Berwyn District Civic Association
Thursday, January 20, 2011

1.         Agenda Item 1. Officers Present. Officers present were President Kevin Young, 1st Vice President Harry Pitt, Recording Secretary Liesl Koch, Board of Director Jerry Anzulovic, and Berwyn News Editor Michele Garnes.

2.         Agenda Item 2. Minutes from Last Meeting. A motion to accept the minutes from the November 2010 meeting was made, seconded, and passed.

3. Agenda Item 3. Treasurer’s Report. Treasurer Lori Young was unable to attend. President Young reported on her behalf that the balance as of January 20, 2011, was $3,124.48. This figure includes $503 in deposits and $284.50 paid to Minuteman Press for the publication of the December 2010 and January 2011 newsletters, and expenses of $130.08 for software for the new laptop computer, $472.18 for the holiday wreaths that BDCA bought and then sold, and $105.73 for Christmas party supplies. A motion to accept the Treasurer’s report subject to audit was made, seconded, and passed. Michele Garnes said we sold approximately $635 in wreaths, so we made approximately $163. She asked whether BDCA should increase the price of the wreaths a little bit next year if we do it again next year. President Young said he would like to sell them again next year and thanked Ms. Garnes for her efforts in selling them this year.

Councilman Jack Perry asked when an audit of the Association’s finances would take place. President Young said that he would discuss the issue later in the meeting.

4. Agenda Item 4. Special Guest. A motion to suspend the normal order of business in order to accommodate the special guest—County Councilman Eric Olson—was made, seconded, and passed. After introducing Councilman Olson, President Young observed that the current market forces have apparently affected the estate buyer whose business is located just outside the old Washington Post property—no business appears to have taken place there for several months. Councilman Olson began by addressing public safety issues. The County has had 14 homocides since the new year. Councilman Olson has been working with the Chief of Police, the County Executive, and the Sheriff for the past couple of weeks on this issue. He met with the police chief and sheriff back-to-back a couple of weeks ago to talk about what could be done. Councilman Olson suggested they work together and target open warrants, which they did, resulting in 167 arrests between the 14th and 17th of January. Fifty of those arrests were for felonies. Only two of those arrests are thought to be related to recent homocides. They have been working closely with the FBI, ATF, and other federal partners; prior to this time, there hadn’t been as good of a relationship with those agencies. Acting Chief Mark Magaw embedded six of his officers with the FBI agents in Baltimore, which is a force multiplier for the County because it allows us to tap into the FBI’s resources. The partnerhips have really helped. In response to a question from the audience, Councilman Olson stated that areas outside those where most of the homocides have taken place are still receiving the same amount of attention as before. One homocide took place in Crystal Springs in College Park. The victim was a 22-yearold college student. The police found drugs and other evidence in the house that suggested people were distributing drugs out of the house, so the murder does not appear to have been random.

 

One thing Councilman Olson has been trying to focus on in the past four years is youth gang prevention (although, he added, gangs are not necessarily related to the numerous murders that have occurred so far this year). He was able to obtain $400,000 in County money for gang prevention efforts and for working with young people and other at-risk communities. He doesn’t believe that “just throwing money” at a problem is sufficient, but the money in this case goes toward helping kids who may not have a lot of hope.

Councilman Olson discussed pawn shops in the County. He has had at least three bills in the past four years that would tighten up regulations on pawn shops. The pawn shops in the County are suing the County over the most recent of Councilman Olson’s bills – they don’t want to see any whittling away of the items they will be allowed to pawn. Councilman Olson feels that “we’re on firm footing and doing the right thing.” There are more pawn shops in Prince George’s County than anywhere else in the metropolitan region, so the “bad guys” like to come to P.G. County to pawn their “stuff.”

Councilman Olson was very supportive of Rushern Baker’s candidacy for County Executive of Prince George’s County. He thinks County Executive Baker is “terrific,” has a lot of vision for the County, and has brought in some “great” people to the administration – people who know what they’re doing. He has been very accessible to Councilman Olson and has good advisors.

There are five new County Council members, only one of which is a new member. Councilman Olson is Vice Chair of the Council this year.

The State passed stormwater regulations for new development and re-development. The question is, should the County accept only what the State mandates, or should it make those regulations stronger? Councilman Olson would like to see them stronger, because the State’s regulations have been “watered” down considerably. At the same time, we want to encourage economic revitalization—so it’s a balancing act.

The County has to pass other legislation dealing with stormwater – legislation regarding TMDLs, or total daily maximum loads – i.e., chemicals, runoff, etc., that goes in our water. We have to comply with the federal mandate to clean up the Bay and so we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our waterways clean.

There are several bills that Councilman Olson is currently drafting, including one regarding pedestrians. Currently, new development has to meet public facilities requirements, but there’s no requirement to provide pedestrian access in the immediate area around the development. For example, a developer might add a sidewalk in front of the new building, but the sidewalk might end abruptly at the edge of the development’s property. Councilman Olson’s bill, as drafted, would require that developers have to extend pedestrian access to within a certain distance of their property. It wouldn’t cost the developers that much money and would make for a better community.

Route 1 is seeing a lot of development and redevelopment. There are two student housing buildings going up that will open either in August or this fall. Hopefully we’ll also see two new buildings at the 8400 Baltimore Avenue site – those would be 8 stories. The plans have been approved and the developers are pulling the permits – they just haven’t decided whether to actually go ahead with the project yet.

Councilman Olson is working with the State highway division to work toward improving Route 1. The first priority was the portion between Greenbelt Road and Paint Branch Parkway. He got that section moved up to the number 4 spot on the County’s priority for State funding list. Has has also been working with the State highway division to get a wider sidewalk installed – wide enough to accommodate bicycles and to make it safer for people entering and exiting the road.

The Koons Ford site is vacant. There has been quite a bit of interest in the site from a number of developers, but it appears that the Koons family might want to development the site themselves. The site is zoned for mixed use, with a maximum of six stories. So development of that site is possibly on the horizon. Councilman Olson will be working with the City and the Civic Association, once specific plans are known, to make sure that any concerns we may have are heard.

The East Campus development will cover 30-some acres. The University has been working for several years on getting a mixed development project there. The University is working with the Cordish Company of Baltimore, and wants to formalize its relationship with that company later this spring. The Birchmere Music Hall is still interested in opening up a venue there. Councilman Olson thinks that having the Birchmere in College Park would be “a fantastic thing to happen to this City” and is trying to work with the County, University, and the developer to make that happen (the Birchmere would be located behind Richie Coliseum). The Purple Line would run right past the proposed Birchmere site.

On Tuesday, February 1st, from 4pm to 6pm, in the Colony Ballroom in the Stamp Student Union on campus, there will be a forum to discuss the Purple Line’s alignment across campus. The new president of the University – President Loh – who seems very committed to the local community, has organized this forum to bring in both the federal and state transportation agencies involved, consultants, and others to describe the two possible alignments across campus. The preferred alignment would go up Campus Drive. Former University President Mote wanted the line to go underground; it would cost $50–60 million to bury the line.

Someone asked Councilman Olson about a possible grocery store in College Park, and what the timeline for that and the East Campus project would be. Councilman Olson replied that the East Campus project would be done in phases, but it would probably be several years before the entire project was completed. He thinks we could reach a deal with the Birchmere first; if so, that could open in as early as 18 months. Because the developer that preceded the Cordish Company had already done some of the groundwork, things will probably move faster than they otherwise would.

Councilman Olson thinks a grocery store in the area would make a lot of sense.

Someone remarked that traffic in the area is getting worse since the new student housing was completed. Councilman Olson said he thinks the student housing developments have actually removed traffic from the road because the students can now walk to campus instead of having to drive. A shuttle bus also serves the student housing buildings.

Someone asked Councilman Olson what the advantage to P.G. County taxpayers was of serving all the outstanding warrants. Is there room in jail for all those people? Councilman Olson replied that the advantage is that you’re getting criminals off the street, and that you’re getting intelligence from them about where they’re getting their drugs, other criminals they’re associating with, etc. The audience member asked what would prevent us from seeing ourselves in the same situation again – we had a tremendous backlog in the past, and now we’ll have another one because the sheriff’s department is not equipped to handle all the warrants that the Court is handing down. Councilman Olson responded that half of the warrants were traffic warrants, and some were past the statute of limitations. But the really serious ones involving violent crimes have to be dealt with. Making these arrests is one strategy; another is using technology that’s available. For example, some jurisdictions have a GPS-type device that alerts a police officer in his or her cruiser while driving down the street that they’re passing a house with an outstanding warrant.

Someone expressed surprise that the County seems to be under the impression that the new student housing along Route 1 has improved traffic on Route 1 – northbound traffic at 7pm the other night, she said, was “just horrible.” She expressed concern that the commercial space on the ground floor of the new buildings has no parking available for customers. Someone in the audience replied that that was not the case. Councilman Olson replied that there are several ways to address heavy traffic on Route 1. One way is to increase public transportation and for commuters to use it. He said he was instrumental in getting a county bus – “The Bus” – in operation; it runs all the way from IKEA to Mount Ranier. A lot of the traffic on Route 1 is people from Laurel commuting all the way to D.C.

You want people to live closer to where they work; it is hoped that the East Campus development might make that possible for more people. Fifty thousand commuters enter the campus every day.

Someone asked what could be done about those commuters just passing through College Park. Someone else replied that $9/gallon gasoline would do the trick.

Councilman Olson has heard that there’s a study looking at the possibility of adding another lane to 295, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. We cannot afford to continue that model, of providing infrastructure that allows people to live far from their workplaces. We need to create more jobs in the County for people who live in the County.

Someone asked if there’s any possibility of the Metro being extended all the way to Laurel. The Fort Meade base reallocation was discussed. There will be a lot more jobs up at Fort Meade, but they’re looking at Howard and Anne Arundel Counties more than at Prince George’s County. They’ll have to have infrastructure in place to handle that. Someone asked Councilman Olson if he had heard about the third rail of CSX going north. Councilman Olson said he had heard of the idea, but not of any definite plan. He was asked whether CSX would have to inform the community. Councilman Olson said he was sure CSX would have to do this, but he’ll look into it. There are a lot of communities along its line that CSX would have to deal with.

Councilman Olson was asked about zoning along Berwyn Road. Smile Herb Shop owner Tom Wolfe knows someone who wanted to open a yoga studio but the County wouldn’t issue a permit to do so because it determined that the community didn’t need a yoga studio. Smile Herb Shop is grandfathered in at C1 zoning. Councilman Olson said the person should contact him. An audience member stated that the zoning had changed from C1 to CA or something like that. Councilman Olson said everyone wanted to see Berwyn Road be a vibrant area but cautioned that changing the zoning could have unintended consequences. He said he would look into it. Someone in the audience said the City is opposed to the yoga studio and is holding up the process because of the lawsuit with Alvin Jenkins, which is now 12 or 14 years old. The business owner said he didn’t think his friend should be punished because of a dispute the City is having with Alvin Jenkins. BDCA President Young mentioned that the community has supported the idea of getting businesses in the empty storefronts along Berwyn Road – they’ve been empty for years. We have been hearing stories of people not being able to get use and occupancy permits.

Audience member Tom Wolfe shared the news that he has helped get the public school system to agree to teach religion in the schools – not to promote it, but to teach about the different faiths.

Audience member Harry Pitt expressed his concern about the fiscal strength of the County. Governor O’Malley said that there wouldn’t be tax increases, but Mr. Pitt has heard that that might be an option if the State can’t reduce its deficit. He also expressed concern about the monetary problems facing P.G. County Community Hospital and the fact that the taxpayers will probably have to bail it out. He asked Councilman Olson about the fact that the County Council members voted to give themselves a raise in spite of the County’s fiscal situation. Councilman Olson stated that he took the lead in trying to stop the salary increase from going into effect. He believes that elected officials’ salary should go down if the CPI goes down. The Gazette published a “convoluted” article on the subject that made it sound like he was trying to increase the pay of elected officials. Mr. Pitt stated that his interpretation of the article was that Councilmen Olson and Dernoga were some of the few who didn’t want the Council to get a raise. Councilman Olson said that was true, but that they “lost.” He mentioned the fact that the County Council attends a retreat each year, and that in the past several years the retreat had been held at various Park and Planning properties; he was opposed to the plan to hold it at the Hyatt in Cambridge this year. Although it cost “only” $10,000 or $15,000, that didn’t “look good.” But because he’s part of the County Council, he gets painted with the same brush. He strenuously urged former County Executive Jack Johnson’s wife not to take the Council seat to which she was elected.

 

Addressing Mr. Pitt’s concerns about the financial situation, Councilman Olson stated that the County will be okay this fiscal year, but next year it will have a deficit and will have to “plug some holes.” The year after that, the County could be facing a serious deficit.

He’s very concerned about the proposal to pass the responsibility of teachers’ pensions on to the counties; even though Governor O’Malley has stated that he isn’t going to do that (the General Assembly could still decide to do that). Mr. Pitt asked if the County was preparing for this, just in case. Councilman Olson expressed confidence in the new County Executive; he believes the County will be okay. With the help of its undesignated reserve, the County is in much better shape than Montgomery County, which has a $300 million deficit. Prince George’s County has approximately $120 million in reserves—a rainy day fund. This will give the County lower interest rates for bonding. The County Executive wants to use some of that money for stimulus to grow our tax base and to invest. County Executive Baker has appointed a really good budget person.

 

Addressing Mr. Pitt’s concerns about P.G. Community Hospital, Councilman Olson agreed that it’s a very serious issue, but he feels a lot more confident with County Executive Baker at the helm that the County will find a teaching hospital to take it over. We cannot continue to putting money indefinitely into P.G. Community Hospital as it currently operates. Someone in the audience asked what we as citizens can do to guarantee that we’ll get fair, honest people on the Council who aren’t raising their own salaries to the detriment of other workers. Councilman Olson stated that the next time the salary issue would come up would be in another four years.

 

An audience member asked if there was any possibility that TRIM would be repealed. Councilman Olson said that he doesn’t think so. An audience member called TRIM the “third rail” in Prince George’s County—something that no politician is willing to touch. Another audience member asked about development around the Metro stations. Councilman Olson stated that there have been discussions with Lamada (?) about that.

The two entities in question are Mannequin, which would do the commercial side, and another one whose name Councilman Olson couldn’t remember. The problem is that Mannequin isn’t the one that holds the contract with Lamada (?)—it’s the other entity, the housing entity. Mannequin wants to move forward with it, but if they were split, they’d have to go out on a whole new rebid with it. Councilman Olson doesn’t think it’s going to be as long and dragged out as ... (inaudible). An audience member asked about the NOAA building. Councilman Olson said that there were cost overruns. It’s a federal GSA building; the contractor stopped work on it because the federal government said it wouldn’t pay the contractor because of the cost overruns. Congressman Steny Hoyer is working on resolving this. Councilman Olson indicated that his business cards were available on a table in the back of the room, along with information sheets. He sends an electronic newsletter out every month and encouraged anyone not currently receiving it to request to be on the listserv.

 

1.         Agenda Item 5. Unfinished Business. President Young asked the Recording Secretary if there was any unfinished business from the last meeting. Recording Secretary Koch said there was not.

  1. Agenda Item 6. President’s Report. President Kevin Young said that Corresponding Secretary Timothy Triplett will post the Association’s proposed new bylaws on the BDCA website. The proposed bylaws will be read into the record at the February meeting and will

be voted on at the March meeting. Passing the new laws will require a two-thirds vote. Kevin Young mentioned the Association’s many accomplishments over the past year. Harry Pitt worked on streetlight maintenance early last year; his efforts resulted in the successful repair of 21 lights in the neighborhood. Marina Dullnig was instrumental in updating the Neighborhood Watch directory. Michele Garnes has done a commendable job editing the newsletter; she has added new content and come up with new ideas. BDCA representatives met with University personnel at the Severn Building and had “a seat at the table” in talks about the building so that we would know what to expect in the future.

 

President Young thanked Jerry Anzulovic for insisting that we continue to walk the perimeter of the property—which is best done earlier in the year, before the “critters” come out. Hats off to Michele Garnes for her efforts in the holiday wreath sales. That was a new venture, and proved a successful venture. BDCA has had two representatives – Michele and Jerry – at the weekly coffees with the police, with whom we’ve developed a good rapport. First Vice President Pitt and President Young met with Bob Ryan, College Park’s Director of Public Services, over the summer to discuss public safety issues, and got an extremely good response from the City staff, who addressed all of the seven concerns raised within 24 hours. President Young also worked with Steven Halpern, the City’s engineer, and got a really good response. Mr. Halpern was instrumental in putting pressure on WSSC to finally repair the water main break on Quebec Street; the pipe had been leaking for years. President Young reminded the audience of BDCA’s successful social events over the past year: the successful potluck in the park in the spring, Berwyn Day (he thinks that advertising as Holy Redeemer helped attract some of the children who attended), Neighborhood Watch’s National Night Out (for which he thanked Kevin Carter), and the October bonfire, which the Branchville Fire Department helped make successful by ensuring that it was a safe event. The Christmas party was a success as well. The Association’s finances are in very good shape, but membership rolls have dropped

off from last year’s level, and President Young thanked City Councilman Bob Catlin for mentioning that in his newsletter column. We haven’t found advertisers to replace the two whose agreements with the newsletter have expired. President Young wants to do a membership drive this year. One of the goals for 2011 is to have the Association’s books audited. President Young has talked with Mr. Michael, who will talk to the Board, which will determine whether it wants Mr. Michael to audit the books once or twice a year.

 

President Young said that a Berwyn resident had expressed a concern to him that trucks arriving in the parking lot of the Clarion Inn (the old Best Western) at the end of the day— trucks apparently belonging to construction crews staying there—were dumping some kind of liquid out of their vehicles. President Young wrote to Bobby Shaw, manager of the Clarion Inn, about the liquid. He and Mr. Shaw investigated and determined that the liquid was just water. City Engineer Steve Halpern put pressure on the State Highway Administration about replacing the plywood that had been covering the storm drain at the corner of Greenbelt Road and Rhode Island Avenue for a long time. Mr. Halpern was successful in getting the highway administration to finally do the work.

 

Marina Dullnig had reported some graffiti on the trolley trail some time ago. The police like to come out and photograph graffiti as part of their anti-gang efforts. It will be pressure-washed come warmer weather.

 

President Young and Jerry Anzulovic will be doing their perimeter walk around the Washington Post property soon. Anyone who cares to join them is welcome to do so.

 

7. Agenda Item 7. City Councilmen Reports. Councilman Jack Perry talked about the drain at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and Greenbelt Road that President Young had mentioned. Pipes running down Greenbelt Road and in the back of the Washington Post property have been identified by the City and applications to fund work on them with community-funded block money have been made. Nobody has any money right now. “Buley Run” is the name of the ditch that runs back there. It took Mr. Halpern and City Councilman Perry about seven years to get the responsible utilities to come out and do their work. The highway tax money that we used to get from the state of Maryland is gone and who knows when it’s coming back. There used to be a requirement that if you use the highway money you’d have to match it with your own money. There are towns adjoining ours that have the same pavement maintenance program that we do; our program has worked very well and it isn’t something that we came by easily—it was fought for. Repair and maintenance of the streets was taken away from the City Concil and put in the hands of the staff, and professional guidelines are now used to evaluate the streets and keep them up to an industry standard. Consequently, we’re “ahead,” which is particularly helpful now that the City Manager has told us that we’ll be doing no more paving this fiscal year. New year, however, we’ll have to figure out a way to fund street maintenance because we can’t put it off indefinitely.

 

Berwyn is far from a “dying” community. We may not like all the houses in it, but even the rentals can become family homes.

The Washington Post has filed for reassessment for three years of taxes. The City will be obligated to pay the Washington Post $96,000; the County will have to reimburse the Post a considerable amount of money as well. New year’s budget is coming up. The City Manager has asked for a “wish list” of items people want included in next year’s fiscal budget. If you think of anything, let Councilman Perry or Councilman Catlin know, or the City Manager directly. The mural on the side of the auto parts store could use some rejuvenating. Councilman Perry is going to ask if we can get some type of mural on the railroad crossing over Paint Branch Parkway. There’s a mural over the top of buildings in downtown College Park that has seen better days, that is falling apart and in need of repair or replacement; Councilman Perry is going to ask the City Manager to include that in the budget in the future. The landlord of that property isn’t going to take it on himself to rejuvenate that mural.

Councilman Bob Catlin reported that the number of citations from the City’s speed cameras has dropped off, so the cameras are apparently effective in controlling speed. A new southbound camera on the Lassick’s property is going up; it will probably issue a lot of citations initially, until people get used to it. The most recent numbers Councilman Catlin has seen on the City’s speed cameras show that 96 percent of the citations issued are to cars from outside the City’s zipcodes.

 

County Executive Rushern Baker will be at City Hall next Wednesday at 7:30pm; everyone is welcome to attend. The City Council will probably invite the Cordish Company to its first work session in February in order to talk about East Campus. The City hasn’t met with the Cordish Company yet, so this will be the first opportunity to talk about the projects with them. Regarding the Varsity development, a Royal Farms is slated to have space in the commercial area. There will also be upscale, pretty good size restaurant there – Looney’s. Councilman Catlin said that the Koons Ford owners haven’t decided what to do with the old Koons Ford property; they might be interested in developing the property themselves. A member of the audience said that she would love to see a Chinese restaurant chain – P.F. Changs – in College Park.

 

8. Agenda Item 8. Other Business. Someone in the audience expressed concern that someone from Verizon had set up a stepladder in the middle of her flower garden without asking permission first. Someone suggested she call Verizon to complain. Michele Garnes stated that she wants to start a column in the newsletter called “Traditions” that would include a recipe “from lost college days” or a favorite of family gatherings. She would like to include a little story associated with that recipe. One would appear each month.

 

The meeting was adjourned at 9:50pm.

 

Meeting Attendees (from sign-up sheet):

Jerry Anzulovic Jack Perry
Carol Baker Harry Pitt
Robert Catlin Carol Savard
Michele Garnes Tom Slezak
Doug Hunter Forrest Tyler
Alvin F. Jenkins Sandra Tyler
Liesl Koch Tom Wolfe

Liesl Koch, Recording Secretary, BDCA.