Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Kensington to hire PR firm

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The Kensington Town Council wants to hire a public relations firm to boost the image of downtown Kensington and help find a nonprofit tenant to occupy Warner Circle.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission purchased the 113-year-old manor and surrounding four acres for $6 million last September. Since then, the manor has been repainted with a historically accurate color as part of the county funded upgrades. Rotting wood on the building will also be replaced.

Mayor Peter Fosselman said the choice for a tenant is for the county to decide, but he hopes that Rockville-based marketing and public relations firm Maier and Warner will be able to bring Kensington’s ideas to the table.

‘‘They are going to ... immediately concentrate on a marketing campaign to find a decent user for Warner Circle at the town’s expense,” he said. ‘‘We haven’t signed a contract with [Maier and Warner] yet, but we will soon.”

Fosselman said the town budgeted $30,000 for revitalization fees, and expects to use most of that money to hire the public relations and marketing firm. ‘‘I can see us upping that [budget item] next year, as we work to revitalize the downtown,” he said.

Fosselman said the Warner Circle Committee, a group of residents and town leaders who discuss the future of the property with county planners, suggested that a marketing firm would be able to find a tenant the town and county could agree on.

Kensington and county officials said the future tenant or uses must blend with the residential neighborhood, keep traffic to a minimum, preserve public access to the lawn and preserve the manor.

‘‘Really they can help the entire town in general to help attract some new developers, new restaurants and additional retail users,” Fosselman said. ‘‘This is just part of the overall plan for revitalizing the downtown.”

County planners will meet with residents to discuss Warner Circle at 10 a.m. Feb. 22 at Town Hall, 3710 Mitchell St., according to town officials.

Residents, business owners to revisit town ordinances

An ad hoc committee of residents and business owners charged with updating the Kensington Code of Ordinances found several areas where the town laws are confusing or impractical.

‘‘It’s antiquated and needs to be brought up to the 21st century as far as the details go,” said Mayor Peter Fosselman. ‘‘It’s pretty outdated but it’s not ‘Little House on the Prairie.’”

The committee looked at the code on Jan. 14 and found 17 ordinances that need attention. The town has no enforceable penalties for noise complaints, grass height or dumping trash where not appropriate.

Also, the committee said in a report that rules governing the building of fences and business signs were not clear. Signs outside a store are subject to strict regulations, but not signs inside a store or on windows.

The group expects to schedule a meeting this month, and will update the town Web site, www.tok.md.gov, with a time and day.

Fosselman said he was hesitant to add too many people to the committee and risk creating a large, unproductive group, but the meetings will be open to the public.

For information on how to join the committee, call 301-949-2424.