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City Council to Debate Staggered Four-Year Terms for Mayor and Council

At next week’s meeting, the Council will discuss staggered four-year terms for the Mayor and Council election.

The Mayor and Council currently serve two-year concurrent terms, with elections for the full elected body being held in odd-numbered years. The November 2023 election ballot included an advisory question about this:

In the 2019 election, the advisory ballot question was similar but worded differently:

Changing from two- to four-year terms and/or concurrent to staggered terms would require an amendment to Section C3-5 of the City Charter. Charter Amendments require a Public Hearing, allowing the public to comment on the specific proposal.

Staff has prepared the following chart showing how four-year staggered terms could be implemented.

A great deal of public education and outreach would be needed if the change were to go into effect.

If Council is interested in moving to four-year terms, they may also wish to consider four-year concurrent
terms as another option. This would save money as elections would only need to be held every four years.

According to staff, there would be no cost savings to the City under a four-year staggered terms option because elections would still be run every 2 years. The budget for an election is between $70K-$80K, depending on the type
of election.

There may be a cost associated with advertising the change if a direct mailing is done. Changes to the City Charter cost about $2,500 in state required public notice costs (publish 4 times in a newspaper of record). There is also a cost associated with every update to the City Code/Charter from our Code publisher, General Code.

On a related note, I personally prefer to keep the 2-year terms for a couple of reasons. That said, I agree there are pros and cons on both proposals, including the staggered terms. I wrote this article on this issue when it came first time back in 2019.

City Celebrates Legislative Wins in 2024 General Assembly Session

The College Park Mayor and Council were briefed by lobbyist Len Lucchi on the 2024 Maryland General Assembly legislative session. Mr. Lucchi, a partner with O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore, P.A., has been a lobbyist for the City since 2015.

Mr. Lucchi highlighted several bills supported by the 21st District Delegation (Senator Jim Rosapepe, and Delegates Joseline Peña-Melnyk, Ben Barnes, and Mary Lehman) and the City of College Park that passed during the session. “Your legislative delegation has important leadership positions that make it much easier for me to represent your interests” said Mr. Lucchi.

The City Council supported legislation sponsored by Delegates Lehman and Peña-Melnyk that increased penalties for street racing and exhibition driving, and it passed in both chambers. The City Council also supported legislation that authorizes stop sign monitoring systems in school zones. Violators will receive a civil citation. The legislation passed as a two-year pilot program.

Senator Rosapepe and Delegate Peña-Melnyk were instrumental in negotiating with the Governor’s Office and leadership in both chambers to amend and pass the Housing Expansion and Affordability Act of 2024. This legislation creates bonus densities for qualified projects near transit, but exempts property zoned for single-family homes and transit located on a university campus, which will protect the Lakeland community and other neighborhoods near transit stations. College Park Mayor Fazlul Kabir said, “we are really pleased with our delegation’s advocacy in Annapolis, and we appreciate Mr. Lucchi and City staff keeping the Council apprised of important bills and projects to support.”

Delegate Ben Barnes helped secure funding in the State Capital budget for several projects that will benefit the City of College Park. The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission will receive $2 million for the design and construction of trail improvements at the Paint Branch Parkway Park. The University of Maryland, College Park will receive $5 million for graduate student housing and additional funding for the Campus Farm, soccer and track stadium, and other campuswide infrastructure improvements. The College Park City-University Partnership will receive $2 million for site improvements, including stormwater and floodplain mitigation, for properties near the College Park Airport. In addition, $10 million was allocated for flood control in the Calvert Hills neighborhood.

The Mayor and Council thank our strategic partners for their efforts to secure important legislation and funding that will benefit our residents.

[City of College Park]

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. When looking for a rental property, you only need to choose a reputable and trusted company, similar to Premier Rentals, that offers a wide range of services.

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

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