4. Agenda Item 4. Special Guests. President Young introduced the following special guests: College Park Mayor Andy Fellows, College Park Director of Public Services Bob Ryan, COPS Officer Logan (substituting for Officer Black), and candidates for City Council District 2 Bob Catlin and Monroe Dennis. A motion to suspend the normal order of business in order to allow Mr. Ryan and Officer to address several issues of concern was made, seconded, and passed. Mr. Ryan addressed the issue of loud noise late at night that has recently been plaguing the neighborhood and how the City’s noise ordinance can help. Mr. Ryan announced that small red cards with important City telephone numbers were available on the table in the back of the hall, as well as a brochure that the Committee for a Better Environment has put together. The brochure summarizes the City’s noise control program. The City has both a daytime and nighttime code. Mr. Ryan said that there were a number of noise problems in Old Town during Homecoming weekend. The difference between 60 and 65 decibels is considerable. There can be spikes in noise – for example, if someone screams all of a sudden during an otherwise quiet night. Residents can call code enforcement 24-7. At night, the call is transferred to the officer’s cellphone. When the University is in session, the noise enforcement officer is on duty Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. There are typically a lot of noise complaints beginning the end of August, last through mid October; once it starts getting colder, complaints drop dramatically. When you call the noise hotline number, an officer will come and measure the decibel level. If the noise exceeds the code’s threshold, the officer will write a ticket. The person who gets the ticket can go to District Court and appeal it. Sometimes a judge will reduce the fine, but in general the City is successful in prosecuting these violations. Code enforcement officers will not go knock on a door of a violator without a police officer as a backup. Once they do, they ask to see identification. The police officer asks the residents to quiet down immediately. The person who shows identification is the person who gets the ticket, but the landlord receives notice of the fact. The tenant gets a $500 ticket the first time; the second time a violation occurs, the tenant gets a $1,000 ticket, and the landlord – who was put on notice after the first violation – gets a $500 ticket.
Even when a noise enforcement officer isn’t available, the police will be dispatched; the police will take action and quiet things down. A parallel track in the noise code is that any two residents can file a written complaint to the noise control board. A hearing will be scheduled,and the complainant will be asked to
attend and describe the incident in detail. The complainant has 15 minutes to describe the incident, the respondent has 15 minutes to respond, and so forth. The board usually votes unanimously. The board takes a number of things into consideration in addition to the noise itself: whether the violator is remorseful, whether it was a repeat occurrence, etc. It might also find a violation but reduce the fine to $0. However, if they do that, the person is not considered on notice.
So, there are two ways to address the noise problem: either a noise enforcement officer can measure the noise level and write a ticket, if appropriate, or two individuals (and they can live in the same house) can file a complaint about the same incident.
The County’s noise ordinance is slightly different. The County police will first come to the site of the violation and request that the violators quiet down. If the officer can still hear the noise from 50 feet away, he or she can come back and write a ticket.
If after receiving a fine someone goes 6 months without violating the ordinance, his or her noise violation history is wiped clean.
The code officers are experienced enough to know that judges often want to know if the violator received a warning before being ticketed, so the code officers do try to issue a warning first.
The code enforcement cannot, however, cite people for making noise on the street. However, Officer Logan stated that you can call the police if people are being rowdy on the street, possibly destructing property (people were recently seen beating on cars as they went past them, for example). It’s possible the people are on their way to a party; the police officer can advise them that he or she will shut down the party before it even gets started. If you see kegs, you should feel free to call the police as well; kegs are supposed to be registered; the fine for contributing to the delinquency of a minor is $5,000. Mr. Ryan stated that the police are more frequently citing individuals for serving alcohol to minors.
University of Maryland President Loh and State Senator Rosapepe are working on several town-gown issues; perhaps they should hold students off-campus to the same standard of conduct as those on campus.
If you don’t pay the fine you will receive a summons to appear at court.
Mayor Fellows, who is running for reelection, introduced himself to the audience. He spoke about local public education. Improving the local schools is necessary to attract families to move here. Paint Branch and Hollywood Elementary Schools are improving. The City is discussing the possibility of starting a charter school, which would perhaps be called College Park Academy and would probably start next fall with just a single grade at first; the City is hoping to send a proposal to the board by the end of November.
The City Council opposed the apartment development proposed for the Maryland Book Exchange site.
The commercial district in Berwyn has been dormant for too long. There have been at least 2 meetings recently about it with the State Senator and City Manager.
An audience member asked Mayor Fellows whether the parking issue in our business district would be considered separately from the zoning issue. The Mayor responded that he thought the two issues could be separated.
Another audience member asked the Mayor about parking problems in the neighborhood. She was especially worried now that two new hotels are expected to go up near her street. The Mayor said permit parking has proven to be highly effective in reducing parking by non-residents. On the other hand, it often also moves the problem to another location.
There appears to be a parking problem for employees of Looney’s. Mr. Monroe said that when representatives of Looney’s attended a Lakeland Civic Association meeting, they were asked about parking for their patrons as well as their employees, and the representatives said that they could possibly lease some spots at the Koons Ford property that wasn’t being used at the time. Someone stated that anyone can use the parking lot on the campus, right across the stream from the Varsity and University View, but only after 4pm.
City Councilman Bob Catlin, who is running for reelection for District 2, stated that he will be starting his 15th year on the City Council, which is more time than everyone else on the City Council put together.
The County is more interested in College Park issues than the past few county administrations have been. The fact that the City can collaborate with the University and the County is a big help. The economy is starting to recover. The College Park Hotel was torn down the other day; a new, small hotel is to be built on that site. Koons Ford has plans to put a hotel on its property as well. Hotels pay more in taxes than other businesses.
There are about 11 permit parking spaces on Pontiac Street that aren’t being used in the evenings; we might be able to repurpose those. A section of the Koons Ford location is actually on City property; perhaps the City should look into putting more public parking there. Parking in the Varsity garage costs $1 an hour, and the garage is often full, even though only half of the commercial enterprises there have opened so far. We’re lucky to have the University lot across the bridge.
Someone is interested in the property next to Taco Bell. The City can support only so many restaurants.
An audience member asked Councilman Catlin what he thought about separating the two issues – parking and zoning – in the Berwyn commercial district. Mr. Catlin stated that he doesn’t think the two issues should be split because both issues involve the same individual. An audience member stated that empty businesses aren’t good for the neighborhood. Currently the buildings are well-maintained, but if the landowner left, that might no longer be the case. There’s some interest in a building at the end of Berwyn Road. The Fishnet restaurant is expected to open in a few days.
Mr. Munroe Dennis, who is running for City Council for District 2, spoke next. He is currently President of the Lakeland Civic Association. He attended a BDCA meeting in 2004 or 2006 to serve as a moderator on candidate night.
Mr. Dennis moved to Lakeland in 1995. Prior to that, he had been in and out of the College Park area because his parents—Dorothy and Leonard Smith—have been longtime residents in the College Park area. He has been involved with the Lakeland Civic Association since about 2004 and has been involved in other activities in which he’s worked with the City Council and Mayor.
One of his first engagements with the City Council was over the issue of permit parking in Lakeland. Students were parking in the neighborhood, as well as Metro commuters. Some of the quality of life issues addressed at tonight’s meeting are issues in Lakeland as well, including rental housing problems.
One concern to Lakeland citizens is the construction going on on the west side of Route 1 and the traffic on Route 1. Lakeland residents are concerned that highrises will encroach further into the Lakeland community.
An audience member suggested that a social event where Lakeland and Berwyn residents can socialize together be organized. In the meantime, Mr. Dennis pointed out, College Park Day will be held at the Community Center in Lakeland this coming Saturday.
Code Enforcement Officer Kopsky arrived, and he and Bob Ryan demonstrated the machine that measures noise decibels. The Code Enforcement Officers attended a four-day monitoring certification course at Rutgers University so that they can testify as experts in Court. The device is held at the property line. A lot of environmental factors can affect the measurement, and the Officers know how to account for those.
7. Agenda Item 7. City Councilman Report. Councilman Jack Perry was unable to attend. Councilman Bob Catlin talked about the new developments. Royal Farms’ competition is Wawa, not 7-Eleven—students can buy all their food there rather than having to drive to a supermarket. There isn’t a lot of parking for the businesses, which is a concern. The other businesses are just opening, so it’s too early to tell how they’ll do.
The plan to tear down the College Park Hotel was approved four years ago; it has finally been torn down. The Exxon at the bottom of Pontiac Street had at on time discussed the possibility of opening a small convenience store inside, but they no longer have plans to do that.
8. Agenda Item 8. General Discussion. Mayor Fellows stated that he things the area around the College Park and Greenbelt Metro stations haven’t been developed like they could be. The University is working on terms of agreement with the Cordish Companies for the East Campus development; that’s moving more slowly than anticipated, but he thinks there will be an announcement by the end of the year. Since the property belongs to the University of Maryland, businesses going in there won’t pay City taxes, but the agreement states that they will pay something in lieu of taxes. The City has an economic developer coordinator who was hired to develop new and interesting retail. Berwyn residents should let that person know what retail we would like to see in the area. There will be a meeting where residents can make their preferences known. There is some concern that the proposed development on the Cafritz property in Riverdale would negatively affect what businesses opened in College Park. The Mayor complimented Berwyn on a successful Berwyn Day. BDCA President Young stated that Michele Garnes, editor of the newsletter, was unable to attend but provided order forms for holiday wreaths – the forms are available on the table in the back of the hall. President Young asked Berwyn residents to consider supporting the community by buying a wreath. Photos of Berwyn Day have been posted on myberwyn.org. Dan Blasberg announced that the bonfire is scheduled for this coming Saturday at 7pm; he will start burning the wood at 5 or 5:30 so that the fire is well on its way by 7. Cider will be provided by the Civic Association; bring whatever you want to grill, such as hot dogs, marshmallows, etc. There will be four contained fire pits. Residents may bring their wood to the site; please don’t bring poison ivy, pressure-treated wood, or anything with nails in it. Dan Blasberg also stated that the Association is in the process of installing three surveillance cameras. If any individual wants a camera on his or her property, please see the order form on the website. The homeowner pays BDCA for the camera, but BDCA provides the expertise, etc. Only 3 individuals – the members of the camera committee – will have access to the footage taken by the cameras. The Association hopes eventually to install a camera at every entryway to the community—a total of 8. More information is available at myberwyn.org. President Young spoke with Mr. Jenkins about the cameras, and Mr. Jenkins was open to the possibility. Curbs are being installed along Rhode Island Avenue where it turns onto Roanoke. At the November BDCA meeting we will have special guests Dan Bongino and Richard
Douglas, both of whom are running for the U.S. Senate.
An audience member said that the new restaurant Azteca is very nice.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:50pm.
Meeting Attendees (from sign-up sheet):
Liesl Koch, Recording Secretary, BDCA.
Margaret Himmelfarb Doug Hunter Liesl Koch Bob Kuligowski Elizabeth Kuligowski Daniel Meola Nick Pietras Harry Pitt Larry Wenzel