In the last meeting before its winter recess, the Takoma Park City Council continued discussion with residents on the temporary traffic restrictions put in place until traffic-calming measures have been added to Ritchie Avenue.
The restrictions — temporary measures to address anticipated traffic spillover from a county project in the Sligo Park Hills neighborhood — have sparked complaints from drivers, including parents of children attending the Green Hill Child Development Center.
City Public Works Department drivers and 10 school bus stops also have been affected, Acting City Manager Suzanne Ludlow said.
Since early September, there have been turn restriction signs at Ritchie and Maple avenues, a “no right turn” sign at the Geneva Avenue and Hilltop Road intersection, and a “no thru traffic” sign at the intersection of Piney Branch Road and Ritchie Avenue.
After the discussion, three council members supported lifting the restrictions immediately, and four members did not.
Ludlow told the council that city staff recommended either maintaining the current rules without exception or removing the restrictions entirely, rather than introducing car stickers or “Local Traffic Only” signs that would waive some from the restrictions.
“I think that it sends a strange signal when some people are allowed to turn and others are not,” Ludlow said.
Councilwoman Kay Daniels-Cohen said she had heard from people who had been hurt and that she thought the signs should be removed as soon as possible.
Councilman Terry Seamens said he understood that the restrictions are an inconvenience, but are for the best of some residents.
Some residents who attended the meeting voiced their support for the restrictions on traffic, including one Hilltop Road resident who said the council needs to keep its promises and keep the signs up.
“It is irresponsible for the council to even consider reopening this,” another resident said, calling it an issue of “convenience vs. safety.”
Other residents, however, called for the council to lift the restrictions. They believed the diverted traffic could hurt other areas, and that other neighborhoods might ask for similar restrictions.
Another resident said that when a rule is made that requires exceptions, there is a problem with the rule.
“I need to be like water and follow the easiest way,” she added.
The traffic study that led to the restrictions was done improperly and should be redone, another resident said.
Health Enterprise Zone
Bruce Baker, director of Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research, updated the council on plans for a proposed Health Enterprise Zone for Long Branch and Takoma Park.
CHEER has convened a coalition — which also includes lead applicant Primary Care Coalition, Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park and the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services among other groups — that has submitted a proposal to the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene for the creation of the Health Enterprise Zone. The state will create two to four zones to reduce health disparities and increase access to health care among other goals.
The Long Branch and Takoma Park zone, if selected for creation, would in part “improve and coordinate patient health education and clinical treatment focused on diabetic and pre-diabetic patients” and “increase [the] primary care provider workforce” among other planned strategies.
The coalition expects to hear if it will receive the state grant — amounting to about $5 million over four years if continuously renewed — by the end of the month, Baker said.
Councilmembers voiced support for the zone plan, and Councilman Jarrett Smith said he had spoken with County Executive Isiah Leggett who agreed to sign a letter of support.
Brendle Group contract
The council also voted to pass a single reading ordinance awarding a contract to the consulting firm Brendle Group to develop an environmental sustainability action plan and prepare a greenhouse gas inventory. Though the firm is based in Fort Collins, Colo., both Public Works Department Director Daryl Braithwaite and Councilman Tim Male expressed their confidence in the group’s ability to consult the city despite the distance.
The council’s next meeting will be Jan. 7.