The College Park City Council discussed a proposed city code amendment and listened to the introductions of the new SGA president and student liaison Tuesday night.
Mayor Patrick Wojahn and five of the eight council members attended. District 1 Councilwoman Kate Kennedy, District 3 Councilman John Rigg, and District 4 Councilwoman Denise Mitchell were all absent. Kennedy and Rigg were out of town for work, Wojahn said. Mitchell could not be reached for comment before the time of publication.
Here’s a roundup of their discussions.
SGA and student liaison introduction
About an hour after his inauguration, Jonathan Allen, the University of Maryland’s new SGA president, addressed the city council. He spoke of “the growing and strong partnership” between the City of College Park and this university’s students.
“I wanted to make sure that this is the first thing that I’m doing after being inaugurated … being here and introducing myself to all of you,” the junior government and politics major said, adding he hopes to work toward the vision of “One College Park” over the next year.
In 2016, Wojahn spearheaded the One College Park Coalition, a grassroots organization, to promote the “inclusion of and connection among” diverse communities within the city, according to its website.
Allen also commended the council for beating the Student Government Association at the city council-SGA soccer game Sunday.
“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to beat you,” Wojahn joked.
The incoming student liaison to the council, Alex Tobin, addressed the council, thanking current student liaison Chris Keosian for his tenure.
“Student relationship with the city is of the utmost importance,” he said. “I think that Jonathan agrees with that, as he said, it’s such a priority in his administration, so I’m really looking forward to working with him and working with you going forward.”
Keosian tweeted Sunday that, when he took over the student representative position, “tension between the council and students was so bad the two would hardly speak to one another.” He attached photos of city officials and SGA members smiling side by side at Sunday’s game.
During council member comments at the end of the meeting, District 2 councilman P.J. Brennan said he’d been following Allen and Tobin’s work for the last two years and was impressed.
“Mr. Tobin… ran for a council seat in District 2 and was a great representative of both students and residents living in the community,” Brennan said. “He also was an incredibly insightful member of the Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee, being able to marry the priorities of both student resident population and other residents.”
Brennan called Allen an “incredibly talented parliamentarian,” and said he was a very organized person to have been able to moderate recent SGA debates with a large number of people.
The council discussed an amendment to the city code that would permit property owners to have managed landscapes, such as flowers, shrubbery and ornamental grass, taller than the limit of 12 inches. Weeds, briers and grass, however, would need to remain at or below 12 inches. There were no proposed changes to the fine structure for violations.
“Last time this came up … there was some questions and concerns … and a perception that this proposed policy ordinance could maybe be more restrictive, and in fact, it’s just the opposite,” City Manager Scott Somers said. “This ordinance change would be less restrictive on what residents could actually plant on their properties to allow for more natural, more vegetative landscaping.”
Brennan mentioned conversations he’s had with some of his neighbors on the topic.
“There’s some concern about the distinction between a managed landscape and just having 12- to 15-foot-tall grass in the front yard and there being a judgment call to be made,” he said, particularly in the case of potential rodent infestations.
Director of Public Services Bob Ryan said prevention of rodent infestation would still be the responsibility of property owners, not the city.