• City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
Print this page

City Council Minutes

August 21, 2006

The City Council met in regular session on Monday, August 21, 2006 Council Chambers. A quorum being present, Mayor Cleveland L. Rippons called the meeting to order at 6:08 p.m. Those Commissioners in attendance were Commissioners Knox, Sydnor, Cephas, Brooks, and Travers.

NEW BUSINESS

Vote on Final Master Development Plan for Blackwater Resorts (Egypt Road)-Mayor Rippons said because the time for public testimony has closed, there will be no reception of any additional information. Commissioner Sydnor said he looked at quite a bit of data on this particular project-both pros and cons. He had to look at the facts. He looked at the information from the inception of this project which started in October 2003. He feels that whatever changes were asked of the developer, he stepped up to the plate with whatever was recommended, whether it was from the State, County or the City. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the Final Master Development Plan. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion.

Commissioner Cephas said Commissioner Sydnor is right. This has been going on for quite some time. He doesn't want to rush the judgment. There is a lot of discussion pro and con. He has attended many public hearings. This development has divided the City Council, County Council, citizens of Cambridge, and the State of Maryland. Because of how the Council will vote tonight, it is healing time. He is not happy about some of the things he has seen and heard. He has to vote his conscience. He was at a meeting on Thursday where Commissioner Sydnor said this development will create 675 jobs. He begs to differ. It may create some jobs, but are they going to be local jobs? If that is the case, there are 4000 homes that have already been built by different developers. He has spoken to the other developers. About two local residents work in those developments. Those 675 jobs are not for us. He agrees with his colleagues to a certain degree. There has been a lot of material submitted to them. Some of his colleagues said they read it all. It was too much for him to digest. Some were form letters. He did not hear anybody said anything about the best kept secret that has come on the Eastern Shore and particularly Cambridge in a long time. It was in the packet that was submitted. He submitted it at 4:00 pm on the deadline of the due date. It came from the Wilmington, Delaware from the Evening Journal. It talks about the army setting up a risky chemical test in Maryland. Another came from the Daily Texan, the World National Newspaper. It says the Maryland was the site of simulated germ warfare. There was another one from Farmingham, Maine saying that there was germ warfare testing done in Maryland. Another article in the Annapolis Capitol talks about the army chemical test peril in Cambridge. The Daily Banner reported that potential dangerous chemicals were released near Cambridge. When the army came to Dorchester County in the Greensboro Swamp, which is about 1½ miles from Egypt Road, and they did testing, they scattered chemicals over a 12-mile radius and it went from the south west which would be toward Egypt Road and Blackwater. This was in 1969. They were testing all over the country. Our City and County officials at that time knew nothing about the testing. The Dorchester County Health Department does not have any record of this testing being done. There were 56 days of chemical testing spread over a 12-mile radius. He started doing research on this 12 years ago because there has been a high risk of cancer. Dorchester County has the highest rate of cancer in the State of Maryland. His family members died of unexplained cancer and had excessive nose bleeds. There were other people in that particular area that had excessive nose bleeds and died of cancer. If you look at the report to see the type of chemical they were releasing, it causes respiratory problems, shortness of breath, and possibilities of cancer. Some studies were supposed to have been completed by the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington DC. It was an investigation on this particular health hazard and the long-term effects it may have. He made contacts with them but he hasn't received anything back yet. He is not knocking Blackwater Development; he is not jumping for joy for the development either. There are some things that people need to know before they spend money on a development that may cause potential health hazards. People may say the farmers have been farming it for years and nothing happened. His family owns the largest African-American farm in Dorchester County. You till about 6 to 8 inches under the ground. When you build you really dig down and turn the earth over. He asked what remains from those chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency will come up with an answer. He begged Council to delay the vote until that study is done. It is almost finished. They voted to give the Critical Areas Commission another 60 day for their study. He asked for 60 days for their vote. He has raised some reasonable doubt. The documents were classified until 1980. When he was 18 years old he remembers driving down to Greensboro. He saw all those military trucks running in the woods but had no idea about what was going on at that time. He knows now. Members of his family have died who lived in that area. Recently a young child died of respiratory problems in that area. This is not a life or death project at this point. It may be a life or death project. He is asking Council to give it a little more time. When he was elected he said he would listen to the people. He heard them loud and clear on many occasions. He is honest and progressive. He challenged his colleagues to do what their heart tells them to do. There is a reasonable doubt here.

Commissioner Sydnor said he asked Commissioner Cephas if he wanted to make a motion as far as the delay and vote on that. Commissioner Sydnor withdrew his motion. Commissioner Travers withdrew his second.

Commissioner Cephas made a motion that City Council delay the vote tonight and make it concurrent with the Critical Areas Commission vote. Commissioner Brooks said for the purpose of discussion, she seconded the motion. Commissioner Sydnor asked for a role vote. Commissioner Brooks said for the purpose of discussion for delaying this vote, if there is any information that she has received so far that would have told her that this project would do harm to the City of Cambridge, then she would have made the motion. However, everything that she has received so far, appears to be "what if". This may happen; this may not happen. If we continue to wait on "what if", the City of Cambridge will not progress any further than what we have. She too feels that we need affordable housing but we also need builders to come here and build affordable housing. At this point, nobody is stepping up to the plate. Commissioner Cephas said he put the information into everybody's packet. If they read it, they would see that there were chemicals that were used and they named the chemicals and the effect they would have on people. Commissioner Brooks said she read the information. She also contacted a resident who was living in the area who told her that this particular testing that was done had not affected Egypt Road. She doesn't know how this person would know that, but she lived very close to where the testing was done. We do have a high rate of cancer in Dorchester County; however, there are some studies that say we have this cancer because of the chemical use on farmlands. If that is true, should the City of Cambridge and Dorchester shut down every single farm until we find out where cancer is coming from or if the chemical used on the farmlands are contributing to the cancer we have in Dorchester County?

Commissioner Sydnor said he read the report that Commissioner Cephas was referring to. He mentioned that there was a 12-mile radius. That would mean 24 miles from the site. That would incorporate the City of Cambridge and would incorporate the land probably close to Vienna, if not Vienna. It would incorporate the southern part of Dorchester County. We cannot go back and change the past. The names for the chemicals were so strange he could not understand what the exact chemicals were. This has been delayed long enough and one way or another, they need to proceed on. Commissioner Brooks said if Commissioner Cephas has information that he feels will help Council make their decision, they should give him that opportunity and give a delay but she would like to know how long of a delay. Commissioner Cephas said he didn't talk of the 200-ft tower that the army built before they released the chemicals. They did it for 56 days and released it over a 12-mile radius. His comments are on the long-term effects it will have when start to turn the ground over. It was Ralph Lewis's property. He went into the woods and saw full-grown trees turn orange and shrivel. About 12 years ago, he went down there again with his father and an investigative journalist with the Washington Post and showed them where it was. His father has cancer. Other people from his family and this area have cancer. He doesn't know if the chemicals caused it. There is reasonable doubt.

Commissioner Travers said this has been going on for about 4½ years. He doesn't see why they haven't come to a conclusion now. The developer has probably done in excess of whatever he should have done to make this project work and work good. He said he loves Dorchester County and the City of Cambridge. He thinks the developer has had long enough to wait.

Commissioner Knox said in the 1960s and 1970s DDT killed the bald eagles and other critters running around. The developers are coming to our community and there is nothing we can do about it except try to do the very best we can. We have a very large list of people in our County and City who have looked at all the projects that have come to Dorchester County. We are one of the few counties that have put the cart in front of the horse. Our infrastructure system is much better than a lot of our neighboring cities. CBF could have come down here three years ago. He feels like we were treated like a bunch of bimbos saying we don't know what we are doing. We are not country hicks. This is not Mayberry. He had a gentleman call him from Arkansas asking him to join the CBF. He didn't even know where Cambridge was. This is probably one of the biggest decisions he has ever had to make in his life. He feels they (included the developer's staff, the City's staff, and the County's staff) have done the best they can. The State of Maryland has done everything. The developer has got a lot more hurdles to cross before the first shovel is turned. The City and County will be watching this very closely and so will the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Mayor Rippons called for a vote on allowing a delay of up to 60 days. Commissioner Knox - no; Commissioner Sydnor - no; Commissioner Cephas - yes; Commissioner Brooks - yes; Commissioner Travers - no. The motion was denied.

Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the Final Master Development Plan with the contingency that the City Council approves the Public Works Agreement. Commissioner Brooks said while she felt they should have been granted a delay, she is not against the Blackwater Development Resort for various reasons. She has talked to a lot of people within the City and with business people. In speaking with them, there are a lot of people living in the City who would love to see this project come here. One primary reason is jobs. We are hurting for jobs and we have none. She heard someone say we will be guaranteed one or two jobs and not the 675 jobs. We do have some control. If this motion passes tonight, it does not mean that the City Council cannot intervene at any time and put a stop work order if they find out that this will cause harm and health hazards to the people within the City and to our children. Someone said they will be temporary jobs; that may be true. The young men she spoke to today do not have jobs but said it will be a permanent skill. We have the resources to train our young people to do construction work, bricklaying, etc. She has asked the Mayor to work with them to bring a program here so we can train the people who want to be trained to do some of these jobs that will be coming to Cambridge. No other developer has had mandates on bringing jobs to the City of Cambridge. It is time we start with this particular developer. She also asked how much involvement the government should have over your right to develop your property. Mr. Zentgraf could have asked for 20 or 100 houses at a time and continued his master plan in that direction. Instead he chose to be honest and tell the City what he plans to do. She thanked him for being honest. We will require a lot from this developer and we will not allow him to bring any harm to the City residents. We will stop him.

Commissioner Sydnor said he would like to amend his motion that it will also be contingent upon the financial infrastructure obligation to the County and the City as was stated by the developer and that would include $2 million given to the City of Cambridge. Commissioner Knox asked to add that prior to any building permits being issued, the developer would come back to the City with a phase-in plan regarding the infrastructure of Route 16 to Egypt Road; and regarding the $2 million for the public safety building, Blackwater Resorts will pay $1 million before any building permits are issued and the balance of $1 million be paid within one year of the first payment anniversary date. These conditions will be transferred if the property in question changes hands. They go with the land. Commissioner Sydnor accepted the amended motion. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. Mayor Rippons called for a vote. Commissioner Travers - yes; Commissioner Brooks - yes; Commissioner Cephas - no; Commissioner Sydnor - yes; Commissioner Knox - yes. The motion passed unanimously.

Council to Approve Loan for Marina Expansion-Ed Kinnamon provided Council with information from several financial institutions that provided proposals to the City. It is his recommendation to award it to the Bank of America for a 15‑year period. Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:1.

Request from St. Paul's United Methodist Church to Block Alley from Hayward Street to Their Church Parking Lot on August 31st from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm and a Noise Variance for a Block Party-Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS

Rob Collison provided Council with a Memorandum of Agreement between the City and the Yacht Club that allocates the responsibilities for repayment of the marina expansion loan that each are incurring separately. The City, with the DNR funds, is obligated and they need a repayment agreement between the City and the Yacht Club for repayment of the DNR funds. Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the agreement and to include a two percent per month penalty fee for a total of 24 percent per year for a late payment, rather than charging one percent per month which is customary on real property taxes. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

WORK SESSION

Discuss Lennar Homes Building Issues-Rob Collison said the Department of Public Works, Ryan Showalter from Miles & Stockbridge, and Lennar Homes provided Council will responses to their questions. According to information he has received, there do not appear to be any code violations. The company is representing that there might have been a couple of minor ones, but they have addressed them and put in place the necessary precautions to prevent this from happening in the future. Without any existing code violations, it would be his recommendation that Council lift the ban on permitting and that they can proceed as other developments, absent of other existing code violations.

Commissioner Brooks said the problem she has with that is that the documents have just been given to them tonight and she thought that they asked that Lennar Homes be present. Ed Kinnamon said the information was given to Council in their packet for their last meeting. Commissioner Brooks said the question wasn't primarily code violations; however, infrastructure that was not safe. She asked who conducted the investigation. Rob Collison said they had staff from DPW review and submit their findings to the developer addressing all the issues that Mr. Newcomb had raised. He doesn't know of any problems with infrastructure. Ryan Showalter said additionally the one issue that was a question even for the City building inspectors was adequacy of the floor joints and brackets. Lennar engaged a registered professional engineer with George, Miles & Buhr to investigate that specific bracket, its structural stability, and its location and use within the house. The August 8th letter included a report from the engineers stating that in that application, those joist hanger brackets are appropriate. Commissioner Sydnor said there was something they did to them to make them fit in there. Ryan Showalter said there were three separate issues. Lennar inspected the home and confirmed that the I-beam was properly supported structurally under the foundation. The I-beam that was photographed was properly constructed. To avoid any future questions, concerns, or uncertainties, they are no longer using steel I-beams in future construction. Commissioner Brooks said the letter says the squash blocks are being re-cut and installed to the manufacturer's and engineer's requirements even though the first line says the steel beam is supported properly with structural material, however, the steel will be shimmed in the beam pocket. Another item said the front porch masonry is installed per the approved plans. Although the concrete block work is not perfect, it is structurally sound and in compliance with the building code. It should be correct. If someone pays that much money for a house, it shouldn't look this sloppy. She said the fourth statement uses the word "appears". Appears is a pretty big word. It should say the home was inspected and it is installed properly. What appears today might not be tomorrow. If they make that statement strong and say that it is, she will be satisfied. Ryan Showalter said the use of the word "appears" is his language-not Lennar's. Lennar has a standard new home warranty whether it is this year, next year, or in the future. If the situation proves to be problematic, it is covered by the manufacturer's warranty and would be addressed. Lennar inspected each of these issues and has resolved any issue that would present a structural problem or a building code issue. With respect to the block work, the block, which is below grade when the house is done, had some broken pieces and smaller pieces were used. It is structurally sound. The brick is even. It was the block that is below grade that is not. It doesn't present a code issue. Commissioner Brooks said they really weren't talking about all code issues but the appearance as well. Ryan Showalter said it won't be apparent when the final grading is done. The windows have all been adjusted and work properly. She said problems were found and it appears they are being corrected so to say that they went through this and there were no code violations, there were problems. The problems are being corrected. Ryan Showalter said the problems have been corrected. Commissioner Brooks asked if all the homes have been corrected. They only identified a few homes with problems. Ryan Showalter said Lennar has inspected their other homes and has confirmed that the issues presented are not present in those other homes. Lennar has engaged, on its own, a private inspection service that is inspecting the homes in addition to the City building inspections. When you have a project and you have subcontractors building homes, people occasionally do make mistakes and the purpose of the inspection is to confirm that they are not made. Lennar has programs in place to catch those mistakes before a City inspector comes out. At the time the house passes each level of inspection or at the time the house is complete, Lennar is confident that it will not have these problems or any other code problems. Commissioner Brooks said she hopes so. The problems that were addressed at Lennar Homes have caused some massive problems for the citizens of Cambridge even though it was wasn't Lennar Home's intentions. She hopes that every single home has been corrected and that nobody else would have to come to them with these problems. Rob Collison said in light of the history of this project, he would expect that our code enforcement officers will be extremely diligent in this project.

Commissioner Knox made a motion that Council lift the ban on permits and that Lennar can proceed as other developments. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Discuss City Manager's Position-Commissioner Brooks asked if Ed Kinnamon had any information for Council. Oden Wheeler said a few weeks ago he gave Council the job description to review and to make any suggestions they may have. They asked for a work session to discuss what they wanted to do. Commissioner Knox said it would be a good idea to arrange a training seminar from MML so they can talk to Council. Ed Kinnamon said the International City/County Manager's circuit rider spoke to Council in January 2005. Commissioner Knox said he supported the City Manager position when he was running for office. He thinks the County's manager does an excellent job. After the decision that Council made tonight, it is very important that they study this very carefully and get all the information they can get. They should look at other municipalities to get the job classification together and start shopping. He thinks it would be a great idea to get these folks back down here. Commissioner Brooks said we really need to delay the discussion for the City Manager's position at this particular time to give them an opportunity to re-group and come together to have a decent discussion. A lot of her study time has gone into the Blackwater project. It was so involved that this was put on the back burner and not given as much consideration as they need to give it. She feels they should discuss the City Manager at another meeting at another time. Commissioner Knox suggested the gentleman come back to a work session, a closed work session if possible. Rob Collison encouraged it to be an open meeting because the public would be enlightened as to the options that are available. It will require a charter amendment because they will need to re-define the responsibilities of the manager and what responsibilities he or she will be taking from the Council and/or the Mayor. Commissioner Brooks said each City Manager's position can be unique. They don't have to follow anybody's model. They can present models to Council and they can choose to pick a little bit from every single model and incorporate their own. They just need to listen to find out what other towns are doing and determine what will work best for Cambridge and then come up with a plan and a job description that will work for us.

Marge Hull said at least four years ago she made a suggestion to the City that they have their Planning and Zoning Commission have some education to do their job. There is education out there. She believes a very good example of the result is in Mr. Parks who has had all the certifications and the ability to work well on the Planning and Zoning Commission. She wonders if the lack of this expertise is one of the reasons why we are in a lot of trouble from time to time. He has left the Planning and Zoning Commission. She said they have lost the most knowledgeable member that they have ever had. The education might mean a few hundred dollars but it might save a few thousand dollars in legal costs that she thinks have been coming our way. Ed Kinnamon said there is some education available for the Commission.

Commissioner Brooks said that sometimes a development will not come before City Council.  It will go before Planning and Zoning for the re-zoning, buildings, etc.  She agrees that Planning and Zoning members need to be trained.  They need to know what they are doing before they do it, not after they do it.  Commissioner Knox suggested that the other committees receive training also.

Portia Johnson-Ennels appeared on behalf of the Pine Street Committee.  She presented a Certificate of Excellence to the City Council.   

With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned this portion of the meeting at 7:35 p.m. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Monday, August 21, 2006, insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk & Treasurer