5 Top Stories from the September ANC 4B Meeting

Here are the Top Five stories from the September ANC 4B meeting

5) Help Needed for Eagle Scout Project

Little Library Eagle Scout ProjectPatrick Donnelly, a Manor Park resident and student at McKinley Tech high school, is seeking to build ten Little Free Libraries in the Manor Park neighborhood.  Little Free Libraries aim to inspire a love of reading, build community, and spark creativity.

Mr. Donnelly is seeking the following types of assistance for this project:

  • If you would like to have a library in your yard, contact him at jgjcpd@gmail.com
  • If you’re interested in helping build, paint or install the libraries, he will posted the dates and locations soon.
  • If you have any extra plywood, 4×4’s lumber, plexiglass or exterior paint.
  • If you would like to a make a donation, visit gofundme.com/free-little-library-eagle-project . He plans to use the money that is collected to help purchase the materials for the libraries.

ANC Commissioner Natalee Snider is assisting with this project.

4) DMV in your neighborhood

DC REAL IDDepartment of Motor Vehicles Director Lucinda Baber gave a very brief and energetic presentation where she shared her department’s recently updated Strategic Plan (download).  She also shared the following reminders:

  • DMV’s Annual Car Seat Safety check will take place on Saturday, September 29th from 2 to 7 pm at the inspection station located at 1001 Half Street SW. Free car seats will be available, and the child must be present.
  • Federal regulations in support of the REAL ID Act have begun. All city residents will need to get an updated driver’s license or official ID by October 2020.  Current licenses will not allow you to board airplanes after that date. You know if you have a DC REAL ID if there is a black star in the upper right corner.

3) Short Term Family Housing Facility Opens on Kennedy Street

Ward 4 Family Shelter
Mayor Bower, and Councilmembers Todd and White cut the ribbon on the new family housing facility.

KeShawn Harris and Kelli Hunter, our new Ward 4 liaisons from the Mayor’s Office (MOCRS) came to invite the community to the ribbon-cutting for the new Short-Term Family Housing facility located at 5505 5th Street, NW.  The ceremony took place on Wednesday. This building will provide shelter and wrap-around services to 45 city families experiencing homelessness.  It is also the first key step in Mayor Bowser’s plan to close the decrepit D.C. General facility.

2) Takoma Tenants Fight to Keep Their Homes

410 Cedar Street NW is a 30-unit apartment building built in the 1920s. It is an affordable apartment complex right in the heart of DC Takoma Business district.  That community has experienced recent hardship when the major windstorm of a few years ago blew the roof off the middle of its three buildings.  The complex’s owner repaired the roof but declined to do any additional maintenance.  That building had to be abandoned. He then decided to sell the complex.

The remaining tenants organized themselves, formed an association and exercised their TOPA (Tenant Opportunity to Purchase) rights, which gave them the right to purchase the building.  The goal is to preserve affordable housing. They have partnered with a non-profit developer who has worked with them to create a plan to restore the buildings.  But this plan requires funding from the city’s Housing Preservation Trust Fund, and tax credits, which is a competitive bidding process.

That request brought the tenants before the ANC, as they were seeking support for their application.  If they succeed, the buildings will provide affordable, rent-stabilized homes for 30 families (Current rents are $500 – $1,200 per month) for at least the next forty years.

The ANC supported their application.

1) Historic Preservation Shocker: Solar Panels in Takoma Park

Solar Panel application in Takoma ParkTakoma neighbor Steve Preister requested support to improve the solar panel array on his 5th Street NW home.  The home was built in 1912 and is a contributing element in the Takoma Park Historic District. Mr. Preister has lived in the home for 35 years and has been fastidious in preserving the home’s historic character. There are already panels on the backside of his house; he wanted to add an additional 23 panels to the front to increase the power output and reduce the home’s reliance on fossil fuel.

Commissioner Tanya Topolewski presented a resolution in support of the installation. This is the first request for street facing solar panels in Takoma Park. Every neighbor on his block came to the meeting to support Mr. Preister.  They are in universal support of his application.

ANC 4B deadlocked in a 3 to 3 vote on the resolution, with the curious occurrence of the resolution’s author voting against it.  There was additional contention as Commissioner. Snider requested to change her “nay” vote (the change was not allowed).

On Thursday, Mr. Preister and his contractor appeared before the Historic Preservation Review Board. During the hearing Mr. Preister stated, “I have preserved my home for another 100 years, but my question is whether we have preserved a habitable planet.”

Despite their obvious benefits, the HPRB guidelines discourage the installation of solar panels where they are visible from a public street. The HPRB staff report recommended against allowing the installation.  Three Takoma neighbors testified (two in favor, and one opposed).

But with the odds rolling against him, Mr. Preister found some favor during the Review Board’s deliberations.  After a thoughtful and engaging discussion, the Board approved an installation of the portion of the system that will rest on the dormer and porch roofs and offer the least amount of visibility from the street.

Ironically, the ANC had tried to reach the same compromise, but couldn’t get out of its own way well enough to present a clear resolution.

In my opinion, the HBRB regulations are outdated regarding the Green Energy movement and I am happy that common sense prevailed here. I hope that Mr. Preister enjoys his solar panels, and lower energy bills, for years to come.

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