• 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
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City Council Minutes

August 28, 2006

The City Council met in regular session on Monday, August 28, 2006 Council Chambers. A quorum being present, Mayor Cleveland L. Rippons called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. Those Commissioners in attendance were Commissioners Knox, Sydnor, Cephas, Brooks, and Travers.

Ed Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer. Commissioner Travers led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the minutes of the August 15, 2006 Council meeting as distributed. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously. Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the minutes of the August 21, 2006 Council meeting as distributed. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously. Commissioner Knox asked about the second paragraph from the bottom on Page 1655 of the August 15th minutes where Commissioner Cephas was talking about any criminal acts that are being afflicted by any elected official. The minutes use the word "he". Commissioner Knox asked if the word "he" was used to reflect any individual on the Council or a figure of speech. Commissioner Cephas said if that is what the minutes say, that is what it is. If he had used a name, the minutes should have reflected it.

APPOINTMENTS

Liddy Garcia to Request Community Investment Tax Credits Resolution-Liddy Garcia, Executive Director of Cambridge Main Street, requested support for two grants-neither require money from the City. The first one is Community Investment Tax Credits. This is a grant of up to $50,000 worth of tax credits. After receiving the tax credits, Main Street will be looking to sell them. If they sell them, they will be looking to hire an Arts and Entertainment Events Coordinator. They are asking for the City's support in the form of a resolution. The second grant is the Neighborhood BusinessWorks Grant. This is a Main Street grant for up to $75,000. The grant will be used for a façade restoration program that is matched by private property owners. Both grants are sponsored by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Mayor Rippons asked what will happen after the first year if they do get the grant. Liddy Garcia said the money for the position will be wrapped into events. It will then become self-sufficient. They are hoping the person will be able to help coordinate some of the events at Sailwinds and other areas that are within the Arts and Entertainment District. The hardest part of getting the tax credits is selling them to the community. Once you get the money, you can start using it for what you are looking for. Mayor Rippons asked about the façade loan program. Liddy Garcia said this is a part of a larger comprehensive façade program. The loan program, which is sponsored by Community Legacy, would be for façade maintenance (paint, etc.). The next grant would be for restoration. They have also applied for an Architects on Call program. Richard Wagner, an architect, will do a rendering of a façade. They would remove the façade from the 1950s through 1970s and restore the building to its initial beauty. Commissioner Brooks asked who the applicant would be. Liddy Garcia said the applicant would be the property owners in the Main Street area. This is tough because it would be a match. Cambridge Main Street would be the applicant of the grant. Commissioner Brooks asked if the grants would be considered grants on behalf of the City of Cambridge. Ed Kinnamon said it could be if it has to pass through the City. Commissioner Brooks asked if there a limit as to what the City can apply for when it come to things such as tax credits and grants. Ed Kinnamon said on CDBG grants, sometimes there are limitations. If there are limits on tax credits, he doesn't know of them. Liddy Garcia said there is no limit for the Community Investment Tax Credits. She knows that Habitat for Humanity is also applying for them. That is a different type of program. The Neighborhood BusinessWorks is only for Main Street programs. They are the only applicant that can apply. It has to be a non-profit Main Street program. Commissioner Brooks asked for an opportunity to get some of their questions answered before they make a decision on supporting this at this particular time. Liddy Garcia said she will find out if there is a limit that a community can apply for. The Main Street Maryland program has encouraged them to apply because Dorchester County has not actively used this bucket of money. If they can find anybody else who is interested, they would encourage them to apply. The grant is due September 15, 2006. Commissioner Brooks said every year people come before Council with a time-sensitive grant. Knowing last year that they were going to apply, she thinks it is unfair to Council to be given something and given 15 minutes to make a decision on it. She suggested that they make a decision at the September 11th meeting. It would give them an opportunity to get their questions answered and make sure that not only Main Street gets what it needs, but there may be other areas in the City that they may want to do something with. Before she agrees to $50,000 or even $75,000 of tax credits, she needs to make sure that its not going to cut somebody off in the City if there is something that they need and want to do. Liddy Garcia said the Neighborhood BusinessWorks is specific to Main Street and asked if she could have the resolution for that program tonight.

Commissioner Knox made a motion to move forward with this tonight for both programs. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. Commissioner Brooks requested that Council make the decision at the first meeting in September to give her an opportunity to get the answers to the questions that she has asked. Commissioner Cephas said as liaison to Main Street, he knows they work hard and diligently to get grants. When they come along, you have to grab them. There has been some discussion on this before. The motion passed 3:2 with Commissioners Brooks and Sydnor opposed.

Deborah Johnson Give Update on Lead Paint Reduction Program-Deborah Johnson, Corporation for Health Homes and Economic Development, said they have been working with the City as a managing subcontractor to mange the Federal Lead Risk Reduction Program. They have met with some great successes with the collaboration of the Housing Task Force, Municipal Utilities Commission, and the Maryland Department of the Environment. Some of the landlords are realizing the importance of compliance. They have met with the Housing Task Force to develop a strategy that will pull those landlords into compliance and push them into program enrollment. They originally agreed to do 20 homes under this program. According to their records as of today, they are set for 25 homes which is a very good target for them to meet the obligation that they told the State they would do. A total of 12 landlords have responded and have begun the process of enrolling into the program for a total of 25 rental properties. She provided a list of addresses of rental properties which have responded and those which have not responded. A lot of landlords have not responded to any of the letters. One of the chief concerns they have with not having these landlords respond is that they need to respond to something. She provided a timeline that gives an idea of exactly when they would project these landlords who have applied will be compliant. The last process they have to go through is finishing up the rest of the applicants and the underwriting stage. It is their projection that they will have met their obligation no later than January 2007 of treating and having cleared at least 20 rental housing units. This is the result of teamwork. In the future, they would like to come to Council and request for some CDBG funds to help offset the administrative cost of running the program. Their organization does not get compensated until after those applications are approved by the State.

Mayor Rippons said there are 80+ properties that are not compliant. Commissioner Brooks said at the last Housing Task Force meeting that she attended, she learned that the next step, according to a DPW representative and an MUC representative, every single property owner that is listed is being fined $100 per day for every single property. Deborah Johnson said each landlord that is not compliant will be charged $100 a day for every day that he is not in compliance. That compliance is either a lead-safe certificate or a lead-free certificate. It is not just enrollment. Mr. Ruark explained to her that they will have to go to court, take proof that they are enrolled in the program, and let the judge decide. Commissioner Brooks asked where the fine was listed in the City's Charter and how long it has been in our books. Rob Collison said generally any violation of property maintenance is $100. It can go up to $1000. Commissioner Brooks said that most citations issued by DPW can be brought before the Housing Review Board. There you can get an extension of time to get the property repaired and brought up to Code before the fines take place. She was told that these property owners cannot take that step and she wants to know why. Rob Collison said some of the directives are coming from the State. Generally the Housing Board of Review deals with repair and maintenance, condemnation, and demolition. He will review the procedure and report back to Council. Commissioner Brooks said if this falls under repair and maintenance, the letter that went out should be corrected to give them time to appeal.

Portia Johnson-Ennels said before the letters went out, they dealt with Mr. Peterson from MDE and Secretary Scott of the Department of Planning. They said it was the responsibility of the City to enforce this lead. The State said they would come down and show the City how to enforce the fines but the initiative should come from the City. These landlords have had 10 years to correct this problem. The way she understands it, they cannot go to the Housing Board of Review because this is a major health issue. In 1996, Dorchester County was second to Baltimore in children having lead. Letters went out from MUC starting last year. The last letter they sent out before the enforcement started had information from Ms. Johnson's organization telling them how they could apply for assistance. A lot of landlords still did not apply. They have to look at the health and well-being of the people. Our housing stock here is very limited as far as rental properties. Rob Collison said the directive came from the State that the City could no longer issue rental registration approval licenses if they are not in compliance. The violation is that they are not registered. He doesn't think that falls under the Housing Board of Review. If they are also issued citations for lead paint, that may fall under the Board. Commissioner Brooks said the citation is not for failure to register; it is for not being in compliance with the lead. Portia Johnson-Ennels said they had until July 1st to register locally. Commissioner Brooks said if it is with the registration and not the lead issue, then that is a different issue. From the City's standpoint, they need to make sure that the letter that was mailed out to each individual is correct. If there is an appeal process, it needs to be put in there. If there is no appeal process, then it is o.k.   Portia Johnson-Ennels said the letter that went out to the landlords was for the non-compliance. When they started the list they had over 360 pieces of rental property on it. They are down to less than 100.

Deborah Johnson said when they speak of having the landlords in compliance, that $100 fine means that they must have either a lead-safe or a lead-free certification. In order to achieve the lead-free certificate, an SRF exam must be performed and a report must be generated. For lead-safe, you must go through a risk-reduction measure. The process can take from 60 to 120 days. She supports Commissioner Brooks' recommendation in that if they are in a program or if they are in the process of correcting the problem, then she would hope that some lenience can be provided. It will just frustrate them. They will shut down the property and make tenants move. It will be difficult for the City to meet its' obligation of completing 20 homes because people will be opting-out of it and choosing not to be bothered. For the people who are not in compliance, let the fines stick. If they have not done anything, let them be responsible for it. It is not too late to get into the program. Landlords have contacted them and they have mailed out the applications. She has done one-on-one educational outreach and then she goes out to the properties to do evaluations.

Monroe Smith asked who would own the properties.  Deborah Johnson said the program is not designed to take possession of ownership of any landlord's property. The program is in place specifically for the purpose of helping landlords who cannot afford to do the risk reduction measures that are required for them to be compliant. The landlord would apply for funds from the State either by the way of a grant, depending on the landlord's income level, or by way of a loan. It does not change ownership of the property. If it is a low-interest loan, the State will go on as if you were applying for a second mortgage. The interest rate is very nominal and is on a case-by-case basis based on the income of the landlord. Nobody take possession of your property.

Jeff Paxson, Shelter Development Corporation, to Request Permission to Apply for CDBG Funds as a Sub-Recipient to the City in the Amount of $200,000-Jeff Paxson said the project he is speaking about is called Cambridge Commons which is a 96-unit affordable housing project. It will be built off of Bayly Road. They are asking the City to allow them to begin the application process for Community Development Block Grant funds. The funds will be used as a source of funding for the affordable housing project. It will be structured as a grant from the State. The State will grant the money to the City. The owner will pay the City back out of their cash flow from the project when they have cash flow. He gave a description of the project at the last meeting. The rents range from $315 to $782 for two- and three-bedroom units. They will develop market-rate properties with market-rate amenities at affordable rates. Commissioner Brooks asked about a breakdown on the rates. Jeff Paxson said there are a certain number of units targeted at each income bracket (30% 40%, 50%, 60% medium income). The rents are based on the income bracket that the resident would fall into. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom units that are targeted at 30% area medium income will be rented at $315 per month. An income for that unit would be anywhere from $9,400 to $16,600. The unit would include a washer and dryer in the unit, a balcony or patio, wall-to-wall carpeting, dishwasher, energy-star appliances, etc. That is the lowest unit they will have. They will have 10 three-bedroom, two-bathroom units that are rented to 40% area medium income residents for $497. Those incomes range from $15,000 to $27,000.  There is a range of what the rents are going to be. The highest rent unit is a 60% unit which is rented for $782. It is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit. The income for that unit will range from $23,000 to $39,000 per unit. There are 12 of these units. The property will have a clubhouse which will have the manager's office, the maintenance office, an exercise room, a community center and a computer room with high-speed internet access. They have entered into an agreement with the Dorchester County YMCA to provide 75 annual junior memberships. They will provide discounts for family memberships and will provide an annual subsidy towards school programs, summer camps, after-school daycare, exercise and fitness programs, diet programs, and other family services. They recently started talking with the Maryland Rural Housing Development Corporation about homeownership programs that will help transition people to come into this community and help them move from a rental property into homeownership status. They are providing a $2,000 annual subsidy toward high-speed internet access in the community. They partner with One-Economy who provides some subsidy and technological infrastructure that will allow Shelter Development to install the local area network in the community for all 96 units. It will provide high-speed internet access to any resident that wants it. In other communities, they have been able to offer it for $4 or $5 a month. Commissioner Brooks asked if they anticipate asking the City for any type of tax abatements. Jeff Paxson said they are asking for a PILOT. This was discussed two weeks ago. They are not asking the City to waive the impact fees. A project of this size has impact fees in the amount of $432,000. Commissioner Cephas said they will have 96 units; only eight will have rents of $315. He asked if this number of units at this rate can be increased. Jeff Paxson said it would be difficult. Construction costs in today's environment are very challenging. They have increased roughly 35% over the last year. The rents have to support the expenses of the project. The difficult part of an affordable housing rental project is that the rents and incomes are capped but the expenses are not. Utilities and insurance go up. They have to keep the project financially feasible. It is very challenging to provide as many extremely low rent units as they can. Commissioner Sydnor said the amount they are requesting for the grant is $200,000 or more. He asked if it would have any effect on the rents if they got more than $200,000. Jeff Paxson said if the numbers held true, and they were able to get $400,000 or $500,000, they could decrease the income part and provide more of those units. They are only able to apply for $200,000 at this point. Commissioner Sydnor asked if they will be able to deal with the wetland situation now that they are increasing the number of units from 72 to 96. Jeff Paxson said they just met with their engineers on Friday. The main issue is to limit the area of disturbance to less than an acre. They have re-configured the site and believe their limit of disturbance is less than an acre. Commissioner Knox asked about the re-payment time of the loan. Jeff Paxson said the loan term would have to mirror the loan that they are getting from State of Maryland which is a 40-year term. The loan would have to be paid by the end of 40 years. As the project has cash flow, they would pay money back to the State first and cash available after they pay the State would go directly to the City. He can see money coming back to the City in a five- to ten-year range. There will be paying interest. They will be asking for the money outside of the CDBG round. This is extra money that the City would not otherwise be asking for. The people who administer the funds have suggested that they go this route.

Shirley Green asked exactly where these apartments are supposed to be. Jeff Paxson said if you are on Mace's Lane and the schools are on your right as you travel toward Route 16, once you go around the corner, it is the wooded land on the left. It backs to the Little League Park.

Commissioner Brooks made a motion to allow Mr. Paxson to apply for CDBG funds. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Geoffrey Holmes, Chesapeake Bay Grand Banks Owners Association, to Request Permission to Land a US Coast Guard Helicopter on the Grass Field on Water Street Near the Yacht Club on Thursday, September 28th at Approximately Noon-Mr. Holmes said the Chesapeake Bay Grand Banks Owners Association is a group of approximately 90 boat owners. They go to different locations on the Chesapeake Bay every fall. This year they are going to Oxford, Cambridge, and Solomons Island. The feature of this year's event is the helicopter involvement. The Coast Guard is willing to demonstrate an on-water rescue from a boat. They would like the event to take place in the water opposite the Yacht Club and then they want to have the helicopter land on the grassy field so people can see the equipment and talk to the Coast Guard personnel. They will ask for the fire company to be present in the event there are any issues. They will also arrange for local press coverage. The helicopter will be there for approximately one hour. George Hyde said he doesn't have a problem with the request but he thinks they should really contact Rescue Fire Company first. They would have more involvement. Mr. Holmes said he hasn't talked to them yet, but Scott Fitzhugh has spoken to the people at the Fire Company. Commissioner Cephas made a motion to approve the request pending approval from Rescue Fire Company. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. Commissioner Knox said he is concerned about the housing in the neighboring area because of the debris that is kicked up from rotor uplift when helicopters land. The motion passed unanimously.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Discuss City Building Official Job Description-Commissioner Sydnor said this is a position that needs to be filled especially with some of the things that are happening at DPW. His question was about the minimum qualifications. He noticed they changed it for the ICC Building Code Official's Certification and 15 years of experience or with a bachelor's degree from an accredited college in planning, architecture, construction technology, city engineer, or a directly-related field and 7 years of experience. He asked what a directly-related field would be. George Hyde said he thinks it could be anything in the construction industry or construction managers, or anything to do with housing construction. It does not take the place of the bachelor's degree. Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to approve the position for the City Building Official. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

NEW BUSINESS

Request from the Pine Street Committee for a Letter of Support for Their Grant Application to the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area Management Board for a Cultural Festival-Portia Johnson-Ennels said they will be hosting a multi-cultural festival called "Bridging Our Cultures" on April 28, 2007. The funds will help support this endeavor. They are applying for $1500. It is a matching grant. Commissioner Cephas made a motion to support the request. Commissioners Brooks seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Introduction of Petition for Annexation for Christ Rock/Rock Drive Area-Rob Collison said this is an introduction. No formal action will be taken other than to accept it. It will be advertised for a public hearing for the first meeting in October which is Tuesday, October 10th. Annexing this area has been discussed for quite some time now. The resolution was submitted by the attorney for the group that has been working on the project. This request has previously been to Planning and Zoning. Their recommendation for zoning is R1 which is most consistent to what it currently is. Mayor Rippons asked about the real personal property taxes and abatement of such. Everybody else who wishes to come into the City pays for their own costs for extension of sewer; however, in this document it states that the cost would be a consideration of the City. The bulk of the money will be coming from Federal grants. He has a lot of trouble representing current City taxpayers who will be paying this consideration because it stipulates that there will be no tax consideration until the last applicant is tied in. You could have a consideration that an area that wishes to be in the City would have all City amities and pays no taxes for a nebulous time and even then you have to wait for the next fiscal year.

Ryan Showalter said he has been working with Anne Roane, Mr. Hyde, Joyce DeLaurentis (Maryland Rural Development Corporation), and members of the Christ Rock community for a year now to put together the annexation petition and the draft resolution. In this instance, he is providing legal assistance to help the community get through the process to draft a legally-sufficient petition and to draft a proposed resolution that represents the consensus of the community. He doesn't represent any individual or any truly cohesive group of the community. The discussions or negotiations on these points should really be held at the public hearing when all of the members of the community are here to explain their points. He thinks they intend to present their interests to Council. Some people in the community would never like to be annexed. It is not unanimous that everybody wants to be annexed. Right now there are existing residences that have failing water and septic. It is intended that a combination of Federal and State grant funding will pay for all of the costs of extending City water and sewer to those residences. The costs that are currently contemplated are the construction costs of a main to run through Rock Drive as well as the laterals to tie those water and sewer mains to the homes, payment of the City's impact fees, and then payment to abandon the wells and removal and/or fill existing septic systems. It is his understanding that if the grant funding goes as anticipated, it may come in for one phase for design and engineering and the second phase would be for construction of the whole system. As it is contemplated by MDE right now, it is unlikely that we would have a time period where people would be receiving City services for several years and not paying any taxes because somebody else isn't connected. Until the time when the community is connected, those people really would not be receiving any significant City services. The residents have requested that the taxes be phased-in over time because for many years, they have not paid City taxes at all. Making that significant jump in addition to paying for utility bills is something that some of them find difficult. He thinks that if the City's consideration was to phase it in over three years instead of four, people would still be grateful for that consideration. Mayor Rippons said in another section of town, people are not receiving water and sewer. They are still paying 40% of the taxes they should without full amenities. This community will have full amenities and be paying less in taxes. He asked how they can rationalize this to the citizens. Council needs to be fair and equitable to all. Commissioner Brooks asked if all the resident of Christ Rock came to the City and said they wanted City water or did the City go to Christ Rock and say they want to give them City water but in order to do that, we have to annex the property into the City. Rob Collison said it was a combination of the two. Property owners in Christ Rock were having failing systems. They came to the City and a few were permitted to extend certain lines to their properties. The number kept increasing and that is not an efficient way to do it. The decision was made to try to find grant or loan funding to bring in the entire area because it will be a problem for everyone eventually. Commissioner Brooks said out of the community, about 10% of those who could afford to put in City water came and asked if they could be annexed into the City so they could have City sewer and water. The City went to the rest of them because now there are some properties in the City and some are not. The City would prefer to have everybody within the City limits. Whether or not the citizens of Christ Rock wanted to be annexed, what the City said was that the City would apply for this grant for them so they can get City water but at the same time, they are going to be annexed into the City. Some of the residents said they are living on a fixed income and they cannot afford to pay City taxes. The City said they have to pay City taxes but they will break it down. Not all the services to the residents will be provided until all the infrastructure is in. Ryan Showalter said the community in general does not want to be annexed unless they know that there are public funds, hopefully Federal or State, to extend water and sewer. Some people have perfectly acceptable septic systems and they may work for the next 20 years. Some people have had problems with septic systems and they could afford to replace them. There are people who have lots that cannot be built upon and they cannot afford to annex and extend sewer just to themselves. He said Mr. Collison's statements are very correct. It is important to note that it was the State, not the City, that said they have to be annexed. They can't even apply for the grants until this property is within the jurisdiction of the City. It has to be a priority funding area. Commissioner Sydnor said there has been another area that wanted sewer and water. Rob Collison said there have been ongoing discussions with Woolford/Madison. Mayor Rippons said when Church Creek asked for City services, the State demanded that the City take them in. Likewise, the consideration at Madison/Woolford rests in the same thing. We require annexation of anyone who receives our services unless there is a State mandate. Ryan Showalter said this system is designed to be stand-alone and independent of Church Creek or Woolford/Madison. Commissioner Brooks said it can be connected. George Hyde said there would not be any advantage to connecting it. This doesn't do anything to help that situation. They will be going through the Church Creek system and then pumped into the City. What we are talking about at Christ Rock is separate from that other area and vice versa. Commissioner Brooks said the grant application is a higher priority for Christ Rock than Madison. Rob Collison said he thinks they are the same source of funds. Ryan Showalter said his understanding is that they are slightly different sources of funds. Commissioner Brooks said if this is passed, along every single stage, the Council will vote to annex people into the City who may not want to be. We will be forcing some people to come into the City. Ryan Showalter said State law permits the residents of either the City or the residents of Christ Rock to have a referendum vote. If Council votes to annex the property, under the State law, if 20% of the people of the registered voters who live in Christ Rock sign a petition to say they want to put this question to the ballot, there will be a vote held only by the people who live in the community. If 51% vote in favor of annexation, those who do not support it will have to come in. If the majority votes against it, it is killed. He said one thing is certain. If the City does not vote to annex it on these terms or any other terms, the people who need help will not be eligible for State or Federal funds to solve their problems. Commissioner Brooks said she doesn't have a problem with these terms. Commissioner Travers said he doesn't have a problem with helping the people but he thinks it should be done fairly as was done in the Bucktown area when the City have them 40% off of the taxes. His daughter had to spend $13,000 to hook up to the Sanitary District and they are still paying it. The other side of Christ Rock was annexed 30 years ago and they have not been receiving City water or sewer but up until this year, they were paying full City taxes. Commissioner Knox said if Council were to adopt this for the folks in the Christ Rock area, why not adopt it for all the folks in the area. The citizens on Bucktown Road have the garbage collection and police protection and the Christ Rock citizens will have those services also. The Bucktown Road people are only paying 40% of their property taxes. Commissioner Brooks asked if the grant was based on income in that area. Ryan Showalter said the grant is based on environmental need but there are a variety of points that they assign to weigh varying grant applications. Economic characteristics of the community and income are the ones that make this a higher priority. Commissioner Brooks said if this was a rich area we would not even be having this discussion because we would not be able to get this grant. Commissioner Knox said there are residents in the Jenkins Creek area who are paying the Sanitary District $50 a year to use that sewer line. The residents of the Bucktown area, the residents of Christ Rock who could be residents of Cambridge, and the folks in Jenkins Creek are entitled to City services. He is being penalized every year because he lives on Jenkins Creek Road and he uses the Sanitary District line. That is not fair. It is not fair for the people who may be annexed in the Christ Rock area not to get a fair shake. If they get their fair shake, then the people on Bucktown Road should get the same fair shake as well as anywhere else where we may do future annexation.

Monroe Smith said anyway you look at this, there will be folks who are not getting their fair shake. It seems to him like a majority of the citizens do not have any input. They don't understand what is going on.

Rev. Yvonne Penn said if things are not being explained to people's understanding. Council should make sure that before any vote is done, things are communicated equitably to all residents of that community. Mayor Rippons said the purpose of the public hearing is to divulge all information. Rob Collison said he believes DPW or the circuit rider have all the addresses. They should mail these people notices of the public hearing in addition to publishing a notice in the paper. Rev. Penn said not everyone attends public hearings and not everyone can understand letters that they receive in the mail. They need some interpretation coming from Council.

Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to allow the annexation petition to move forward. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. The motion passed 4:0 with Commissioner Cephas abstaining.

Introduction and First Reading of Ordinance to Create Enhanced Penalties for Habitual Offenders of City's Property Maintenance Code-Rob Collison said the three ordinances were proposed by the Housing Task Force. It is their recommendation for consideration. There was much discussion on bringing certain properties up to Code and trying to increase the enforcement mechanisms. Some communities have enhanced penalties for habitual offenders. The Commissioners would be creating such a provision in the Code where the fines and penalties could triple if they had a certain number of violations in a 24-month period.

Commissioner Brooks asked if this would require a public hearing. Rob Collison said a public hearing would not be required. If they would like to have one concerning these issues it could be at the September work session.

Commissioner Cephas asked where the triple fine came from. Rob Collison said DPW has advised them that approximately 60% of their time may be on the same repeat offenders. This is a means to try to put some teeth into the penalty provisions for the property owners who are consistently behind in not addressing problems. Commissioner Cephas asked if the City triples the fine and they don't pay it would the next step be to take the property. Rob Collison said it would be assessed to the property as any other assessment would be. Commissioner Cephas said we have had some properties that have been assessed and then the property owners comes to the City and ask that the fees be waived and the City has done it. Mayor Rippons said interest has been waived.

Commissioner Brooks said she would like to see it discussed at an open meeting. While she agrees with all three ordinances, she feels that the public should have a lot of input on them. She suggested that they be printed in the paper for the public to see what is being proposed.

Commissioner Sydnor said these issues are already dealt with in the City Code. Rob Collison said there are various property maintenance procedures. This would be any citation that is a violation of the property maintenance code.

Introduction and First Reading of Ordinance to Amend Definition of Nuisance in City Code-Rob Collison said the Housing Task Force was concerned that there wasn't enough definition if you have a property owner who is consistently violating the noise ordinance with extremely loud music, etc. which can be a discomfort to others. This will also be discussed during the work session.

Introduction and First Reading of Ordinance to Prohibit Untagged and/or Unregistered Motor Vehicles from Being Operated Within the City, Except at Licensed Off-Road Facilities-Rob Collison suggested referring this ordinance to the Traffic and Safety Committee for their comments prior to the public hearing. The concern is about people who are running go-carts, motor bikes, and ATVs in the neighborhood. They are not tagged vehicles. It is a safety situation and a noise concern. The ordinance prohibits those uses within the City. This will also be discussed during the work session. Commissioner Cephas made a motion to refer this ordinance to the Traffic and Safety Committee. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. Commissioner Knox asked if people are required to wear a helmet on small scooters that are tagged and registered. Chief Malik said they are not required to wear a helmet. They are required to be tagged by the City. You need a driver's license or a moped license to operate them on a City street. Commissioner Knox suggested that helmets be made mandatory. The motion passed unanimously.

Approve PO 744 - Andrews, Miller & Associates, Inc. - Design Engineering for Cambridge Marina Expansion Phase 2 - $20,000 (DNR Grant)-Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the purchase order. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Approve PO 762 - Andrews, Miller & Associates, Inc. - Professional Services Related to the Proposed Lighthouse - $9,000-Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the purchase order. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Approve Financial Statement for July 2006-Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the financial statement. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS

Commissioner Sydnor asked about the status of the flashing traffic lights. George Hyde said they are working on two lights. One is Muir and Academy Streets and one at Poplar and Gay Streets. The control unit came in for Muir and Academy and they are working on it now. The electrician said as soon as they are done with that one, the controller for the other light should be in. The work should be completed in a couple of weeks.

Commissioner Brooks said there is a major concern at Cattail Crossing about the water bills. One particular house which was unoccupied for one month had a water bill of $185. According to the gentleman that she was talking to, MUC said it was correct. There are two other water bills that they sent to headquarters and copies will be forwarded here. These are for occupied residences. One bill was $500 and the other was in excess of $700. If this is true, someone from MUC should enlighten the resident of Cattail Crossing as to how they can have a bill like this.

Commissioner Brooks said one of the members of the Special Elections Committee asked what happened to the Committee. They need to meet and get the procedure together as to what will the Cambridge do in the event of a special election. Rob Collison said they met and came up with some suggestions. He will have them for Council at the next meeting.

Ed Kinnamon said Council received a letter from the Hyatt requesting permission to do skeet shooting on the golf course on September 11th and 12th. It would be over the water. This has been done in the past without any problems. Chief Malik did not have any concerns. Commissioner Knox made a motion to grant the request. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Ed Kinnamon asked Council to approve Purchase Order 768 to David A. Bramble in the amount of $1,385,425 for the Combined Sewer Separation Phase IV. Commissioner Cephas made a motion to approve the purchase order. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Ed Kinnamon announced that St. Paul's United Methodist Church is holding a memorial service on September 10th at 11:00 am. Council is invited to attend.

Chief Malik said October 1st is the target date for the West End substation to open.

Rev. Yvonne Penn, Director for the Hooper Henry Educational Center on Bradley Avenue, asked for funding assistance for their educational center. This center will be an outreach center. They will entertain a variety of community programs. They will not be duplicating any programs that are going on in the City. St. Luke United Methodist Church started the project. The existing sanctuary that they now use will be their education community center. Not only do they want to do after-school programs and feeding programs, but they will be doing a computer lab and a music lab and will have daycare facilities and many other roundtable discussions for youth. They will have parental classes teaching parents how to get into the school system and talk to educators about their children. She knows the City has helped other facilities over the years. They are asking for $35,000 and they know there is a $400,000 pool that is in the Community Development Block Grant program. She has spoken to State officials because she used to operate the CDBG program for Snow Hill and is very familiar with DHCD. She is certain they will be coming back when they move into Phase 4 which is a housing development. They are asking for a letter of support from the City for the grant or if the City has the money, they will take it for their education center.

Commissioner Travers made a motion to give them a letter of support. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Gerry Boyle, said he believes we have a two-tier property tax base-one for people who buy new homes and one for existing residences. He is listing a property at Oakley Beach. The listing agent told some possible buyers what the sale price was and that the sellers were contributing $15,000 towards the first two years property taxes. At that point, they left. They could not understand how we could possibly justify taxes of $7,500 a year for a 1300 sq.ft. condominium. Those are the numbers that people get quoted in New Jersey and New York. We can't justify those numbers. Real estate agents will tell you that this is happening on a daily basis. The Council has supported new development and there is a lot of it coming. He is not suggesting a reduction in the City tax rate. There are other alternatives. The attitude has been that if someone can afford to buy a waterfront condo, they can afford to pay the taxes. This is not true. He just put his house on Race Street on the market. He sold it for $176,000. His taxes are less than $1000 a year. His neighbors behind him who live in a 1400-sq.ft. modular home which was put up 18 months ago, are paying taxes of $3100 for the same size house on the same size lot. That is $300 a month in property taxes for a $180,000 house. He just sold a house to a lady this week for $250,000. Her heart was set on buying one of the new houses on Miles Avenue for $230,000. The difference in the taxes between the new house for $230,000 and the house they put her in for $250,000 is $1800 a year. She couldn't afford to but the new house; she could afford to buy the older property. Our State assessor is making a job easy for himself. Mr. Boyle said he recently gave the Mayor a breakdown of the 24 condominiums and the 6 homes at Oakley Beach. They generate over $160,000 a year in property taxes to the City and County. Not one single child lives in those 30 homes. We have such a differential between what we are asking people to pay for new construction and older homes. They are assessing new homes at the sale price. A house on Glenburn Avenue sold last year for $365,000. The taxes for 2005 were $1,978. He is buying a new house at Blackwater Cove. It is his choice-he knows what he is getting into. He is not complaining about his own taxes. The house cost $295,000 and the taxes are $5,050. We are asking people to come into this community whether they are first time homebuyers or wealth millionaires. Depending on whether they decide to buy an existing residential property which is taxed at one level or buy a new property, we are asking them to pay twice the money in taxes. It is unjustifiable in his opinion. That is why there are empty new houses. Affordable housing is a joke if you think you are going to ask a new first-time homebuyer to buy a house for $180,000 an then ask them to come up with $300 a month in property taxes. The tax rate in the City is probably as equitable as any other City. He doesn't think any resident would complain about a tax rate of 0.676. They have to pay 1.002 to the County. Why should the City residents be paying more in their taxes to the County? It is scandalous. Over the next five years with all the new houses that are being built, if you take 400 houses a year at an average sale price of $285,000 at 1.7% tax, that is going to generate $30 million dollars in additional property taxes of which the County is going to get $20 million. They are all in the City yet we are going to be handing the County an additional $20 million. He appealed to everyone to make this an issue with the County. They should find out why they are being assessed the way we are and when the County is going to do a split tax system so City residents are not paying the same taxes as County residents. Something has to be changed to bring our taxes to a fair and equitable level. The longer this goes on, the worse it is going to get.

Commissioner Cephas said that about six months ago he said basically the same thing. He received a letter from a developer saying the people were paying about $7500 in taxes and they wanted them reduced. The developers tell the Commissioners the amount of taxes that their project will generate. Then they come back and ask for a reduction. He said Mr. Boyle is correct. Gerry Boyle said there is nowhere in the State of Maryland with taxes as high as ours. Commissioner Knox said he agrees with having the City and County have a split tier. With the amount of development that is going on not only in Cambridge but in Vienna and Hurlock, the County has it made. All they have to do is pick up their check. He doesn't think the City residents should have to pay the same money as the County residents. They are being charge twice.

Rob Collison said institutionally there are issues that create the differential in the taxes. For new construction, they use the purchase price. The problem on the existing houses is the homestead cap. The County just reduced that to 5%. If it is your primary residence, your taxes cannot increase more than 5%, even if you are re-assessed. If someone buys your house as their primary residence, they don't re-assess it at the new purchase price. They stay the same and it keeps being capped at 5%. The State employees assess a property. The City has to accept those assessments. If we ask them to correct, what they will probably end up doing is re-assessing higher the older properties but you still have the 5% cap to deal with.

Commissioner Brooks said another issue Mr. Boyle brought up is an issue that the Mayor has brought up in the past. If you live in the City, a lot of the services such as police, fire, and ambulance, are provided by the City. The County provides more services for the County residents. For the City, the County provides school services. Mayor Rippons said the County tells us that because our police department has far more arrests than the sheriff's department, there is a disproportionate amount of jail time that is utilized. The County does not do any work in the City as far as public works. Our fire and emergency services workers go outside the City. One-third of the RFC calls are outside the City. The City residents are paying the same County tax rate as the County residents and furthermore they are subsidizing them by providing them with emergency services. The County Commissioners don't want to see him coming during the budget negotiations. Gerry Boyle said the only way there will be a tax differential would be if the City Commissioners going to the County and telling them that something needs to be done. Rob Collison said three County Commissioners have constituents within the City. Their constituents should make this known to them as well. Mayor Rippons said Hurlock has the same situation.

Wolf Hehn, who lives at in the Oakley Beach Condominiums, said he and his wife are retired teachers. They were residents of Frederick County for almost 30 years. They were active in their community and they wanted to do the same thing when they came to Cambridge. Frederick County was beautiful in the 1970s but over time, too many farms became residential. It lost the home-town feel. For a number of years they searched across the country to find a place similar to Frederick. A friend suggested Cambridge. One day they got off Route 50 and ended up downtown. It wasn't more than 10 minutes of driving around when they said if feels like home. They fell in love with Dorchester County in general and Cambridge in particular. They purchased a unit at Oakley Beach before it was done. During negotiations their realtor told them their taxes would be approximately $2300 a year. That is about $100 more than they were paying in Frederick County. The week of settlement they got a letter saying the regulations have changed. New construction was going to be assessed differently. Their taxes went from $2300 to $7500 a year estimated taxes. They live here full time. In the short time they have been here, less than 2 years, they have volunteered over 1000 hours at Blackwater. They are working with Meals on Wheels and joining other volunteer organizations. The County came down on the taxes and they are now paying $7200. They really don't want to leave. Given the tax assessment they have on a 1280 sq.ft. apartment, they can't afford it. They realize the City Council is not responsible for the County's part of their assessment. They have no gripe about paying the City taxes even though they have to pay for their own trash pick-up. He said it is past time for the City Council to address this issue. The Council eagerly approved all kinds of numerous developments along Cambridge Creek probably in anticipation of tax revenue. His guess is that very few units have been sold. There is a rumor out there that they are starting to sell them for less than it costs them to build. Probably most of the potential buyers walked away when the found out what their taxes would be. It is time for the City and Council to work to find an equitable way of assessing and taxing property.

Portia Johnson-Ennels asked when Weaver Avenue will be re-paved. George Hyde said within the next two weeks, David Bramble will be in there to do all the resurfacing of the streets. They will be milling and repaving the whole street.

Wayne Burton, Rambler Road, asked if the public nuisances ordinance covers drunken, disorderly actions that the City has been called at least 28 times for. Rob Collison said it will be taken under advisement. Mr. Burton said he has neighbors across the street that have been there 42 years and are afraid to go to sleep at night because of a drunken bunch that moved in there in November 2005. The gentleman was busted for drugs in January 2006. The police department has been called at least 28 times. The police say they can't do anything because it is not done in front of them. The landlord tells him to call the police. He wants something sent to somebody. There has got to be a fine or jail time after so many documented calls to protect the neighborhood. Chief Malik said they have had officers down there to talk to Mr. Burton numerous times. They have also talked to other people in the neighborhood. There seems to be a question as to whether these people are as disorderly as Mr. Burton says they are. Aside from that, Mr. Burton has the right to go see the Court Commissioner and obtain charges for disorderly conduct. If the Court Commissioner issues a summons or an arrest warrant, CPD will serve the papers and Mr. Burton can appear in court. This is apparently his best option if all these crimes are being committed and they are not in CPD's presence. Mr. Burton said he was told earlier to go to City Hall, get a petition, get five signatures, send it to the landlord and the landlord would maybe do something about it. He went to City Hall and they gave him a petition for barking dogs. Chief Malik said the barking dog petition is the only one he knows about. He offered to talk to Mr. Burton after the meeting.

Monroe Smith said he happens to be a landlord and he doesn't think it is fair for them to have to be responsible for the tenants. Because they happen to own a property, every time something happens to that property, why should landlords be responsible? The scales need to be balanced a little bit.

Commissioner Brooks made a motion to meet in executive session to discuss personnel. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned this portion of the meeting at 9:12 p.m. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Monday, August 28, 2006, insofar as I personally am aware.

                                            

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk & Treasurer