College Park committee comes together to tackle city concerns -- Gazette.Net


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College Park residents are beginning to see the results of a year-long effort to tackle noise and code enforcement issues and a rise in rental properties concerns.

A committee composed of city officials, University of Maryland, College Park representatives, city landlords and other community members decided to partner up on citywide concerns rather than taking a “go-it-alone” approach, said City Councilman Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1).

“We brought a number of people to the table, and said, ‘Maybe there’s a better way of doing this,’” Wojahn said. “So we began working on a more collaborative approach.”

Some of the task force’s recommendations have already been implemented, including the hiring of two part-time noise enforcement officers and the expansion of the university’s Student Code of Conduct to include behavior off campus as well as on campus.

The university is in the process of hiring five additional police officers, who will patrol areas of College Park near the campus. The city and university will split the cost of the officers.

Kennis Termini, a College Park resident of 40 years, said she approves of the task force recommendations, but thinks the university should be doing more to pay for policing efforts.

“I don’t think that the residents who are victims of the students should be penalized,” Termini said. “I think the university should pick up the tab of babysitting the students.”

Silver Spring resident Andrea Hawvermale, vice president of the Prince George’s Property Owners Association of College Park, said once all the major parties came together, it was easier to find solutions everyone could agree on.

“This grassroots approach, it really is the way to go,” said Hawvermale, who co-owns nine rental properties in College Park with her husband, John. “To have everyone at the table, this is a first, and we are really committed to this process.”

Another recommendation involves creating a voluntary accreditation program for rental property owners and managers. According to the report, the accreditation would consist of certain actions related to improving quality of life, such as banning parties of more than 20 people, agreeing to contact tenants and their parents if noise violations are reported, maintaining the property and passing a written test on College Park ordinances.

“The best part about it is, once it is set forth, it engages the landlords in becoming better landlords,” Hawvermale said.

Benefits of participating in the accreditation process would include a listing on the city website as an accredited landlord, said Hawvermale, adding that most of the phone calls she has received from prospective tenants have come to her through the city’s website.

Another recommendation is that landlords or their managers be required to live or have offices within 75 miles of the city, which is good as out-of-town landlords are not as concerned with their tenants following city codes, said Christiane Williams, who has lived in College Park for 42 years.

The task force submitted more than 60 recommendations, and the College Park City Council will prioritize them at the Nov. 6 work session, Wojahn said.

The full report can be found on the city’s website at www.collegeparkmd.gov.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net