The June Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 4B) meeting for the Takoma, Manor Park and Lamond-Riggs neighborhoods took place on Monday evening at the MPD Fourth District HQ Community Room. Commissioners and citizens rushed to complete their business before the two-month summer hiatus. Here are my highlights:
Takoma Dog Park
The nine-year quest to have the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) construct a dog park in the Takoma area is nearing its climax. Neighbors in and around the neighborhood have been debating the merits of a dog park since at least 2010. After many ups and downs, DPR finally approved a plan in July of 2017.
The dog park will be in the square-shaped area off 5th St NW and next to the indoor pool. Coolidge High School used the site for its trailer campus during the school’s renovation. Brent Sisco, a project manager for DPR, was there to share the project’s details.
Construction of the dog park will begin in August and finish by the end of October. The Northern Ward 4 Dog Park Group is the sponsoring organization and will be charged with developing a culture of responsible park usage. This includes training owners to picking up dog waste. Another concern is teaching owners to maintain control of their animals while they are walking to and from the park. The site of the fenced area will be near a foot path that is regularly used by Coolidge students and others as they walk to the Metro station.
The park will be approximately ten thousand square feet in area, which is about the same as the dog park on Upshur Street NW. DPR is still considering what type of surface to use and whether to include any agility apparatus.
Construction will cost about $30 per square foot. Mr. Sisco said, contrary to popular opinion, dog urine is a bigger environmental concern than feces. Dog park users typically do not have a problem picking up after their pets, but the park must be engineered to contain the urine-contaminated stormwater runoff.
I know at least one doggie who is very excited about the upcoming park!
Office of Police Complaints
Nykisha Cleveland, Public Affairs Specialist for the Office of Police Complaints (OPC), paid a visit to inform the public about the new agency. This visit was especially timely considering the disturbing police involved incident that occurred at the U Street Metro station last week.
The Office of Police Complaints is an independent DC agency whose main goal is to receive, investigate and resolve police misconduct complaints by citizens. It is the citizens’ best tool for oversight on Metropolitan Police and Housing Authority Police. Examples of abuse or misuse of power that can be investigated include harassment, excessive use of force, discrimination, retaliation and failure to identify to the public.
What Citizens Can Do
Residents can file a Complaints in several ways:
- Online at PoliceComplaints.dc.gov
- In person at the OPC office located at 1400 I Street NW, Suite 700
- Call their 24-hour hotline 866-588-0569
- In person at any Metropolitan Police Department district station
Citizens should file complaints as soon as possible after an incident. They must be received within 90 days.
Ms. Cleveland stated that OPC has “direct access” to police body camera footage. That is interesting because access to that footage has been a source of major dispute between MPD and many community activists.
OPC has several remedies in its toolkit, including mediation between officers and the complainant, the issuance of policy recommendations and community outreach.
Sadly, OPC does not have jurisdiction over Metro Transit police.
Ms. Cleveland’s visit was well-received by the commissioners and audience members.
Main Street Takoma
Laura Barclay, the Executive Director of the Old Takoma Business Association (OTBA), came to share information about her organization and how it helps neighborhood residents and businesses.
Since 2004, the mission of the Old Takoma Business Association has been to bring the businesses, residents and community organizations together to build and sustain a vibrant commercial district and preserve the neighborhood’s rich history. It is a non-profit organization and has the unique duty of serving members in both the District and the city of Takoma Park, Maryland.
OTBA serves the commercial zone around 4th Street NW and Carroll Street in DC, and Carroll Avenue in Maryland. It supports these businesses with low-interest loans, micro-grants, technical support and promotion through the organization’s web site and on social media. OTBA produces a retail market analysis to help its members make decisions. It also hosts a series of events and meetings to showcase Takoma as a great place to work and live.
Though many of the businesses of the Takoma main street are thriving, challenges remain. The difficulties in the national retail landscape affect our neighborhood as well. She encouraged the audience to shop local to support our small businesses.
Takoma Business Updates
Ms. Barclay also updated the audience about several businesses that residents have been eagerly anticipating:
- S&S Liquors at the corner of Blair Road and Carroll Street NW has almost completed its renovation. It will reopen in July after a two-year absence caused by a fire and the illness of the owner.
- Interior construction of Children’s Hospital @ Takoma Theatre began last week. The 23,000 square foot facility will provide services in behavioral medicine, autism, hearing and speech, and developmental medicine.
- Two food and drink vendors will join Children’s at Takoma Theatre –
- Lost Sock Roasters is a small-batch artisanal coffee roaster. It will feature fresh brewed coffee drinks and food from the popular Call Your Mother café (this is the place on Georgia Avenue that produces those long lines.
- Turning Natural is a juice bar and café that features cold-pressed juices, nutritious food options, and natural ingredients.
Finally, Takoma business on both sides of the border have identified a list of issues they would like to resolve. They have proposed to create a working group that will tackle issues like roadwork and sidewalks, coordinating traffic signals, parking and signage.
To learn more, visit the organization’s web site at MainStreetTakoma.org.
Condo Project at 218 Cedar Street NW
Several months ago, Neighborhood Development Company purchased the site of the 7-11 store across the street from the Takoma Metro station. Their intention is to build a 37-unit condominium building with one- and two-bedrooms. Ten percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing through the Inclusionary Zoning provision.
Because of the Takoma Historic District, this plan requires the developers to receive approval from the Historic Preservation Review Board. This necessitates a resolution from the local advisory neighborhood commission.
Four neighbors spoke in opposition to the current design of the project during the Community Concerns section of the meeting. Generally, these residents feel that the five-story building is too tall and out of scale with two historic homes that exist on the eastern end of that block. One expressed a desire to send the plan back to the architect to “make it better” and improve the transition from the single-family homes to the condo building. Another all but asked that the developer remove a floor of the building to “decrease the massing” of the project.
The site is zoned NC-2 for mixed-use development. NC-2 zone is a special zoning designation for the Takoma neighborhood. Two of its stated purposes are to:
- Allow and encourage residential development to help meet the need for housing, enhance safety, and provide sufficient resident population to support neighborhood-serving retail, service, and office uses;
- Encourage residential development to enhance safety and provide resident population to support neighborhood-serving commercial uses.
This project delivers exactly what was intended by the special Takoma zone. In addition, it is separated from the adjacent single-family homes by a large bank of mature trees. You can barely see through this vegetation. Transit Oriented Development principles also support the concept. Every family living next door to the Metro station is one less car on our congested roads.
The commission voted to approve the resolution in support of the project. The project moves on to a hearing at the Historic Preservation Review Board on July 11th.
Citizens and meeting participants shared a wealth of information about upcoming events in the community. Rather than list them separately this post, I will add them to the DCNorthStar Community Calendar shortly.