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Ward 6 -Talisha Searcey

1. Do you agree with us that more housing, both market rate and subsidized, should be created in Takoma Park? If so, what steps will you take to facilitate creation of new housing?

More housing is needed in the City. This includes high quality market rate and subsidized rental units. We also need more entry level homeownership opportunities. We know that:

I believe the key to realizing the goal of generating new housing is twofold. First, we have to optimize the use of City property to further housing development. Second, we have to work in partnership with private property owners within the City to increase housing development.

2. Takoma Park has several potential development and revitalization opportunities. Please describe your vision for the following sites. In your opinion, how should they be further developed?

a. Takoma-Langley Crossroads (Purple Line station)

In the Takoma Langley Crossroads, I would like to see high density mixed used development with the creation of additionally opportunities for public space and innovative spaces for small businesses to thrive. This area also creates opportunities for the City to bring employers to the area. Thanks to the work of City staff and the County, the Takoma-Langley Crossroads area has the necessary zoning in place for high density mixed used development (https://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/communities/downcounty/takomalangley-crossroads/). However, this is only the first step to truly realizing the vision for development in the area.

The fate of the Purple Line is a critical component to the future state of the Crossroads area. As City Councilmember, I will continue to lobby for the State to continue to construct the Purple Line. This includes providing funding for the businesses in the Crossroads as they wait for construction to resume.

Additionally, it is critically important that the City builds lasting partnerships with the businesses and property owners in the Crossroads. Taking an “anti-development” stance does not help the City when negotiating what happens on private property. It also doesn’t encourage private property owners to consider the City as partner. The City hired an Economic Development Manager which has been an important step forward towards building these relationships. I hope to continue to further these efforts while on the City Council.

b. Takoma Park Recreation Center (New Hampshire Ave.)

I am excited about the possibility at the Takoma Park Recreation Center. First, I don’t see the Recreation Center as an independent site but as a critical component of a larger campus that includes Hampshire Towers Apartments as well as the Takoma Overlook Condominiums. Therefore, this project will involve working with the community, neighboring properties, as well as a private developer to ensure that the project works for everyone involved.

In the end, I would like to see recreation services as well as housing at the site. I would also like us to use this site as a way to creatively address other issues across the campus such as parking and storm water management.

c. Washington Adventist Hospital Campus

I think this is a very unique site which creates a number of opportunities for development. The City could work in partnership with Washington Adventist University to increase the footprint of the University campus as well as develop an innovative housing model for “student/ young adult” housing which would be open to all young adults in the City. The site could be used by new City employer. The site could also create an opportunity for a new elementary school in the City.

3. On the long-debated Takoma Junction development process, do you support continuing the existing County and City review process or do you propose restarting the development process, including a new Request for Proposals? If so, how would the City fund this work?

I don’t think we should restart the development process. Unfortunately, you have to have a project proposal submitted to initiate County and State review of certain issues. Many of the issues that are being addressed as part of the Takoma Junction process (i.e. storm water, parking, bus stop locations, and intersection reconfiguration) are issues that would need to be addressed for any development project at the site. The review of these issues wouldn’t typically start until we have a proposal submitted. Additionally, the City has the ability to recommend altering the developer’s revised plan prior to final approval. Therefore, I don’t see a benefit to restarting the process at this point.

4) Would you promote multifamily construction by offering additional relief from rent stabilization for new buildings, as the District and many other jurisdictions do? 

I support offering additional relief for rent stabilization of new buildings. However, we need to be honest with ourselves. Other jurisdictions, like the District, are able to offer more financial incentives to encourage the development of affordable housing because they initially focused on economic development activities such as soliciting new employers to the area. The initial economic development generated the tax revenue necessary to offer an incentive package to developers to build more affordable housing. Currently the City has its Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) Program. However, the PILOT Program alone, isn’t enough of a financial incentive to build high quality multifamily construction. That is why it is important that we work with the County and State to ensure that more incentives are available to encourage housing development. This is also why it is critically important that the City works to increase development along New Hampshire Ave and the Crossroads.

5. City public engagement currently over-represents the views of older, white, and home-owning residents. How would you change the process to better engage renters, minorities, immigrants, and young families?

I believe that there are a number of things that we can do increase engagement. First, we have to think about what residents need. For example, we know that childcare is a challenge. How can we work to provide childcare during Council meetings? The pandemic has taught us to use technology in a novel way. For example, could we use translated robo-calls like, Montgomery County Public Schools, to provide residents with information about what is happening in the community? I also support looking at our committees to ensure that we are asking people to volunteer on things that matter to them.

6. Takoma Park, Piney Branch, Rolling Terrace ES, and Montgomery Blair HS are at or over capacity. Do you support advocating the Montgomery County Public Schools system for a new local school? How else would you work with MCPS to provide sufficient capacity and quality for our growing community?

I support encouraging the creation of more down-county schools. The most important thing that the City can do is lobby the County to ensure that MCPS addresses overcrowding in our schools and identifies locations in the City for a future school.

Thank you for your time!

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