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BoA Minutes

August 25, 2015

Board of Zoning Appeals


August 25, 2015

The Board of Zoning Appeals for the City of Cambridge met at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 in the City Council Chambers located at 305 Gay Street, Cambridge, Maryland.

Board Members in Attendance: Jane Devlin, Chairperson; Brian Manning, Vice-Chairman; Ted Brooks, Gloria Cornish, Robin Sample (alternate)

Other representatives in Attendance: Pat Escher, City Planner; LaSara Kinser, Planning and Zoning Assistant; Rob Collision, City Attorney

Ms. Devlin started the meeting with roll call.  She discussed the order of proceedings and proceeded to swear in anyone wishing to testify on any of the agenda items.

New Cases

Case BZA #2015-002, 201 Talbot Avenue, The Dorchester County Family YMCA requests a variance to the maximum fence height of four (4) feet forward of the rear of the building.

Ms. Kinser presented a staff report and entered onto the record that the property was posted July 29, notice was sent to interested parties within 200 feet and a letter to the applicant was sent on July 20, and that public notice was placed in the newspaper on July 31.

Mr. Brooks clarified that the Board is using the new UDC.

Mr. Tomey, representing the Dorchester County YMCA, presented the application and clarified that the fence would be eight (8) feet, and that the equipment itself cannot be locked.

There was no public comment.

Motion to close the discussion was made and all approved and carried.

There was some limited discussion among the Board, who looked favorably on the application.

Mr. Brooks made a motion to approve the variance based on the special exception criteria as presented in the staff report. Motion seconded by Ms. Sample.  All in favor and carried.

Case BZA #2015-001, 314 Mill Street, Mr. Harwood the property owner of The Albanus Phillips Inn requests an extension of Special Exception for five (5) years and to increase the room capacity from four to five or six.

Ms. Devlin entered onto the record that Mr. Manning has filed a form with the Ethics Commission, seeking to reverse disclosure of apparent conflict of interest. Mr. Collision clarified for the record that the city received an email from Ms. Margaret Wolff, alleging that Mr. Manning has a conflict of interest which should prevent him from sitting, based on the assertion that he lived near the property in question for 25 years and that he had been seen in the alley. Mr. Dodd requested to hear the testimony from Mr. Manning, who was sworn in and who gave brief testimony addressing the allegations, namely that he no longer owns or resides at 631 Locust Street, and that he has not maintained any financial interest in the property. Mr. Collision determined that there was no conflict of interest given that Mr. Manning has not retained any financial or other interest in the property.

Ms. Kinser presented a staff report and entered onto the record that the property was posted on July 29, letters to the property owner and interested parties were sent on July 20, and that the public notice was advertised on July 31 and that the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the extension of three years, approved parking plan, and the application for six rooms.

The Board asked for clarification regarding the parking plan and the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendations.

Mr. Michael Dodd, the attorney representing the applicant, addressed the Staff recommendations, the parking plan, the number of rooms being advertised at one time, the number of bathrooms, and the planning commission recommendation.

Mr. Harwood, the applicant, then testified by responding to several questions asked by Mr. Dodd, regarding the advertisement of the rooms and his ability to control the reservations so that he is never in violation of his maximum room rental, the size of the necessary staff, namely that Mr. Harwood requires a small staff due to his disability but will decrease this number as he health continues to improve , the noise generated by guests, the arrangement of guest rooms and owner occupied rooms, the length of stay, the location and number of bathrooms, the advertisement of bathrooms which  is done in such a way that makes guests aware that they may need to share a bathroom, and food service Mr. Harwood asked for guidance regarding the use of downstairs parlors as conference rooms for guests of the B&B.

There were several questions/concerns raised by the board including the number of bathrooms, which several members found insufficient, the conference space, the parking requirements/ amount of parking spaces in the alley, the amount of permanent help/staff and their need  for parking, the amount of time that the typical guest stays, the practicality of having off-site parking, the privatization of on street parking, the configuration of the alley parking spaces, the potential use of valet parking. Ms. Devlin introduced onto the record exhibits showing Mr. Harwood’s current online advertising.

***Please note that due to technical difficulties the audio recording ends here***

There was no public comment in support of the application.

Mr. Andrew Pasden spoke in opposition to the application citing issues with parking at Mr. Harwood’s current capacity. Mr. Pasden also alleged that Mr. Harwood’s guests rarely park in the designated alley parking spaces, and that he spoke to a guest who indicated that at one point all of the rooms were full.

Mr. Joe Perez of 316 Mill Street spoke in opposition to the application and indicated that he agreed with Mr. Pasden regarding the current parking issues, and the assertion that a higher volume of guests for Mr. Harwood would further exacerbate the existing parking issues and have a negative impact on homeowners in close proximity.  He also cited potential problems with noise, large parties, and people congregating on the porch.

Mr. Brooks made a motion to close the public testimony, which was seconded by Mr. Manning and passed unanimously.

Mr. Collision reminded the board to consider Sections 2.2.7 and 4.2.3 the standards for special exceptions, and conditions for Bed & Breakfasts.

The Board remained firm in their concerns, namely the amount of practical parking, the amount of bathrooms, and the misleading advertising. Ms. Cornish suggested that the Glasgow Street parking lot be used for Mr. Harwood’s employees, with which Mr. Brooks agreed.

After further deliberation and a motion to close deliberations, which passed unanimously, Mr. Manning made a motion to grant a Special Exception to 314 Mill Street, for the operation of a Bed and Breakfast for three rooms, for one year, contingent upon the current website information being updated to reflect the fact that only three rooms are available at any given time and to clearly identify the bathroom situation to potential guests, within two months and that guest parking should be limited to the rear alley parking spaces and on-street parking by guests should be limited to loading and unloading. Mr. Brooks amended the application to include that all employees be required to park at the Glasgow Street parking lot, and that as stipulated under Section 4.2.3(A) 7(c) iv that the guest register be maintained and shared with the City on request, and that no other commercial activities take place on the property, with commercial activities meaning activities for money, to include the use of the parlor as a meeting room. The motion was seconded by Ms. Devlin. The motion passed 4-1 with Ms. Cornish dissenting.

The Board took a five minute break before reconvening for the second part of the meeting.

The Board decided it could not vote on the May 28, 2015 minutes, as only two members present were also present for that meeting. The minutes however will be amended to disclose the reason for the executive session.

Mr. Brooks made a motion to approve the June 30, 2015 minutes as amended; the motion was seconded by Mr. Manning and passed unanimously.

Elections for officers for the remaining term were held with Mr. Brooks making a motion to elect Ms. Devlin as chair, seconded by Mr. Manning and passed unanimously. Ms. Devlin nominated Mr. Manning as Vice Chair; Mr. Brooks seconded the nomination and the motion passed unanimously.

Further discussion was had regarding the distribution of packets and the issue of itinerant sales.

Ms. Devlin made a motion to adjourn, which was seconded by Mr. Brooks and passed unanimously. The meeting ended at 8:51 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

LaSara Kinser, Planning and Zoning Assistant