Minutes of May 2021 Meeting

North College Park Community Association
May 13, 2021 – Regular Meeting by Zoom

Attending: President Mary Cook, Vice President Carol Macknis, Secretary Ellen Caswell; Councilmembers Kate Kennedy, Maria Mackie, and Denise Mitchell; Judy Blumenthal, Dawn Budd, Kelvin Budd, Lisa Ealley, Carissa Janis, Mary King, John Krouse, Arelis Pérez, and David Turcios, and from the 21st District Delegation, Senator Jim Rosapepe, Delegates Joseline Peña-Melnyk and Mary Lehman, and new member of the Community Liaison Staff Denise Valladares.

Meeting called to order at 7:32 pm..

Officers’ Reports:

President Mary Cook: (1) NCPCA provided food from Cinder BBQ, and baking from President Cook, for the Branchville Fire Department interns, to much appreciation. (2) Parks and Planning are supposed to plant trees in Cherry Hill Park. As planned, they would hide basketball court and picnic tables. Maria Mackie and President Cook are working with them on this and other issues.

Vice President Carol Macknis: (1) MDOT is not presently looking at the beltway expansion high-occupancy lanes in Prince George’s County. A supplemental DEIS will be issued, probably sometime in the summer. (2) Citizens Against Beltway Expansion has a petition opposing Maglev. VP Macknis will send a link to everyone. (3) Using Paypal for dues is confusing. There are a number of questions to answer to set this up. She encourages people to mail their dues. (4) To make change to bylaws, we need to get the wording to members at least five days before the meeting where they’re voted on.

Treasurer Jordan Schakner, via May 18 email: We have $1,018.26 in the SECU account..

Minutes of the April 8, 2021 NCPCA Meeting: The spelling of Finmarc having been corrected, Arelis Pérez moved to approve, Judy Blumenthal seconded, and the motion passed.

Mansionization Presentation: Judy Blumenthal made the following motion, which Arelis Pérez seconded:

I move that NCPCA write a letter to the Mayor and City Council, to request the City Council to require representatives of Metropolitan to meet with NCPCA before the City takes any position or makes any recommendations regarding future changes to the approved site plan.

Discussion: The developers of the Metropolitan, on Cherokee Street, want to reduce parking spaces and increase the number and change the type of the units, which is against covenant. Blumenthal would like to be proactive this time and have them talk to us before anything’s done. According to Pérez, their attorneys are very successful in zoning and variance. Mary King says we need to provide more parking somewhere. The motion was brought to a vote and passed. Blumenthal will write the letter and provide a copy for the website.

Stone Property Presentation: Judy Blumenthal provided some background of possible development that has been discussed and quoted relevant clauses from the Greenbelt Metro sector plan (sector plan link: http://mncppcapps.org/planning/publications/BookDetail.cfm?item_id=29&Category_id=1).

Blumenthal made the following motion; Pérez seconded:

Regarding the Stone property, I move that NCPCA write a letter to Prince George’s County Councilmember Tom Dernoga, stating that NCPCA supports the vision of the Greenbelt Metro Area Approved Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment of 2001 regarding the former Stone Straw property and adjacent industrial properties in Branchville. NCPCA requests that any future development be designed in conformance with Chapter 14 of the Sector Plan, and that single family infill development be the preferred type of housing, consistent with the adjacent residential zoning of the community.

Discussion: Councilmember Mitchell and VP Macknis suggested the letter also be sent to the chair of the county council, the county executive, and our two at-large county councilmembers. Cook and Lisa Ealley suggest tabling until the next meeting to get more people involved and to have time to digest. There are a lot of implications here. There’s a lot going on here; we could involve the city’s and county’s economic development people and other stakeholders as well. Blumenthal wants us to be proactive – to lead – rather than reactive.

Lisa Ealley moved to table the motion; Pérez seconded. The motion passed.

The 21st District Delegation Update: Senator Rosapepe introduced Denise Valladeres, the new member of the community liaison staff. Delegate Peña-Melnyk focuses on health care and Delegate Lehman on environmental issues. The state, county, and city received a lot of federal aid; Delegate Ben Barnes spearheaded the financial aspect. Locally, College Park Meals on Wheels received $250K for equipment, Attick Towers received $2M for rehab, and Al Huda’s charitable arm received $250K. More money is available for city highway aid and other local projects. Economic aid included funds to support the unemployment system; College Park received $16M; the school system $275M; and the county $3.5B. $1B is toward recapitalizing the unemployment trust fund. The economy is coming back, with jobs transitioning from fields like hospitality to teleworking, IT, delivery/warehousing, and healthcare.

Delegate Peña-Melnyk is busy with health-related committees. Prince George’s County has the highest number of Covid cases, highlighting the health disparities in black and brown communities. Science and public health need to work together. Recent bills include House Bill 836 – testing, contact tracing, the Vaccination Act of 2021; House bill 123, which preserves telehealth access, especially important for rural communities; a bill that requires implicit bias training for all healthcare workers; a bill to create health equity commission framework in all departments in the state of Maryland; a difficult bill regarding medical debt protection. This session focused a lot on mental health. Public health had better funding this session. She thanked us for the opportunity to serve.

Delegate Lehman began on the health care front, with a shout out to Pérez regarding Attick Towers, which is more rundown. The new manager is wonderful. HUD wants out of this business. We’re thrilled to get the good down payment of $2M. Lehman put forward a nursing home visitation bill, where in a health emergency, families can work with nursing homes who have to develop guidelines to allow compassionate care visits. On the environmental front, the House Environment Transportation Committee addresses water quality, animals, fish, and wildlife environment and so on. House Bill 18 guarantees access to legal counsel; low-income people have access to counsel through Maryland Legal Services Corporation, which provides grants nonprofits providing pro bono services. Ethics were hotly debated. The Plastic Bag Reduction Act passed the house but not the senate, at least this year. The Climate Solutions Now Act was too comprehensive, should have been three or four smaller bills. Three separate bills did pass: (1) Maryland will be planting 5 million trees over the next 10 years, half a million in urban areas. (2) After 2025 Maryland can only purchase electric buses. (3) Environmental Justice Commission Bill will look at new laws and impact on low-income communities/communities of color.

Questions and Answers:

(1) Attick Towers is a HUD building, run by the Housing Authority of the City of College Park, with no modernization since it went up in 1967. HUD wants the Housing Authority to sell to a nonprofit. There’s barely enough funding to pay the bills. $2M was great, hope to add more. Enough property to build a second building. Given need for affordable senior housing, why not? The new executive director created a nonprofit, College Park Affordable Housing Coalition. Exciting things are coming forth.

(2) Lisa Ealley would like to work with Peña-Melnyk on a mental health bill.

(3) Maryland will probably be next to legalize marijuana, probably after the election year. Medical cannabis is allowed in Maryland; marijuana was decriminalized several years ago.

(4) Sports betting has passed in Maryland but is not yet implemented; hoped to be by fall.

(5) House Bill 114 is a transit grant funding bill for businesses along the Purple Line in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties that are adversely impacted during construction.

Elections: There was extensive discussion, largely between VP Macknis and John Krouse, of existing bylaws as they pertain to elections and what needs to happen to change the bylaws. Cook proposed we hold the election in September. See New Business.

Dogs Good, Poop Bad: Councilmember Kennedy showed sample posters for feedback on what works best to encourage scooping dog poop, which has disease-causing bacteria that goes into our watersheds. Kennedy and Mackie are both on the Chesapeake Bay Policy Committee. The posters that worked best are simpler, less wordy, with cute dogs and good puns. Other languages should be used, not just English and Spanish. We discussed dog parks, including the new one, and who can use it/who finances it.

At 9:30, P‚rez moved we extend the meeting; Krouse seconded; the motion passed.

New Business: Krouse moves to change portions of the bylaws related to elections; Pérez seconded. The motion will be discussed during the next meeting. We can send separately to the membership.

The proposed text:

Section 2: Nominating Committee. The President may appoint a Nominating Committee consisting of two (2), three (3) or four (4) members to make nominations. Any member may nominate another member up to the time of the election when the nominee is added to the ballot as a write-in candidate.

Section 3: Term and Procedure. All officers shall be elected for a term of one year. The President shall cause ballots to be prepared for the June meeting with the names of all nominated persons, and shall appoint an election committee to count ballots. Elections shall be by secret ballot for each contested office; if an office has only one candidate, a motion from the floor to elect that candidate by acclamation shall be in order. A majority of the votes cast shall be required to elect each officer. Voting shall be open to all members of record and tallied as soon as possible after the ballots are cast. When the ballots for any office do not provide a majority of votes for a candidate, then the names of the two candidates with the most votes for the office shall be immediately entered into a run-off election. The candidate with the majority of votes cast in the run-off election shall be elected.

Section 4: Continuance in Office. In the event that nominees for an office cannot be identified for election at the June meeting, that officer shall continue in office until an election is held. If the election of officers cannot take place in June, the election shall take place at any regular meeting or special meeting in conformance with Article V of these Bylaws.

Future Agenda Items: Pérez suggests (1) Come back to Stone Straw property. (2) Reinvite Parking Enforcement Officer Jim Miller. (3) New City Manager Natasha F. Hampton. (4) New UMD President Daryl J. Pines. Macknis suggests we reschedule Councilmember Mitchell’s talk on the 5G tower coming to our neighborhood.

Meeting adjourned at 9:36 pm. Pérez moved, Macknis seconded, and the motion passed.