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  • 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

December 11, 2006

The City Council met in regular session on Monday, December 11, 2006 in Council Chambers. A quorum being present, Mayor Cleveland L. Rippons called the meeting to order at 7:20 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 November 27, 2006 Council meeting as distributed. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. Commissioner Cephas said he had a correction to be made. He suggested approving the minutes and he would inform Ed Kinnamon of the correction at a later date. The motion was passed unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARING

Christ Rock Annexation and Ordinance for Zoning of Annexed Area as R1 (Single Family Residential)-Rob Collison announced the public hearing is to consider the annexation of the Christ Rock area. The certificate of publication indicates that the notice of the public hearing was published in the Daily Banner on October 26, November 2, 9, and 16, 2006. Notice of the public hearing was sent via certified mail on October 30, 2006 to Steve Dodd, the Director of the Dorchester County Planning and Zoning Office; the Dorchester County Council, and to the Maryland Department of Planning. The City received a letter from the Maryland Department of Planning dated December 7, 2006 regarding Annexation Resolution A-2006-02. They offered the following comments: Article 23a, House Bill 1141 specifies that the new zoning for annexed land cannot be substantially different than the existing county zoning without the express consent of the County Council. The proposed City zoning of R1 (single family residential) appears to be consistent with the existing County zoning of SR (suburban residential) and therefore it does not seem that a waiver will be required from the County. They noted that the property does not lie within a Priority Funding Area (PFA). If the City desires to seek PFA certification, as this annexation will occur after September 30, 2006, and in accordance with the State Finance Article as amended by House Bill 1141, the City will need to seek PFA certification in accordance with all of the requirements of Section 5 of State Finance Article. They noted that the property is located with the development district category of the County Land Use Plan. This is a designated growth area joining the City of Cambridge.

Rob Collison asked for comments from the Maryland Department of Planning and the County Council or Planning Office. Nobody asked to speak.

Ryan Showalter, Miles & Stockbridge, spoke representing a group of residents in the area to be annexed. This annexation has been in the process for a long time. Various members of the City staff worked with representatives of Christ Rock for some time to talk about annexation and in particular to address the State and Federal funding for extension of water and sewer services to serve homes that have failing septic systems and/or homes that are in areas of limited soil capacity. They had meetings with representatives from MDE, USDA, and other funding sources. The one thing that has slowed down the process of solving the potential public health issues is that under State law, the Priority Funding Areas Act, and under Federal laws, basically growth management funds are tied toward serving existing communities that are within municipal boundaries. Public funds don't get expended or allocated very often to pay for new growth and when they are used to pay for existing homes, they want to make sure they are within a Priority Funding Area. This project, which is rated very highly on MDE's list of priority issues, cannot receive State funding until it is annexed. They worked with the community through a series of different meetings to obtain a consensus with respect to annexation. George Hyde and Anne Roane put together a schematic design on how the City water and sewer services would be extended. Preliminary costs of that design have been shared with MDE and they have been assured that this is very high on their list of priorities for funding. They cannot submit funding applications until it is annexed. The next deadline for the State funding comes up in 1½ months so they would like to get through the annexation process so they can represent to the State that this has, in fact, been voted on. What he understood from City staff and residents is that everyone wants to make sure this project can be completed with State or Federal funds and not funds of the City or the residents. The effective date of the resolution, Section 10, specifies that essentially annexation does not become effective until the time that the City either receives from some source other than itself, funds to pay for extension of water and sewer or votes to spend its own monies. The residents want to make certain that they are not annexed and paying City taxes unless and until services would be extended to their homes. This provision gives the City Council absolute discretion over whether the City incurs any costs with respect to extending water and sewer. If this is voted on tonight, or on December 27th, they can apply for all of the State and Federal grants and represent to them that the annexation voted has occurred. If the funds come through and they pay for the extension of services which he has been led to believe they will, the City won't have to incur any costs to extend water and sewer and the project will occur. If for whatever reason, State and Federal funds do not occur, in this year or in a series of years to make this project complete, the City has the discretion to either allocate money of its own to extend water and sewer in which case annexation would be effective, or to do nothing. If the City decides it does not want to expend its own funds, the annexation does not occur until grant funds come along and the City has no obligation to extend water and sewer.

Mayor Rippons said if the vote is taken for annexation and the City residents do not agree, they have 45 days to act. He wishes that if any vote is taken, there is a stipulation about what, if any, financial resources of the City will be used. If funding is not available in 18 months and Council says they will pay for it, it will be too late for the City residents to voice their disapproval of that allocation. Rob Collison said he thinks the effective date would start the clock running on the 45 days for the petition for referendum. If Council votes tonight to proceed, it will not become effective until they get their grant funds and Council would appropriate the difference if there is any. That would be the effective date and he will specify that this will commence the clock ticking on the 45 days for citizens to file a petition for referendum.

Commissioner Sydnor asked if they anticipate that the grant is not going to cover the full amount. Ryan Showalter said he had a number of conversations with both USDA and MDE. When they fund these types of programs, it is often multiple agencies with different grant funds. MDE may have three different sources that they tap for funds for their contribution. What happens is the application deadlines are not all at the same time. The decision timeframes are not consistent and there are limits on what those agencies can award in any given year. They often take steps in sequence and say they will fund 30% of what the City needs for the total project this year and it will pay for design and engineering and Phase 1 of construction. They will allocate the rest out of their monies for the next year but the City wouldn't physically receive them until Fiscal Year 2008. Nobody will make binding commitments, but the State and the Federal Governments tell them that this is a very high priority project. It is a relatively inexpensive project as far as water and sewer projects go. All indications are that they will receive 100% funding for the existing community. It may come in two parts. Mayor Rippons asked about overages. Ryan Showalter said if the overages are not covered by the City, then they will keep applying for funding. Mayor Rippons asked why the City should cover overages. The City has done their part. They have allocated staffing to help. He is trying hard to rationalize why current City taxpayers should ever be into the formula. Ryan Showalter said the resolution specifically provides that it is not effective until they get 100% grants or the City votes to spend money. They may wish to strike that provision. Nothing in the resolution binds the City to spend a dollar to make the project go forward. If this is adopted as it is written, it is his belief that annexation will hang out there until the funds are collected and the City will not have to spend a dollar. If there is an overage and it is not picked up by grant funding, then the annexation is not effective until the next year's round of grant funding comes in or the City votes to spend the money. Rob Collison said he thinks the only way the problem could arise would be if there was not a 10% to 20% differential for cost overruns built into the grant funding. Ryan Showalter said the numbers that Mr. Hyde prepared include a 20% contingency for cost overruns and they also include costs for the City Engineer's time to design the system. Rob Collison asked if they included the cost to remove the existing septic systems. If not, they should be included. Ryan Showalter said the most recent cost estimate will be updated before the grant applications are submitted this spring. It includes design and construction for the water system from the existing service at Egypt Road along with installation of ten fire hydrants; design costs for City staff engineering service or an outside engineering firm; a 20% contingency as well as making the physical connections from the water main in the street to each existing house. For sewer it includes a 10-inch gravity sewer for about half the community and a 2000-foot 8-inch gravity sewer which is pumped in using grinder pumps; grinder pump stations; 14 manholes; 20% contingency; and the house connections. Both the water and sewer laterals include abandonment of existing wells and septic systems and connection from the house to those systems. It is intended that all of those costs will be included.

Rob Collison said based on the past history of the City starting with Mr. Robinson 25 years ago, properties that have come into the City but have not been receiving water and sewer services are receiving a 60% tax abatement. He recommended being consistent with this figure. If, once the annexation becomes effective, there should be a 60% abatement until such time that the residents are actually connected to the service. Commissioner Sydnor asked if this would be all or individual. Rob Collison said the Council would have to specify if the abatement ends once it is available to that property. He doesn't know if the grant specifies that all owners must be connected within a certain time period. Ryan Showalter said he thinks that would be imposed through the County Health Department. They will provide the funding for the connections but they will require that everyone connects.

Commissioner Sydnor said one of the earlier agreements stipulates a 75% abatement then it increases in 25% increments over the years. Mayor Rippons said that document was not drafted by the City. It was drawn up by Mr. Showalter to favor the new citizens. Rob Collison said the one considered does not begin the taxation at all until the last property is connected. You could have someone connected one year but then someone else may not be connected for 12 or 14 months later and no taxes would be assessed to anybody until after that last person is connected. Commissioner Cephas said that could go on for 10 years. Mayor Rippons said it could go on for perpetuity. He said Legal Counsel suggested that Council abide by the historic and legal perspective. That is a 60% abatement until services becomes available. The City has extended itself already three times. There are people in each ward who struggle to pay their property taxes and now the onus is going to be on them rather than on someone else. It is so illogical. Rob Collison said once the taxes are implemented after the last property is connected, it is a 75% abatement for the first year; a 50% abatement for the second year; a 25% abatement for the third year; an after that, they pay the full amount. The difference between the two is they would begin paying tax the July 1st following their connection and after that they would pay 100%; up until that they would pay 40% and receive a 60% abatement. Commissioner Knox said it still wouldn't happen until the last person connects. If the first ten houses were connected, they could have City sewer and water and all the privileges that the taxpayers received but they wouldn't be paying any taxes until the last person in house 20 was connected and then it would still begin a four-year process before the City was collecting 100% of the taxes so this could go on for 20 years. There are other annexations and if they don't stick to procedures, they can open up a very ugly can of worms. He thinks they need to stick with what they are doing already.

Rob Collison said he thinks the time period would be relatively brief since the grant documents specify when we must spend the dollars. We could still have a two- to three-year period that would deviate from what they have established.

Ryan Showalter said he technically represents one property owner in Christ Rock but he worked to develop a consensus with the community. People are not accustomed to paying City taxes and they would request the City's consideration of any flexibility to allow them to phase it in. If it was 60% for one year, it would be helpful to people to be able to budget and be prepared to pay City taxes. He would like all the people to speak. The big thing that is requested is consideration with respect to City taxes. If it can be phased-in to allow people to budget and be prepared to pay it, that would be helpful. Mayor Rippons said the residents of Bucktown Road are not going to get any phase-in, they will pay immediately and they will pay for their commiserate part of the extension out of their own pockets. He asked how they could rationalize an area that was just annexed who is going to pay the taxes per a historic perspective and each home owner will pay thousands of dollars out of their own pocket and now a different consideration for a different area. Commissioner Brooks said if you are talking about rationalizing anything, they could talk about having a different rationale for the other side of Christ Rock that paid full taxes for years without being given that 60% abatement. If you look at the Christ Rock area, they have never been treated like the norm when it came to property taxes. When talking about the rationale, not 100% of the resident in Christ Rock said they want to come on board. She believes it took a lot of arm twisting; it took a lot of meetings; and it took a lot of begging to get some people to come on board because some septic tanks were failing. They want to do the whole community because they don't want to create an island. In bringing all of them in, various City Council members have sat down with Christ Rock members and heard them state that they will not be able to pay the City and County taxes immediately and they would like to be phased-in. That was part of the agreement that was on the bargaining table to get a lot of them to get on board to be annexed. She doesn't think they can say Christ Rock is like everybody else because maybe the City should take some of that tax money that they paid and look at that as paying in advance.

Ryan Showalter said the policy decision is left for Council. This is the request. Commissioner Brooks summarized it. A number of the residents don't have failing septic systems and probably don't want to be annexed. If Council votes to not annex the area, no State or Federal funds will be available to serve the community. If they vote to annex with a 60% abatement for one year, the residents of Christ Rock could petition their own annexation to referendum. If 20% of the residents of Christ Rock decide that the tax abatement is so painful that they can't stand it, they can put the question of annexation to referendum and they could kill it. He is requesting Council move forward to make this work. If Council decides there is no tax abatement available, then the citizens have recourse to decided that is not acceptable to them and they want to back out.

Commissioner Sydnor said this has been in the process for many years. He thinks it is time they make some decision one way or the other. He hopes they have a motion so they will not leave these citizens in a loop. They should step up to the plate and make a decision.

Commissioner Brooks said they are going to zone all of this particular area as R‑1 if they vote to allow it. She knows that at least one resident who lives in this particular area that they will zone as an R-1 may have a residential home business. Because of items they may have on their property, they may not fall in accordance with our City ordinance. She asked what kind of safeguard or protection has been put in the resolution for any situations like a resident who already has their own business. Anne Roane said the safeguard is that the zoning that would be put in place would be creating a non-conforming situation that was not created by the homeowner. In the ordinance there is a section that deals with non-conforming situations and the abandonment of those situations. If it is existing and it has not been abandoned, then it can continue to exist. If the land user were to discontinue its use for 90 days, that would be the abandonment of the land use. It would not be able to start-up again or be created. Commissioner Sydnor said whatever exists now will be grandfathered in until some change is made to that particular situation. Rob Collison said the zoning is for single family homes; however if a home is a duplex, that would be grandfathered in until such time it is no longer a duplex for more than 90 days.

Commissioner Cephas said he is definitely in favor of some type of tax abatement for that particular area. There are people who are not in favor of annexation. Ryan Showalter said from a legal and timing prospective, Mr. Collison read a letter from State Planning. House Bill 1141 was referenced. Technically the annexation law changed in September. The change in law applies to all annexations that did not start before October 2006, which this did, or that are not completed prior to January 1. As long as a vote is taken on this annexation prior to December 31, 2006, everything is fine and the annexation can proceed. If this is postponed for the final vote until after January 1, we technically have to submit a new outline that describes how services will be completed. It has a different title and has slightly different requirements. We may have to have a new public hearing.

Hershel Johnson, Rock Drive, said Commissioner Brooks really explained his feelings and those of a lot of the members of the area. Personally he doesn't have a problem and it took a lot of arm-twisting for him to agree with this but he knows that across the road from him, the resident has to have her septic tank pumped out monthly. She doesn't have enough land to expand. He has been there since 1970 and wants to be a good neighbor. They have seen what has happened when they started to talk about annexation. In 1973, the right side of the street going toward Church Creek was annexed. At first they were paying full City taxes. They approached the City and they have gotten it reduced. He sees how unfair the City has treated that side of the road. They feel they have been wronged and they feel something should be done. There are people who don't have the problem and some people don't want it. They would have to come in if the vote is to come in. He thinks they have the percentage already. If the City chooses not to, then they won't come in. The house across from Ms. Green was annexed because they paid for the line. She offered to do the same thing. He understands the City saying no because you can't keep doing that. He doesn't want to see them annexed and then the same thing happen to them that happened to the other side of the road.

Cynthia Daniel, Church Creek Road, said she and her friend, Dave, own their home. They found papers in the house indicating that annexation has been going on since the 1970s. Their septic system is failing badly and they need this and they can't afford the 100% taxes like the Council wants them to pay. There are a lot of elderly people living around them who are on a fixed income. They can't afford the taxes. She is already paying over $1,000 in County taxes.

Hattie Ennels Greene owns one property at Rock and has part interest in another property. They are caught in the middle. She sympathizes with everybody who is having a problem. At this point they are not having a problem. The septic system on one property is less than 10 years old. The water system is not that old and they are not having a problem but they will annex with everyone else. She has seen for years what has happened. They came through and took half of her front yards and now what is left, is almost a canal in front of the houses. If you fall in, you would drown. Now part of her walkway is falling into the ditch. Every year it is getting wider and wider. They got a little pittance years ago for whatever that land was. Now her land is falling away into the canal and so is the other property. She will go along with everything else. When push comes to shove, the City will get their money. Everyone is annexing land to get more money and for more development to come in. She feels that is the same thing that is going on here with everything that is going on with Blackwater and all the building. She knows they probably want Cambridge to be like Ocean City or St. Michaels, but they are the ones in the end who have to pay.

Shirley Greene, Rock Drive, said she started trying to get annexation in 1998. They were in the City's Comprehensive Plan to be annexed within 10 years. So far, nothing has happened after many meetings. It is just as expensive to have her septic tank pumped out every month as it would be to pay City taxes. It costs her $150 every month to get it pumped out. That land does not absorb the water. You have no idea when your system will fail. She understands they don't want to because it is expensive and they just had new systems put in, but if it is a matter of getting City services (sewer and water), she would annex. She is not trying to force it on anybody. They have been overlooked. When she spoke to the Mayor about being annexed, he told her the City would annex them when the residents find the money. He didn't offer any assistance; in fact, nobody offered assistance where to look for money. Ms. DeLaurentis has come along and offered to help them get the money. She is asking they do what needs to be done to get annexed because they need it.

Commissioner Brooks stated that she believes that all areas should be treated equally and no area should be treated differently. She understands that the City has looked at other areas and they may have done 60/40. The Christ Rock area has a history much different than some of the other areas that the City has done 60/40 with. In addition to that, she is looking at the fact that most of the residents within the Christ Rock area are elderly and are living on a fixed income. There are provisions within our Charter where we can make a special tax rate or a special tax assessment for an area that we are annexing in that is mostly elderly. Commissioner Brooks made a motion to accept the annexation resolution that was presented to Council by Ryan Showalter. Rob Collison clarified that the annexation resolution Commissioner Brooks is referring to is the resolution that states that in the first year following the connection by the last resident, they would receive a 75% abatement. The year after that they would receive a 50% abatement. The year after that they would receive a 25% abatement. The fourth year there would be no abatement. It would be after the completion and after the last house is connected. If Council elects to go that route, they may wish to add language that all property owners must connect within three months after the services are available. The City will undertake to do the lateral connections from the main line up to the properties but if they get a property running along the street and one property owner says they won't give the City permission to come on their property to connect them, this would be a problem they would want to prevent. To say that everyone must connect within three months of that line being along the road, he thinks they would prevent the problem. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion with the contingency of the conditions outlined.

Sylvia Jones, Draw Bridge Road, said she was under the impression there was not going to be a vote tonight. Mayor Rippons said a newspaper reporter asked a question of Mr. Kinnamon. He answered it the best he could. Legal Counsel has advised them that should Council have enough information after the public hearing, they can make a vote on the annexation resolution this evening. It is at Council's discretion. Rob Collison said if they don't vote tonight, they need to vote by the December 27th meeting because of the grants. Commissioner Brooks said any vote that is taken tonight for any particular reason, with notice, can be withdrawn. Commissioner Cephas said the paper said there would not be a vote tonight. Ed Kinnamon clarified that the reporter from the Daily Banner asked him if there would be a vote. He did not think there would be. Council generally will vote after the second meeting; however he told the reporter that it is up to Council. They can do as they please. If they have enough information, they may vote. He sees that the reporter has chosen to put in the paper that there would be no vote. That is not what he said without the other caveat. Commissioner Cephas said there was additional information added to the motion about a certain time frame. Rob Collison suggested three months after the line is available for connection in front of the home, the property owner would consent to the City coming in and connecting it to a lateral to their home. The cost was included in the grant applications. If there is a shortfall, it will come back to Council to determine if they have the funding to meet the difference. Commissioner Cephas asked the Rock representative if they were married to this particular agreement in detail. He made reference to the 60% a couple of times. He asked if they had a problem with the connection within three months. Ryan Showalter said the grant funding will be for the project. He thinks that when they have the street open, they are going to connect the lateral line and make that connection. He suspects it will be within weeks. He thinks three months is very reasonable. Commissioner Cephas said there were other proposed modifications. One was the 75% vs. 60% abatement. The other was the connection timeframe maybe longer, maybe less. That wasn't added at all. He asked if they had a problem with not taking a vote tonight and modifying the resolution to what the Commissioner has said tonight. Ryan Showalter said he will leave it to Mr. Collison to modify it to the Commissioner's pleasure. As long as the vote occurs before December 31st, from a legal perspective, he is comfortable.

Commissioner Knox asked if the wording about the last connection will be completely taken out. Rob Collison said it will stay in but the provision would be added that states that all property owners would have to be connected within three months of the service being available to that property. No taxes would be imposed until the last property is connected but that property has to be connected within three months of the line being run along the street. Mayor Rippons said it will probably be a parameter with the grant that everyone connects. They would not allow singular homeowners to say they won't connect. Commissioner Sydnor asked for a five minute recess.

Commissioner Brooks asked if there is any resident of Christ Rock who has any objection to the vote taking place tonight. Troy Emory said he grew up in the area but has been gone for quite some time. He said that Commissioner Brooks said the citizens of Christ Rock have pretty much prepaid for the sewer. He asked for more background. They just put a septic tank in two years ago but his neighbors suffer and he would be willing to say to bring them in. Commissioner Brooks said there is one section of Christ Rock that was annexed into the City back in 1973. That particular section of Christ Rock paid 100% City taxes until this year. Now they receive an abatement of 60%. She made reference to Christ Rock not being treated like other areas and being allowed the 60/40% when they first came into the City and did not receive all City services. Christ Rock has not prepaid any taxes. What she stated was that the people across the street have probably paid enough taxes from 1973 up until now to have paid for anybody else's taxes if the City were to give them the 25% increment for four years and coming up to 100% taxes that they should pay for the City.

Commissioner Travers said he has no problem at all to vote for this as long as it is equal to the situation that we have on Bucktown Road. They receive 60% off of their taxes. They had to pay for everything that they were hooked up to which cost them around $7,800. They had to pay for the grinder pump, going under the road, and hook-up. Commissioner Brooks said the City Charter can allow for a special tax rate for certain areas that are identified in the area that we have identified as an area that is predominately elderly and on a fixed income. She asked if Bucktown would fit the same criteria. Commissioner Travers said he would say that half of them would.

Commissioner Brooks withdrew the motion she made. She explained that we do have some opposition sitting at the table that feel that it is not fair to do the 25/25/25/25 percent because we have done 60/40 in the past. We have a population that is mostly elderly and they are on fixed incomes.  Every one of them will be eligible for a property tax credit. The program is based on income and not age. Most of the homeowners fall within the criteria to get that help from the State. Because she is very familiar with the Homeowner's Tax Credit Program as well as the Renter's Tax Credit Program, she will make herself available for anyone living within the Christ Rock area to have the forms available and complete them for the citizens as a service from the City. They may get more of an abatement from utilizing the Homeowner's Property Tax Credit with the 60% that the City is going to give, than they would get from the 25% because it will be based on what they have to pay. Commissioner Sydnor withdrew his second to the motion.

Barbara Lake, Church Creek Road, asked if income was considered with the Homeowners Tax Credit Program. Commissioner Brooks said the only way they could do a special tax rate would be for the homeowners to qualify by some special demographics such as elderly or low income. That is what she will be basing it on. Rob Collison said the program comes from the Department of Assessment and Taxation.

Charles Jackson, Cambridge Beltway, asked if the burden would fall on the homeowner if they were working and didn't qualify for the tax rebate. Commissioner Brooks said 60% will be abated which means that once every single home has been completed within the Christ Rock area, the property owner will be asked to pay 40% of their tax after the last home is completed. Once they are connected, they will pay 100% the next fiscal year. Commissioner Sydnor said for the 40% they will receive police protection, trash pick-up, etc. Commissioner Brooks said instead of paying 25% for the next four years, they will pay 40%. If they do not get this annexation in within the next five to seven years, they will not reach 100% like they would have with the very first resolution. They are proposing to use the formula that they have used in the other areas of the City. Rob Collison said the Council has to determine when they wish to have the first taxes assessed. It could be the first fiscal year after everything begins or it could be the fiscal year after the last property is connected. Bucktown is paying 40% and nobody is connected. Mayor Rippons said in Christ Rock it will almost be a simultaneous event. They probably won't see the 40%. The event that is going to trigger the annexation when they are going to start paying the 40% is also going to trigger with a short duration, the completion. When it is completed, it will go to 100%. The project will probably be done within a year. Their savings at 40% is going to be for a small duration and they will probably experience 100% almost right away. Commissioner Brooks said they will not pay any taxes until after the last house has been connected. Commissioner Brooks said if Council is going to do the 60/40, then her motion will be that no taxes are paid by the citizens of Christ Rock until after the last house has been connected. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. Mayor Rippons said once it becomes available, everyone has three months to connect. Commissioner Brooks said nobody will pay any City taxes until after the last house has been connected once it becomes available within the three-month period. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. Mayor Rippons said the State and the Federal funding sources may, within the confines of the grant, have provisions that everyone must tap in within a short time frame of the line being in place.

Sylvia Jones said it seems in view of the information that they just received about tax credits, there is even more reason why the Council should not vote tonight until everyone fully understands what has just transpired. Commissioner Sydnor said the citizens can pull out of this. Rob Collison said if they get 20 percent, they can take it to referendum. Commissioner Knox said the deadline for the vote is January 1st. He would like to wait until December 27th to give the folks of Christ Rock an opportunity to discuss among the residents what is going on.

Monroe Smith said he doesn't have a clear understanding what is going on. Mayor Rippons said if Council votes tonight or on December 27th, the annexation procedure will start. It will not become official until the provisions specified by Mr. Showalter-that being full funding of the project is in place and Council agrees to that funding mechanism. Rob Collison said they will be adding a provision that states that the petition for referendum period will begin on the effective date and the date will be advertised. Mayor Rippons said this will allow the people who wrote the grant to begin their work. When the money comes down from the State and Federal governments, Council will say they accept it and they will move forward. That begins the trigger for the residents of Christ Rock to have 45 days if they do not agree with it. They will explain all the funding sources. If the residents do not agree, they will have 45 days to get 20% of the registered voters in the affected area to file a petition. If they get 20%, then a special election will be held of only those registered voters in the effected area. Then it goes by majority. If the majority wants it, it is approved. If the majority defeats it, there is no annexation.

Commissioner Brooks said if they do not proceed with a vote soon, they will not have an opportunity to get the funding. That is the reason they want to pass a vote tonight. They do not want to wait until any other meeting. They want to pass it tonight with the understanding that it can always be withdrawn.

Rob Collison asked for clarification. The taxes will begin the fiscal year beginning after the last house is connected and all houses have to be connected with 90 days of it being available. Commissioner Brooks said the first year the residents will pay 40% of the taxes. Rob Collison said they will receive a one-year 60% abatement and taxes begin the year after the last connection. Commissioner Brooks said it is a 100% abatement until the last house is completed.

Barbara Lake said they talked about annexation and the sewage and that after 90 days everyone must pay. She asked if they would receive everything in the package for annexation. She asked if they would get street lights. Mayor Rippons said he believes Mr. Showalter specified that the lights would be in place within three years. Commissioner Brooks said they will not pay 100% until after they are receiving all City services. Rob Collison asked if they would receive trash removal during the period they are not paying taxes. Commissioner Brooks said they would once the annexation goes through.  They will receive all City services. Once the last house is connected to water, they will pay 40%. If they are receiving all services by the next year, they will pay 100%. They will not pay 100% until they are receiving full City services. The service should be no different for this area than any other area of the City.

Ryan Showalter said the draft of the resolution states the street lighting will be installed within three years of annexation. He asked if Commissioner Brooks' response that they don't pay City taxes until they receive all City services is inclusive of street lights. Commissioner Sydnor said it is exclusive. Mrs. Lake said they will be paying 100% before the three years. Christ Rock has been in this bind for years.

Mayor Rippons said they lose absolutely nothing by a vote of the Council tonight. The points all need to be addressed once all mechanisms are in place regarding funding of the project.

Ryan Showalter said he doesn't want to delay this anymore than anyone else. On the question on when the petition would need to be filed, he thinks he would like time to work with Mr. Collison and the funding agencies to look at that question between now and December 27th. The State and Federal governments said they want to know that the City has done everything it has to do to annex this property. If they leave it as drafted so that the referendum petitions have to be filed 45 days from the vote on the resolution, when Day 46 comes along, MDE knows whether it is put to referendum or not. If it is not, they will say as long as they give 100% funding, it will be done. If the City changes this to say that they can file a petition for referendum any time after we get the funds, he is concerned they won't get the other agencies to commit the funds and they will be in a circle that they can't get out of. Commissioner Brooks said she fears that December 27th is so close to the Christmas holiday, they will not be guaranteed a quorum. Rob Collison said they have 100-acre tech park with $2.8 million pending so they must have a quorum on December 27th. Ryan Showalter said the one they could do to add a lot of clarity is to decide that the referendum period starts on the date of the vote. It could be advertised to everyone in Christ Rock and elsewhere that they have 45 days from the date of the vote to file a referendum petition. It would eliminate the legal question and they could have a vote tonight and it would be in compliance with State law. Rob Collison said it would be very unusual not to have that referendum period running from the date of the vote of the resolution. Commissioner Brooks said they are cutting it extremely close to wait until December 27th. Ryan Showalter said it may be that the response he gets from MDE or USDA is that they have to stay with State law and you only have 45 days from the date of the vote or it doesn't work for them. Rob Collison said the Mayor's concern is that if Council votes today, the 45-day period would expire at the end of January. If the grant funding comes in March 1st and there is a $100,000 shortfall and Council votes to pay the $100,000, there is no petition on the referendum period because the 45‑day period has expired. Mayor Rippons said that is not fair to the voters in the City. Ryan Showalter said Council could tell them to keep looking for the money and annexation isn't effective until they find the remainder of the funds. Rob Collison said the problem would be if Council votes to appropriate the funding and someone disagrees with that. Ryan Showalter suggested that the resolution provides that the City shall not allocate resources for construction of water and/or sewer. That way it would have to come from grant funds. Rob Collison said they could make it effective only upon 100% grant funding.

Commissioner Brooks amended her motion to include that all funding for this project will be obtained from grant sources or other funding outside the City. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the amended motion. Commissioner Cephas asked for the motion to be repeated in detail for clarification and for the record. Rob Collison said the motion is to approve the annexation resolution with no taxes to be imposed until the fiscal year following the last connection by the property owners. All property owners must be connected within 90 days after the sewer is available to their property. The first year there will be a 60% abatement; they will pay 40%. The next year there will be no abatement. That is, it will be phased-in over a two-year period. The effective date of the resolution will be the date on which the City is awarded grant funding for all necessary funds to complete the infrastructure improvements as outlined in the annexation resolution with no obligation to the City. Immediately upon the effective date, the residents will receive fire and police protection and trash removal. There is a three-year period in the resolution for street lighting. The taxes are abated until the residents receive water and sewer. Commissioner Brooks suggested saying all services, exclusive of the lights, because the sweeper comes out occasionally. Commissioner Cephas said Commissioner Brooks would be assisting with the Maryland State Homeowners Property Tax Credit program. She said they have to apply for this credit prior to September 1st. Troy Emory asked roughly how much the tax would be. Rob Collison said it would be about two-thirds of what your County and State tax is. The motion passed unanimously.

Rob Collison said also required tonight is a public hearing for the proposed ordinance for the zoning of this property. The 116 acres that are being annexed will be zoned R-1 which is single-family residential. Notice of tonight's public hearing on the zoning was published in the Daily Banner on October 26, November 2, 9, and 16, 2006. The R-1 zoning is single-family residential as Ms. Roane indicated earlier. Any property that does not conform to single-family residential requirements would be grandfathered in until such time as that use is not used. This would become effective upon the effective date that was discussed in the annexation resolution. Anne Roane said the zoning is consistent with the County's suburban residential zoning. The Planning Commission unanimously made a favorable recommendation for this R-1 zoning. Rob Collison said there is some undeveloped land in the area discussed. R-1 requires a minimum lot size of 10,000 sq.ft. per lot. After the effective date, if you need a building permit, you would get it from the Department of Public Works for the City. Nobody else asked to speak.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Traffic & Safety Committee-Commissioner Brooks that the State Highway Administration advised the City that they need to close the Cambridge Creek Bridge to vehicular traffic for approximately 8 weeks for repairs.  They asked the City if they had any recommendations for a detour route.  The Traffic and Safety Committee recommended that the detour route be from Route 50 to Cedar Street, continue on Cedar Street to Race Street and then make a right on Race Street.

Commissioner Brooks said a Commissioner asked them to review the situation on Allen Street again.  They have looked at it at least three times and it is her recommendation that they no longer review it.  They are being fair to both residents.  Chief Malik agreed.

Mayor Rippons said a staff member gave Council a letter talking about traffic on Phillips Street.  There is also a letter from a citizen requesting a light in front of 417 Talbot Avenue.  Commissioner Sydnor said someone else requested that they look at the conditions on Peachblossom and Bayly Avenue in regards to 4-way stop signs.  Commissioner Sydnor made a motion to refer the Phillips Street issue to the Traffic and Safety Committee and the Talbot Street issue and the Peachblossom issue to the Street Lighting Committee.  Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

APPOINTMENTS

Representatives from the Housing Task Force to Give Report on Housing Symposium-Portia Johnson-Ennels, a member of the Housing Task Force, gave Council and the newspaper reporters a written report. The Task Force will be using information that was created by the League of Woman Voters of Talbot County to help them with some of their issues. They are hoping the City Attorney will work closely with them. Mayor Rippons thank Mrs. Johnson-Ennels for attending the conference.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

St. Luke United Methodist Church-Commissioner Sydnor said the one point they were trying to determine either from the contractor or from the Department of Public Works was documentation concerning the issue.  He doesn't believe they came up with any documents from either place. He made a recommendation at the last meeting that DPW would do some of the work.  He has backed off of that because of legalities if something should go wrong. The City could be held liable for it.  Commissioner Sydnor made a motion that the City pay the contractor an amount not to exceed the amount that was given to them last week which was $5,867.  Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion.  Rev. Yvonne Penn, Pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church, said because of the problems that they ran into with the City and the Planning Department, it has delayed their paving of the church and therefore all the equipment has been put up for the winter until May 2007 which is going to cost the church more money.  By then, this will also be costing the church more funds.  Commissioner Sydnor said they were not going to blacktop.  Rev. Penn said they were going to flatten it and do all that.  The contractor told her everything would go up.  They have to talk to their people in the spring and get new prices and bring equipment just to do that. Mayor Rippons said the City would ask for latitude from the contractor because some of it falls on the auspices of the contractor or other agents.  Commissioner Brooks asked if the $5,867 would help defray the costs.  Rev. Penn said it would defray the costs; however, the expense will be greater in the spring. The motion passed unanimously.  Rev. Penn thanked the Council for their consideration.

Second Reading and Vote on Charter Resolution CR-2006-01 to Provide for Special Elections-Rob Collison this resolution was formally introduced at the last meeting.  The resolution specifies a specific period for having special elections, if the need arises.  It does not change the time period if a vacancy arises within four months of the next election.  The filing deadline is 15 days from the City Council meeting where it is voted to have a special election.  If only two people file as candidates, then there is no primary.  The winner of the election is the official.  If there are more than two people who file, then there is a primary.  As drafted, if one of those candidates receives 60% or more of the votes, that person will become the official and there will be no general election.  If nobody obtains 60% or more of the votes, then the two highest vote getters proceed to the general election.  The elected official is sworn in at the beginning of the next regularly-scheduled City Council meeting after the certification.  Commissioner Brooks made a motion to approve Charter Resolution 2006-01 to provide for special elections.  Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion.  Commissioner Knox said he doesn't understand why it needs to be 60%. The committee made the recommendation for 50% and he agrees with them.   He feels they should listen to the committee. Commissioner Cephas suggested 51%.  He asked Portia Johnson-Ennels to briefly explain how they came up with 50%.  Rob Collison said the committee looked at two criticisms of the existing system.  The first was something very specific and the second was to shorten the time period.  They also wanted to avoid having a second election if there are three candidates and one receives 51% of the vote.  The assumption was that possibly the same registered voters would vote for the same candidate and the person would win.  It would not always be the case.  This was the rationale to shorten the time period.  Commissioner Brooks said people have been known to change their mind from the primary to the general election.  This happened in the 2004 election.  She said this is where the rationale came in with the 60%.  When they ask a committee to work on any subject whatsoever, they bring their recommendations back to the City Council and then Council discusses them and takes them into consideration and tries to put forth as much as they can.  There were several elections that were extremely close.  She thinks they need to have a little more latitude than just 50% or a little over 50%.  Portia Johnson-Ennels said they need to realize that this is dealing with special elections only. They are not planning on having special elections every four years.  Rob Collison said most cities do not have a primary election.  They just have one election.  Commissioner Cephas said he doesn't want anybody in the City to think that when Council asks someone to do something and they do it, and Council doesn't agree with them, that they feel crushed.  Everyone on that committee feels like their efforts were in vain.  He is not saying that their 50% is not a good idea. He thinks it would work; so would 60%.  Either way they will have an election. The rationale is to shorten the process.  That is what they all want.  It could prolong the process if they made it 60%.  He thinks this is better than what the County has.  They make an appointment and the citizens do not have any say in it. Commissioner Brooks said it is important that they do not rush and fill a seat.  If a seat becomes vacant, that seat deserves all the same consideration that it received before the first person took that particular seat.  Rushing is not always the answer.  Commissioner Knox said if a seat becomes vacant four months prior to an election, the seat will remain vacant for those four months.  The 50% would speed up the process to fill the vacant position as soon as possible.  Commissioner Sydnor said he has no problem with expediting the process, but they want to make sure that when they fill the seat, that they will be filling that seat with someone who is going to be a representative of the particular ward that they are going to be representing.   Mayor Rippons said the motion is to approve Charter Resolution 2006-01 as read with the 60%.  The motion was defeated 2:3 with Commissioners Knox, Cephas, and Travers opposed.   Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve Charter Resolution 2006-01 as read with 50%.  Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. The motion passed 3:2 with Commissioners Sydnor and Brooks opposed.  Rob Collison said they will bring it back for a formal second reading during the next meeting.

NEW BUSINESS

Request from Thomas Land Group LLC to Refer to Planning and Zoning Commission a Rezoning Request of 326± Acres on Egypt Road from PWRD to R2 Residential-Rob Collison said this is part of the Egypt Road resort project.  There has been an added request to have a 5.027-acre parcel zoned R1.  There will be a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission.  They will make a recommendation to the Council and then there will be a public hearing before the City Council.  Commissioner Knox made a motion to refer the requests the Planning and Zoning Commission for their recommendation.  Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Consideration of MOU with County for Development of Riverwalk Along Cambridge Creek-Rob Collison said this is a great opportunity.  The City would not be out anything.  He thinks Ms. Roane is confident the City will get the funding to develop the type of riverwalk they want as a prototype and to get it constructed.  The riverwalk would be 15-feet wide along the County property where the County office building is.  It would connect Gay Street almost all the way to Commerce Street.  Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the MOU and authorize the Mayor to execute it.  Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Approve PO 828 - Jay Corvan - $4,500 for Developing Prototypes for the Route 50 Corridor-Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the purchase order.  Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Financial Report for October 2006-Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the financial statement for October 2006. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Approve PO 827 - C& K Lord, Inc. $47,172.64 - Material and Labor to Fabricate and Install H-beam in the Truck Storage Bays at the Public Safety Building--Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the purchase order.  Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS

Rob Collison announced that Council met in closed executive session beginning at 6:15 pm to discuss various personnel matters. 

Rob Collison announced that Council has run advertising for the public hearing on Wednesday, December 27th for the annexation of the airport and tech park.  The meeting will start at 7:00 pm.

Commissioner Cephas said on Wright Street where there is some development going on, he thinks it would be a good idea if the City could take a look at the fence.  People are coming in and out and some tools may be missing.  There is an opening in the fence where the playground is located.  He thinks it should be closed up.  Anne Roane said the City still has outstanding Open Space grant funding for that park that needs to be spent.  Ed Kinnamon will notify the Department of Public Works to look at the fence.

Rob Collison said several meetings back, the Council had a discussion on 703 and 705 Wright Street.  Grady Wilson's company was proposing to purchase that for the demolition costs.  Basically, it would be transferred to him with no income to the City.  He would demolish the existing structure and build affordable housing.  It was approved by Council.  They were under the assumption that those properties were not part of the grant program that the City received.  After that vote, Mr. Kinnamon discovered that it was part of the grant funding.  A representative from the Department of Housing and Community Development will meet with Kathy Foster and Ed Kinnamon to determine the City's options with this property. 

Portia Johnson-Ennels said our young people are always asking our government to do things for them.  She would like Council to think about using Sailwinds for an activity for the children.  It would be a revenue-generating event.  Commissioner Cephas said he doesn't know how much money it would generate. Every time they open the doors, it costs them a lot of money.  He has to agree.  As a community building, it is for the entire community.  There are occasions when we have Halloween parties and senior citizen events.  Over the past two years, we have been talking about some type of recreation for our kids.  He is thinking we can find something to do for those kids at that location maybe every month or once every two months.  It is a good, safe location and it is ours.

Monroe Smith said there is a gate at Cornish Park on Wright Street.  It has been there for a long time. This is the way you enter and exit the park. He thinks this is something that needs to be considered because it is an entrance.  Commissioner Cephas said he will look at it.  Commissioner Cephas asked Ed Kinnamon to wait on contacting DPW until has had had an opportunity to review the issue.

Mayor Rippons announced that Sailwinds Park is having their senior citizen dinner on Thursday at noon.  Any needy seniors can contact his office because there are a few tickets left for the dinner.  They are preparing dinner for over 600 people. 

With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned this portion of the meeting at 9:30 p.m. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Monday, December 11, 2006, insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk & Treasurer