The following were among actions taken at Tuesday's meeting of the Montgomery County Council. For more information, call 217-7900.
TAKOMA PARK EVICTIONS -- The County Council refused to postpone evictions of hundreds of Takoma Park residents who have been living in illegal apartments in single-family residential neighborhoods.
The evictions, called for under a 1978 county law that gave landlords a 10-year grace period, are officially slated to begin March 23. However, residents will not be forced out for several months and may be eligible for relocation grants of up to $500.
The council action came in a 5-2 vote over whether to hold a public hearing on a proposed one-year delay in enforcement of zoning laws that permit only single-family houses in much of the city.
The evictions, which have mired county officials in controversy for the last several weeks, involve an estimated 150 housing units created since World War II by homeowners and landlords who divided single-family houses into multiple dwellings. The county tolerated the illegal units until the 1970s, when a group of homeowners sued the county, citing overcrowded and unsightly conditions.
The Takoma Park City Council, the County Council, Montgomery County Executive Sidney Kramer and county environmental protection and housing officials have been wrestling with the controversy for months as the deadline approached, but the council has the final authority.
The council's decision not to hold a public hearing is considered unusual, according to council members and staff. Only council members Isiah Leggett, who proposed the one-year delay, and Bruce Adams, voted in favor of conducting a public hearing.
The council action comes on the heels of a raucous City Council meeting last week, at which some 250 angry tenants and their supporters took over the meeting. Heckled and shouted down by the demonstrators, the council was forced to adjourn early, after hurriedly voting to recommend a one-year delay to the County Council. Police arrested nine protesters and charged them with failure to leave a public building after they pledged to remain at City Hall through the night as part of their demonstration against the law.
At the Tuesday meeting, Department of Environmental Protection Director John L. Menke said Kramer supported "compassionate enforcement" of the law as scheduled but opposed the additional year's delay because the executive had a "strong moral objection" about failing to enforce the law.
Menke and Housing and Community Development Director Richard J. Ferrara said the eviction process would be carried out over several months and would not force any tenants out immediately on the March deadline.
The county will be sending out informational letters to affected tenants and landlords, which will be followed later by notices of violation and assistance in relocation. Some tenants will be eligible for a $250 or $500 payment from the county to assist with moving costs.