Below are the responses of the candidates for the City Council’s District 4 seat to be filled on January 16th.
email: district4vision at yahoo.com
Nicolas “Nick” Aragon
3712 Marlbrough Way, College Park, MD 20740
email: aragon.nicolas at gmail.com
Rosario (Russell) Scarato
email: rscarato at comcast.net
1. If elected, what will be your top priorities as a councilmember?
Cook: “My preferences will be development, safety and transportation.”
Aragon: “In no particular order, my top priorities will include increasing affordable-quality housing for students and residents; improving College Park retail; preserving College Park’s neighborhoods; reducing traffic; and improving safety by utilizing technology and promoting creative low-cost initiatives. Many of these initiatives will need to be pursued over the long term, but I feel in order to make College Park the place we all envision, we need to develop long-term strategies. As the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so we shouldn’t expect College Park to be.”
Lynch:“- Route 1 traffic and the impact on surrounding neighborhoods
– Positive mixed use development
– Neighborhood security and the potential of a College Park Police Department”
Scarato: “Organize communities around transportation, safety and recreation”
2. What does a “great college town” mean to you?
Cook: “Having gone to Georgetown University, my undergrad years were not spent in ” a great college town.” I had all of Washington, DC to explore and enjoy. If we are thinking to turn College Park into a “great college town”, I would hope that more “funky” shops and privately-owned restaurants could be attracted to the town to give it a more distinctive character.”
Aragon: “When you start planning your next trip before you’ve ended the one you’re on, you know you’ve been to a “great college town.” It is vibrant, entertaining, and the atmosphere is contagious. In my mind a great college town starts with an engaged institution and a strong community and includes the mixture of activities, retail, housing and scenery you would expect to support both residents and campus. It should be walkable, environmentally conscious, and architecturally pleasing. In the urban environment around College Park, I believe we can attain a “great college town” by promoting dense development close to the university by using smart growth principles: adequate public transportation, first floor retail, and residential/office components above the first floor.”
Lynch: “In my opinion, to be a great college town, or any great town or city, is one where an interactive and collaborative relationship exists between affected groups. Ancillary activities that make any city a great place to live include adequate housing, parks and recreation, green space, theater and dining.”
Scarato: “Intellectual and dynamic community”
3. What would you like College Park to look like in 30 years?
Cook: “I would like the town to have a more cohesive look in whichever style the residents deem most suitable. It would consist of services and amenities needed and wanted by the residents and students, such as bookstores, clothing shops, doctors offices, etc.”
Aragon: “I would like to see College Park become the most desirable place to live, go to school, and spend your time. I see pleasant green-spaces surrounded by long strips of retail with residential and office space above the first floor. I envision brick sidewalks bordered by very classy street lights and trees, bright and colorful business fronts, reflecting glass on brick buildings, and lines of people waiting to get into a movie or upscale restaurant. I see people laughing and talking everywhere as they window shop College Park’s finest retailers.”
Lynch: “30 years is quite a view into the future, however, I would envision College Park to be the picture of prosperity, with mixed use commerce, shopping and restaurants, theater and housing for its residents with a method of mass transit that affords the opportunity for travel that is efficient and environmentally friendly.”
Scarato: “City with a centeral plaza and multiple community events for both families and students”
4. What do you think is the ideal mix of retail for the city? What would you do to achieve it?
Cook: “Retail is only one component the city is composed of. If I had to say, chain restaurants would make up only 40% of the mix, hotels/motels 30% and clothing/food/misc. 30%. I would actively work with the CP Planning Department to attract new businesses although I know that the individuals working in that department have worked hard to do so already.”
Aragon: “An ideal College Park retail mix is one that achieves one very important goal: it makes it desirable and possible for College Park residents and students to stay in College Park. This means increasing the number of upscale food and beverage establishments, attracting a variety of additional retailers, fostering unique local businesses, and securing space for quality entertainment venues (like a cinema or performance venue). To achieve this, I would support giving the City zoning authority, streamlining the approval process for upscale retailers and developers, increasing owner-occupied housing to stabilize the market, lobby the county to change the Route One sector plan to better fit our needs, and provide better incentives to businesses that fit our ideals for a diverse and flourishing market.”
Lynch: “I don’t think there is an IDEAL mix of retail for this city. I think it requires a balancing act to make sure the city maintains its character AND continues growing.”
Scarato: “collee shops/resturants/food stores/clothing and hi tec shops … Assist community organizations to create a power base to to support issue resolution”
5. How do you feel about high density construction (9 – 16 stories)?
Cook: “High density construction is not what most residents in the city would like to see and is not part of the city’s Sector Plan. It is logical, however, to house students and residents in high density condo or apartment buildings near the university which use less green space. If such construction was undertaken with Smart Growth and Green Building principles in mind, it might be feasible.”
Aragon: “High-density construction is not inherently bad, but if it is not planned properly, it can disrupt the practical and aesthetic qualities we should be looking for in good development. Furthermore, when governments and developers do not adequately plan for the resources needed to support higher density projects, they can substantially change the lifestyle of the existing community (sewer and water usage; traffic and parking; police and first-responder ratios; education systems, etc.). As development in College Park continues, we must expand the City’s infrastructure to minimize our growing pains, and advocate development that creates an attractive – and unified – look in our City.”
Lynch: “I think some high density housing is a necessary component and could be palatable; however the College Park I envision would be one that limits it because an overabundance would diminish the College Park city flavor.”
Scarato: “Not Good! Unless there is the necessary infrastructure concurrently developed including water, sewerage, parking, traffic, open space, walking a biking lanes, lighting, pleducation, etc. with out these supporting facilities”
6. What is your position on the Connector Road and why?
Cook: “Let me expand on your original question. Any type of road which impinges on the existing neighborhoods should only be considered in the rarest of circumstances. As for the Connector Road, it will damage BARC, remove only 10% of the traffic from Route 1, divert dollars which can be used to improving Rt. 1, and impinge on College Park Woods.”
Aragon: “I do not support the Connector Road and I think it would be harmful to College Park. To make College Park the “great college town” and vibrant community we all desire, we need to devote our attention and resources to Route One redevelopment. The Connector Road will divert tens of millions of dollars away from that redevelopment and local businesses, as well as infringing on the quality of life in our residential communities. To reduce traffic we have to promote strategies that take cars off of the road, not displace them to other parts of the City. I have signed the West College Park Civic Association’s petition in opposition to the Connector Road, and encourage others to do the same.”
Lynch: “As proposed I have very strong reservations about the impact on the abutted neighborhoods and the damage it will do to the green space in and around the city.”
Scarato: “The CR will not resolve the traffic problem in the City.”
7. Do you support the Purple Line?
Cook: “As an ardent advocate of transit alternatives, I definitely support the Purple Line. I am all for any type of transportation that results in less traffic and pollution.”
Aragon: “Absolutely! Traffic is one of the most pressing issues facing our City, and it must be addressed by providing convenient, prompt, and reliable public transportation – bus and Metro. The Purple Line needs to be both on and off campus to maximize its convenience, accessibility, and usage. The Purple line will take hundreds of cars off of our City’s streets thereby truly reducing traffic, not displacing it as the Connector Road would do.”
Lynch: “I think mass transit is a necessary piece of the infrastructure that needs to be developed to support the growth of the city. Mass transit also has the added bonus of relieving some of the surrounding traffic.”
8. How do you think the city council can work to alleviate the student housing crunch?
Cook: “My question to is: Is that really the city council’s responsibility? The university is a state institution which still has land on which it can build, so perhaps the city council can promote that space be used for affordable housing rather than constructing another hotel and more restaurants..”
Aragon: “To alleviate the student-housing crunch, we must improve the cooperation and coordination between four groups: the City Council, University, County, and developers. If these groups work together instead of against one another, we could build attractive, affordable, and accessible student housing close to campus. However, each group acts separately from the others, which makes the process of bringing student housing to College Park extremely difficult. The City and University must improve their relationship so that we are not sending mixed messages to the County and developers on how we address the student-housing crunch.”
Lynch: “By consulting with the university to gather information on housing needs and being supportive with the things the city can do.”
Scarato: “support funds for new dorms VS new event facilities”
9. Do you support owner occupancy requirements for new residential developments? Where would you like to see students living in the city?
Cook: “Certainly, owner occupancy requirements must be in place and enforced. These are in place for the safety of the students and their neighbors. Preferably, the students should be situated in housing on or near the campus which would allow them to walk to their classes.”
Aragon: “I cautiously support owner occupancy requirements, if they are limited to certain areas of the City. The closer you get to the University, the less credible I find these requirements because I feel new student housing is more effective when students are within walking distance of campus. By increasing the number of students walking to campus we reduce the amount of cars on Route One thereby improving traffic. As developments get closer to the Metro and generally father away from the University, I am more supportive of these requirements because it is very desirable for working people to have greater access to the Beltway and public transportation. Again, by putting working people closer to where they need to go to get to work, we help alleviate our traffic situation.”
Lynch: “Not really, I believe the city would be making a serious mistake by interfering in who home owners allow to live in their property. It should not matter where students live in the city. Homeowners should not be aware, unless they ask, if students are living next door or across the street. Campus life is different than living in a city community, hence; students living off campus must adopt the community’s posture.”
Scarato: “in dorms”
10. If elected, how will you engage the city and campus communities?
Cook: “I would encourage the students to get involved on city committees and neighborhood civic associations. As in the past, we will continue to invite the participation of the university’s administration on particular issues as well, as we did with the Committee for Transit Alternatives.”
Aragon: “A big part of my campaign is about bridging the gap between the City and University; between students and residents; and between long-term residents and the many new members of our communities. Having been heavily involved as a student leader at the University, I feel my connections and experience with the administration and student leadership community put me in the best position to engage the campus community. I have been engaging the city community throughout my campaign by reaching out to District Four community leaders, in addition to getting all of my candidacy petition signatures from people in the community. While in Student Government, I supported opening Shuttle-UM to city residents, funding for the City’s fall festival, and funding for Taste of College Park – all initiates aimed at bridging the gap between these communities.”
Lynch: “I would attempt consistent and on going dialogue between campus communities and the city. I think there should be a standing committee comprised of campus community members and city members whose primary function is to brings issues from both camps to the council.”
Scarato: “Expand the polictical power base at the State level to support University development with the necessary concurrent infrastructure without placing undue burdens on the surrounding community”
11. What special ideas or plans would you like our readers to know about? (optional)
Cook: “It is very important to realize that the students have a very different perspective of College Park than the residents, some of whom have lived here for 45 years or more. The issues which the residents believe to be important are not necessarily the ones brought up in this survey. They are concerned with traffic and safety, but also with noise and parking, trash pick-up and code enforcement, among others.”
Scarato: “I have over 40 years experience as an engineer and economist in planning and building community facilities with the necessary constituent support.”