community meetings are scheduled to get your input about designs.

Town Hall with Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot

Please join this important town hall with Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot regarding the financial health of the State and other topics.

Registration is required. Zoom link will be sent to registrants.
Date: October 28, 2020
Time: 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Address: College Park, MD 20740
Link: Register Here

Paint Recycling this Morning – Until 12 noon

Thank you Public Works for doing a fantastic job with the Paint Recycling this morning. For the first time, residents are having the opportunity to bring unused paints to the Public Works facility and recycle them for FREE. They will collect your unused paints until 12 noon today!

Feedback Needed on M-NCPPC Recreation Amenities

Formula 2040: The Master Plan for Parks, Recreation, and Open Space, adopted by The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) in 2013, guides Prince George’s County in the creation of a system that will serve nearly one million people in an urban/suburban setting and strives to achieve the goals of connectivity, health and wellness, and economic development by through its creation of a new multigenerational center model.

M-NCPPC Department of Parks and Recreation is now conducting feasibility studies for new multigenerational centers in Service Areas 2, 3 and 4.

The city of College Park is part of Service Area 2. The meeting for Service Area 2 will take place on Monday, October 26th from 6:30-8:00pm.

You can register to participate in the meeting here:

Multigenerational facilities will include amenities such as a fitness center, indoor pool, indoor track, and more, with a goal of meeting the recreation needs of everyone in a family. Learn more about M-NCPPC Multigenerational Facilities here.

Town Hall Recap on City’s Recreation Study

Thank you all who attended last night’s town hall on City’s recreation study. We had a good turnout with a lot of good questions and comments from the residents. Please see the recorded video below.

Group to Discuss MD 193 Corridor Improvement

Tonight, at 7:30 PM, The Greenbelt City Council will be holding a work session with the Town of Berwyn Heights and the City of College Park regarding the Greenbelt Road Task Force.

The group will discuss a report that lays out the present and future potential of the Greenbelt Road corridor. Earlier, a Panel met with local stakeholders, visited the study area, and developed recommendations that were presented in a public meeting.

You can view the virtual worksession using this Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/92398574069?pwd=MlU3dFB3OG9TZnBQT242R1lsK3RNQT09

CPCUP Sets 10-Year Goals for Greater College Park

At tonight’s Council meeting, the Council will receive a presentation from the College Park University Partnership (CPCUP) about its 10-year strategic plan.

The CPCUP plan focuses on the following key areas – housing and development, transportation and mobility, public safety, health, and education.

On housing and development, the plan sets the following goals (a) Retain and attract homeowners in single and multi-family dwellings. (b) Retain and recruit retail, commercial, and hospitality businesses with local and regional appeal. (c) Retain and attract new research and development companies.

CPCUP’s transportation goals include (a) Increase use of public transit, including Metro Bus and Rail, University Transportation Services, and Prince George’s County ‘The Bus’ and ‘Route 1 Ride’. (b) Increase walkability and bike-ability throughout our community.

The public safety goals include (a) Maintain and improve safety and health, including the Student Code of Conduct, University of Maryland Police and Health departments, security cameras on and off-campus. (b) Maintain and improve cooperation between the City, University, and other agencies to enhance the security and health of our community.

The education goals include (a) Maintain and enhance K-12 educational opportunities, including the expansion of College Park Academy, to attract and retain families with school-age children. (b) Maintain and improve quality pre-K opportunities for City and University residents and employees.

Many of CPCUP’s 10-year strategic plan goals intersect with what the City is currently doing as part of its 5-year Strategic plan. We hope to discuss how the City and the CPCUP can work together to achieve their shared goals.

None has been Fined on Unruly Social Gathering Law Since Passed Last Year

No municipal infractions or notices of violations have been issued since the Unruly Social Gatherings ordinance was issued a year ago.

When the Council adopted an ordinance related to Chapter 141, Article II, Unruly Social Gatherings, about a year ago, it decided to have an annual report on the effect of this ordinance.

Several factors may have influenced the apparent success of this ordinance in achieving general voluntary compliance.

There was significant news media attention to Council deliberations leading up to and subsequent to the adoption of this Ordinance. Potential consequences for violating the Ordinance became widely known amongst residents and property owners.

 

After March 2020, UMD was closed until the resumption of virtual classes on September 14, 2020. When UMD classes resumed the University adopted stringent social gathering rules and sanctions for violating public health directives aimed at minimizing the spread of COVID-19. There has been a significant change in behavior at off-campus student housing this fall. There have been virtually no large yard parties reported or observed by residents, police, or code enforcement. Smaller groups of people have been reported on private property and on the streets, but violations of this Article have not been documented.

The City Council is planning to discuss the annual report at tomorrow’s Council meeting.

Don’t Miss this Webinar about the P3 Plan for Beltway Toll Lanes

Experts Jeremy Mohler and Shar Habibi from the national think-tank “In the Public Interest” will discuss the public-private-partnership (P3) process and how it will work on the proposed Beltway toll lanes. A P3 is a complex and detailed form of privatization that gives control of a public good or service to a private entity. P3s are often risky, expensive, and secretive. Learn more.

When:  October 28   6 -7:30 pm

Click here to register for the webinar. (You must register in advance.) An e-mail with a link to the presentation will be sent to everyone who registers. There will be a time for questions following the formal presentation.

Background: The toll-lane project includes more than 70 miles of interstate highway. The P3 program would give the responsibility of designing, financing, constructing, and maintaining the toll lanes to a private contractor who would be able to set prices and collect tolls for the next 50 years. The Maryland Dept. of Transportation says this is necessary because there are insufficient funds in the Transportation Trust Fund to finance this infrastructure. But it’s now clear the toll-lane project would require taxpayer subsidy.

Critical issues must be carefully considered before MDOT goes forward with this project:

1)      Is this infrastructure actually needed?

2)      How much will Maryland taxpayers have to pay to support this P3?

3)      Are P3s actually successful in transferring the risk of the project to the private entity?

Compared to the traditional route of issuing municipal bonds for capital projects, P3s are often cited as a less expensive way to leverage private capital to achieve public construction goals. But are they? What are the costs and what are the risks? With Gov. Hogan proposing a P3 for the addition of toll lanes on I-270 and I-495, the more we understand about P3 projects, the better we can advocate for our tax dollars.