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Celebrating Black History Month: A Proclamation by the City of College Park

In a dedicated

In a dedicated acknowledgment of the rich tapestry of history and the invaluable contributions made by Black people, the City of College Park proudly observes Black History Month. This annual celebration serves as a poignant reminder of the central role Black individuals have played in shaping our collective history.

The City of College Park takes pride in embracing the diversity within its Black community, recognizing individuals who self-identify as African, African-American, Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, or Black. Throughout our city, Maryland, and the broader Black diaspora, this celebration honors the resilience, accomplishments, and enduring legacies of Black individuals.

Our City’s history is intricately woven with the significant roles and lasting contributions of Black residents. As we mark Black History Month, we reflect not only on the achievements but also on the ongoing struggle against racism. This year’s celebration gains particular significance as we confront historic challenges within our community, underscoring the imperative to build a society that aligns with democratic ideals.

Black History Month beckons all residents of College Park to honor those who fought against racism, striving to secure lives of dignity and opportunity for every member of our community. It is a time to pay homage to those who championed civil rights for all Americans, contributing to the strength of our families and communities.

Therefore, with heartfelt recognition, the Mayor and Council of the City of College Park proudly proclaim February as BLACK HISTORY MONTH. This proclamation extends an invitation to all residents to join in the collective effort to foster a world that is just, equitable, and prosperous for everyone.

Proclaimed this 6th day of February 2024.

New Regulations for Short-Term Rentals: What You Need to Know

Exploring Recent Changes in City Ordinances and What They Mean for Hosts and Guests

The Mayor and Council talked about renting homes for short periods at their meeting on April 18, 2023. Right now, the city treats short-term rentals like long-term ones. If you’re renting your own home where you live, and you only have 1 or 2 tenants, you don’t need a special permit from the city. But if your home is where you live, and you have 3 or more tenants, you do need a permit, and they check your place every year.

If your home is not where you live, and you rent it to 1-5 people who aren’t related or to 1 family, you also need a permit and inspections every year. These rules apply no matter how long people stay in your place, and there’s no limit to how many days you can rent it out in a year.

Conversely, the county treats short- and long-term rentals differently, and these rules apply to all properties no matter how many tenants you have. They even make platforms like Airbnb register. In the city, short-term rental platforms don’t have to register, but the city can see what they’re up to through the county’s registration records.

The city can make its own rules for short-term rentals and could even make them tougher than the county’s. They can also make short-term rental platforms register if they want. They can even use the county’s rules as their own, like they do with the county’s building code.

At the April 18 meeting, the Council developed new rules for short-term rentals in the city. These rules might be stricter than the county’s. They also talked about telling the state’s SDAT if someone might be breaking the Homestead Property Tax Credit rules, stopping LLC-owned properties from getting short-term rental permits, and making clear definitions for hosts, resident hosts, and property owners. They also wanted to know how many short-term rentals there are in the city.

These changes primarily focus on the inclusion of short-term rental regulations, definitions, and host responsibilities within Chapter 144 of the City’s ordinances.

Here is a summary of the changes made in the document. The document introduces the regulation of short-term rental units (e.g., Airbnb) as a separate occupancy category.

Section 1 – Amendment to Statement of Policy: The “Statement of policy” in Chapter 144 is amended to include references to short-term rental units. It specifies that all rental dwelling units and short-term rental units must be licensed and regulated to protect the health, welfare, and safety of residents and visitors.

Section 2 – Amendment to Definitions: Definitions related to short-term rentals and hosting platforms are added to Chapter 144.

Section 3 – Amendment to Occupancy Permits Required: This section is amended to include short-term rental units as a category requiring occupancy permits. It also introduces various requirements for short-term rental hosts, such as insurance, safety measures, and notification to homeowners’ associations.

Section 4 – Amendment to Revocation; Reinstatement: Changes are made regarding the revocation and reinstatement of occupancy permits, including the suspension and revocation of short-term rental licenses.

Section 5 – Addition of Challenge to Affirmation: A new section is added, allowing challenges to affirmations made during short-term rental license applications.

Section 6 – Addition of Short-Term Rental Licenses; Host Requirements: This section establishes the requirements for short-term rental licenses and host responsibilities, including guest limits and record-keeping.

Section 7 – Incorporation of County Code Requirements: This section incorporates provisions from the County Code related to short-term rentals and information sharing with hosting platforms.

Section 8 – Amendment to Violations and Penalties: Changes are made to penalties for violations of the ordinance.

City to Advocate County bill Promoting Urban Street Design Policy

In 2017, the County Council instructed DPW&T to create standards for transit districts and local centers. Collaborating with other agencies, including the Department of Permitting and Inspections (DPIE), DPW&T developed Urban Street Design standards. Unfortunately, these new standards have not been consistently implemented, and in some instances, multi-modal streets were not required.

The Walkable Urban Streets Act (CB 69) and resolutions (CR 67 and CR 68) update Prince George’s County’s people-friendly Urban Streets Design Standards and require they be used when the County undertakes road projects in designated centers. The updated standards establish safer streets for people walking and bicycling near Regional Transit Centers (e.g., Metro stations) and Local Centers, as identified in Plan Prince George’s 2035, the County’s land use plan [the Purple Line stations in College Park are noted
as Campus Centers]. This legislation requires the use of walkable street designs which help spur economic growth and boost the vibrancy, safety, and appeal of Prince George’s County mixed-use centers.

At next week’s Council meeting, the City will consider sending a letter on behalf of the City in support of CB 69.

Mayor Protem Mitchell Recognized for her service as MML President

At last night’s City Council meeting, we had the privilege to recognize Mayor Pro Tem and MML 2022-2023 President Denise Mitchell on her accomplishments.

During her tenure, Ms. Mitchell created a partnership with the NLC so that any town under 20,000 has automatic membership, She also created a Diversity Equity and Inclusion structure within the league. Plus, she held a retreat with key members on both the Senate and Delegate side to discuss Police Accountability and revenue from Cannabis.

During the opening ceremony of the recent MML Conference, Mayor Pro Tem Mitchell received the Key to Ocean City by Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan in recognition for her dedicated work as MML President. At the Closing Ceremony, Governor Wes Moore awarded Ms. Mitchell a Governor’s Citation in appreciation of her outstanding services. Congratulations Mayor Pro Tem Mitchell!


Left photo: Mayor Pro Tem Mitchell with City Manager Kenny Young and Mayor Fazlul Kabir during the July 11, 2023 Mayor and Council Meeting
Right photo: Mayor Pro Tem Mitchell with Governor Wes Moore during the MML closing ceremony, photo credit by the Executive Office of the Governor

Top 5 Reasons to Attend This Saturday’s Town Hall – Reason 1: Tell How to Spend Your Tax Dollars

There are many important reasons to participate in this Saturday’s Town Hall meeting. The first reason is to listen and ask questions about how the Council plans to use your tax money in the upcoming fiscal year. The Council has managed to keep the residential tax rate at a historically low level, which is the lowest among all the towns in Prince George’s County. Additionally, there have been various changes in the new budget aimed at generating more revenue and offering more services and amenities to the people living in our town. Whether you attend the Town Hall in person or virtually, it’s an opportunity for you to ask questions and make sure your voice is heard.

Join the Mayor and Council for a town hall to discuss City-wide issues! This Town Hall is free and open to the public. Attend in-person at City Hall or watch virtually at www.collegeparkmd.gov/CouncilMeetings or on the City’s cable channel (FiOS: 25 and Xfinity: 71)

A Message of Gratitude from your New Mayor

[Last night, I was sworn in as the new Mayor of College Park. I made the following remarks at the ceremony]


Good evening, College Park! Thank you all for being here. I am honored by your presence and grateful for the incredible privilege of serving you as the new Mayor of College Park.

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to our residents for trusting me with this responsibility. I want to thank the community for your patience in the past two and a half months. As we all had to process many complex thoughts, we went through a period of uncertainty. I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity and move the City forward.  I also want to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues, Councilmembers Ms. Mitchell, Ms. Kennedy, and Mr. Haddad, for running spirited campaigns and giving our residents choices during the election and engaging them in dialogue. I want to thank Mayor ProTem Mitchell for serving as the acting Mayor during this transitional period.

Tonight, I am also grateful to my family, my wife, my sons, and their families, Campaigning isn’t easy, so thank you for your sacrifices and for being with me every step of the way. I am glad to have you by my side as we begin this journey.

I am immensely grateful to all the dedicated volunteers and supporters who contributed their time, energy, and unwavering belief in our shared vision. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I also want to take a moment to reflect on my own journey. Growing up in a foreign land, my mother was a schoolteacher, and my father was a humble railway clerk. They both struggled a lot to raise me and my siblings in a small house without many basic amenities we take for granted. This experience allowed me to appreciate the value of hard work, be thankful, and aspire to excel higher in my life, to pursue my doctorate degree, and then cross the Atlantic in search of the American dream.

Along the line, I am incredibly grateful to this country and my neighbors for your love, acceptance and support over the years and for allowing me to serve you. I wasn’t born in this country, I wasn’t raised in this country. I am an immigrant, I am a person of color, and I am a Muslim. Yet you all entrusted me with the biggest opportunity to serve you. By electing me, you have genuinely shown the best of College Park – a truly inclusive, diverse and welcoming community that can be a model for other communities in this country.

To our residents, in the next few days and weeks, I’ll be meeting many of you. You will see me at your civic association meetings, the town halls, the farmers’ markets, and the boards and committee meetings. Many of you are still recovering from the shock that we all just went through. So I want to be on your side as we go through this journey and come out strong and resilient. But most importantly, I want to be in touch with you to hear from you – to get your ideas to move College Park forward.
I am incredibly grateful that so many of you voted for me. But I also want to recognize those of you who chose not to vote for me. Please note – whether you voted for me or not, I will be at your service.

And I’ll be at your service regardless of where you live in our beautiful City – whether in Sunnyside in the north or Calvert Hills in the south – whether in College Park Woods on the west or the College Park Yarrow and Estates on the east. Or Hollywood, Berwyn, Lakeland, or the UMD campus in the middle.

My passion is to hear from you and get things done. When you will ask me something – whether it’s a small or a big one – I may or may not be able to do it, but please know that – I’ll try my best to make it happen! So please keep your ideas coming.

But I also ask you all a favor. Whether I am doing my job right or not, please advise me how I can do better. Please make me accountable for the trust you’ve put in me. We want to take this journey together.

To my City Council colleagues, I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work with such a  wonderful team. As a Mayor, my job will be to elevate each one of you, because I truly believe that good leadership is about lifting others up and getting things done as a team. So if any of you on the Council have any idea or opportunity about any part of College Park, please let me know. I will work hard with you as your partner to bring your idea to a reality.

To our wonderful City staff, I want to take a moment to express my deepest appreciation for the hard work and dedication you bring to our beloved City. You are the ones who tirelessly run the engine of College Park, and sometimes we selfishly take the credit of your hard work. As the newly elected Mayor, I am excited to have the opportunity to work alongside such a talented and committed team and to make many wonderful things to happen.

We also see many wonderful opportunities ahead of us. We can grow College Park with smart economic development, especially in the Discovery District. We should all be excited to see the Purple Line being built. As Route 1 in south College Park is being redeveloped, we should keep advocating Route 1’s redevelopment in north College Park, while making sure to account for residents’ needs and traffic concerns. I want to see a respectful and strong partnership with the UMD. The University is a pool of talent, and I will work with the University to use that talent to benefit our long-time residents. We should continue to explore ways to bring more affordable housing to College Park. I will also work hard to bring more educational opportunities for all, especially our school students. And I will also ensure that our seniors are supported and valued members of our community.

In conclusion, I am humbled and honored to serve as your Mayor, and I pledge to work tirelessly to make College Park an even better place to call home.

Thank you.

Recognizing Five Exceptional Women Leaders on Our City Council during Women’s History Month

This is Women’s History Month; I want to recognize and thank five incredible women on our City Council. You have worked tirelessly to improve our community, often making sacrifices in your personal lives to do so. Your dedication, service and leadership to our city are an inspiration to us all, and we are all grateful for your contributions. Thank you!

 

Tomorrow’s Four Cities Meeting Agenda

The mayors and Council members of the Four Cities Coalition (College Park, Greenbelt, Berwyn Heights, New Carrolton) will meet tomorrow, Thursday, January 26, 2023 at 7:30 pm

The City of College Park will host the meeting. ‘

It will be a hybrid meeting. The In-Person meeting will be at the College Park City Hall, 2nd Floor Council Chambers.
Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/92592578665

Here is the agenda:

Berwyn Heights:

  • Stormwater Management
  • Background from College Park and Greenbelt on the renter to homeowner programs
  • How are other municipalities responding to the recent crime in the area, including whether there are any new police initiatives

College Park:

  • Legislative priorities that the Four Cities have in common
  • Investor purchases of single-family homes
  • Resilient Maryland Revolving Loan Fund (FEMA)
  • Local impacts from a federal government shutdown

Greenbelt:

  • WMATA: potential fare increases and changes in scheduling
  • Further discussion of the Plastic Bag Ban
  • Compost Collection
  • Firehouse Staffing of Career Firefighters

Mayor Anna Owens: 1925 – 2022

Mayor Anna Owens: Photo Credit

The community is saddened to hear of the passing of Anna Owens, former Mayor of College Park. She was highly regarded and respected as a dedicated public servant.

Mayor Owens lived in College Park Woods for 48 years, served as a City Councilmember from 1981 to 1987, and was the first and only female Mayor of the City from 1987 – 1993.

Before, during, and after her years as an elected official, Mayor Owens provided exceptional leadership in the community. She will be missed. More news to come regarding the memorial services.

Below is the article the City published about her in June 2019.

A MEETING WITH MAYOR ANNA OWENS: AN INTERVIEW WITH THE CITY’S FIRST FEMALE MAYOR
Published June 2019

For as long as she can remember, Anna Latta Owens was a community activist. Active in the neighborhood association, local schools, and community groups, Owens said that she always looked for solutions to better the community.

Now 94, Owens looks back at her time in Council and as Mayor for the City of College Park.

Moving to the City
In 1963, Anna Owens and her husband Dermot, began looking to move her growing family out of the increasingly expensive Washington D.C. She was working for the U.S. Department of State and needed somewhere close to the District but still affordable and a good place to settle into. After looking at various Maryland suburbs, they chose College Park in part because of its somewhat rural atmosphere and proximity to the University of Maryland. The Owens would live here for almost 50 years.

In their new home in College Park Woods, they raised a daughter and a son. One of Owen’s favorite memories was of the ponies that would occassionally come visit some of the homes there. There used to be a pony farm nearby; they worked in Takoma Park giving rides to kids.

Running for City Council
Owens was a very active member of her community, particularly for the local schools. She worked as a substitute teacher and was heavily involved as a volunteer for Cherokee Lane Elementary school and Buck Lodge Junior High. When Owens heard that a local school didn’t have an art program, she reached out to Gail Kushner (wife of Mayor Al Kushner). Mrs. Kushner contacted a University of Maryland Art Department Dean who worked to add an art program at that school.

When Owens first ran for City Council in 1980, she said she had to be talked into it by the mayor. “I am not a politician,” she would say, “I am an activist.”

After a successful campaign, Owens would go on to serve three terms from 1981 through 1987. During her Council tenure, she remembers a time of contention. Her biggest fight came with her opposition to a proposed garbage incinerator that would have been located near her District. After researching (even going as far as to speak to scientists in Belgium) and talking to other jurisdictions, she successfully lobbied the Council to prevent the garbage incinerator citing potential and unknown health concerns.

The First Female Mayor
With the encouragement of her husband, Anna Owens successfully ran for Mayor in 1987. She would become the first woman mayor of College Park.

Her time as mayor saw an ever-evolving College Park. As Mayor, she helped create a downtown area on Baltimore Avenue, created a beautification committee to help clean and take care of roads, helped reinstate the National League of Cities (NLC) Town and Gown group in College Park, and worked with the University to create the Kramer Housing Study to understand the needs better and develop a plan for student housing.

She would be reelected two more times as mayor before stepping down in 1993.

Life after Politics
Despite being out of politics for over 20 years, Owens keeps up with what’s happening in College Park. She remains active with the College Park Volunteer Fire Department and other organizations and is up-to-date with many of the latest news and developments happening in the City.

[Source: City of College Park , Office of CM Dernoga]

All Council Meeting Agenda may Have a Hybrid Format

At last week’s meeting, the Council discussed next year’s Council meeting dates and formats and asked staff to return with new options.

Staff presented a new agenda format at last week’s Worksession that will combine Worksession and Regular agenda items at the same meeting so that all meetings and all agendas are the same.

Currently, the work sessions and regular meetings occur on alternative weeks. Regualr meetings are concluded fairly quickly, however worksessionsa have been fairly long, often end until midnights.

The Council generally supported this hybrid format.

Until the full 2023 schedule is agreed to, we need to move forward with the approval of the January 2023 meeting dates. The Council will vote to approve the January Mayor and Council meeting dates: January 10, 17, 24, and 31.

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