City Council Minutes
April 28, 2003
The City Council met in regular session on Monday, April 28, 2003 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 Bohlen, Watkins, Weldon, Atkinson and Travers.
Mayor Rippons asked for a moment of reflection in support of our troops. Ed Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer. Commissioner Atkinson led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the minutes of the April 14, 2003 Council meeting as distributed. Commissioner Watkins seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Historic Preservation Commission-Commissioner Bohlen reported that the Commission met on April 17, 2003 and heard the following cases:
112 Belvedere Avenue-The request for a backyard shed was passed unanimously as submitted.
117 West End Avenue-The homeowner will have to apply for a variance if they would like to install a 6-foot fence in their front yard. The City code only allows a 4‑foot fence from the front of the structure forward.
200 Oakley Street-The request for a 4-foot fence around the property was passed unanimously as submitted.
603 William Street-The request for a 6‑ or 8‑foot white vinyl fence on the side of the property near the Cavalier Apartments was approved unanimously pending a variance for the height. The request for a trellis, brick-paver sidewalk, and shed were approved unanimously.
307 Oakley Street-The request for a shed and a 4-foot picket fence were unanimously approved.
450-452 Race Street (former McCrory Building)-They are planning to restore the storefront façade. The request was unanimously approved.
420 Race Street-The request to erect a fence and construct a covered carport-style shed to connect the alley bar to outside was unanimously approved.
511 Court Lane-The owner is trying to find access to the basement other than through the trap door inside the structure. The case will be discussed at a later date.
Proclamation for Relay for Life-Ed Kinnamon read the proclamation proclaiming May 16 and 17, 2003 as Relay for Life Days in Cambridge. Mayor Rippons signed it and presented it to Gail Skinner. Ms. Skinner announced that the opening ceremonies start at 6:00 pm. Last year, they raised over $137,000. She thanked the Council for their support over the years.
Proclamation for Mental Health Month-Ed Kinnamon read the proclamation proclaiming May as Mental Health Month in Cambridge. Mayor Rippons signed it and presented it to Carol Asplen Masden. Mrs. Asplen Masden said Mayor Rippons is one of their honorary chairmen for their walk on Saturday, May 3rd. She thanked the Council for their support.
Proclamation for Older Americans Month- Ed Kinnamon read the proclamation proclaiming May as Older Americans Month. Mayor Rippons signed it and presented it to Vivian Johnson Keene. She invited the Council and senior citizens to a luncheon honoring senior citizens on May 8th.
Presentation Concerning "Dorchester First" by the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area Management Board-Lynn Thomas reported that this group is an initiative of various levels of government. Steve DelSordo said they became a Certified Heritage Area last year. One of their goals is to advance the protection of the historic properties. It is also an economic development program. They are working on developing material that they can give to people interested in starting a business in Cambridge and/or Dorchester County. Natalie Chabot said they are not looking for funding; they just want people to know about their programs. Commissioner Weldon said heritage tourism is more than people wandering the streets with maps. It is economic development
Natalie Chabot said the Heritage Area has a grant round open. The City has two identified Target Investment Zones (TIZ) so they are eligible to apply for a matching funds grant. The MHAA typically has two grant rounds per year; however, there is talk that they may change their system to one round a year. The deadline for applications to be submitted to the local Heritage Area is Friday. Commissioner Weldon said the downtown lighting project would be a continuance of the grant they received last time for the Water Street lighting. Mayor Rippons asked about the renovations to City Hall. Commissioner Weldon said that project was rejected but they offered the Maryland Historical Trust as an alternate funding source. Ms. Chabot said the projects have to be Heritage Tourism related. Commissioner Weldon made a motion to authorize the filing of the grant application. Commissioner Bohlen seconded the motion. Commissioner Weldon said he would also like to see if we can include a request for some planning money for a comprehensive landscaping plan for the Long Wharf area. He would also like to talk to the Director about possibly funding a revolving loan fund to help downtown business owners with fixing up the façade of their buildings. The motion was passed unanimously.
Peter Johnston, Redman/Johnson Associates, Ltd. to Discuss Proposed New Zoning Ordinance-Mr. Johnston said there has been a request to rezone 2 parcels of property off Leonard Lane to R-3. They are currently proposed under the rezoning maps to be R‑1 (single-family residential). There was a lot of outcry from citizens during the public hearing concerning traffic impacts associated with the development of more multi-family and elderly projects in their area. He and Lynn Thomas looked at the traffic generation off of the parcels. With a multi-family project you are looking at 2,000 to 3,000 vehicles per day out of the two projects. With a senior project, the trips generation is somewhat lower. It is their conclusion that the smaller parcel is really in the nature of an in-fill project. It is in back of, and on the side of some single-family homes with condos on the other side. Their recommendation would be to re-zone it R‑3. The other parcel is about 7 acres. At 10 dwelling units per acre, you are looking at about 70 units. There have been some requests that the density for the R-3 is probably low. It probably needs to be raised to about 15 units per acre which is more consistent with what is being done with the PWCD. He is not prepared to say whether there is a traffic issue. He feels the citizens will raise the same issue on any project that gets proposed for this area. It is his suggestion that the parcels be zoned R‑1 for now. When the City is able to complete a traffic circulation study and determine what improvements are needed to insure adequate access and circulation through the area, they might want to consider rezoning it R‑3. He feels if there are issues associated with the development of the area and improvements are going to have to be made. The developer should be made responsible for some of the costs of the improvements. One thing that would help would be to connect Cosby Street and Glenburn Avenue.
They looked at the parcel on Mace's Lane that is being proposed as R-1 but the applicant is requesting R-2. The citizens in the area are concerned about duplex development which is permitted in R-2 zoning. The applicants said they are planning to develop single-family dwellings but they need to get down to the lot sizes permitted in the R-2 district. His suggestion, which is consistent with what they recommended to the Planning Commission, is to change the minimum lot size in the R-1 district. He feels the 10,000 sq.ft. lot is excessive particularly when you are talking about an urban situation. Even at a 7000 sq.ft. lot, you are looking at what would be considered an urban context low density. He is suggesting leaving the property at R‑1 but changing the R‑1 to a 7000 sq.ft. lot. This would be consistent with what is in the adjacent residential areas.
Commissioner Weldon asked if it would make more sense to retain the 10,000 sq.ft. level and let the developer request a variance if he encounters wetlands, etc. so that conditions on that site can be individually addressed as opposed to doing a blanket change to the density level that may have negative repercussions elsewhere in the City. Mr. Johnston said he is making the recommendation for all the R-1 sites. He thinks a 10,000 sq.ft. lot minimum in an urban setting is wasteful of land. The City is spending money for sewer, water, and other infrastructure to serve that property and then to use it at that low a density is an inefficiency in his mind. He feels it would be appropriate for any R-1 area.
Concerning variances, the Board of Appeals in not authorized to grant a variance to a standard lot size regardless of what the situation is. If the City wishes to maintain the R‑1, he recommends a zone in the middle. The new zone could be used in places like this which would allow 7000 sq.ft. Commissioner Atkinson said Bayly Crossing (11,000 sq.ft.) is a beautiful area. The people from the Maces Lane area want the new area developed in the same scope and he can't blame them for that.
Mr. Johnston said most of the municipalities that have the 10,000 sq.ft. zone use them as a holding zone. They are large areas that are not currently served by water and sewer. Commissioner Watkins said it would be smart to leave it at R‑1 which is 10,000 sq.ft. and have some mechanism for them to reduce it. Commissioner Bohlen said this is the PUD.
Mr. Johnston said the question was raised about R-3 and density of 10 dwelling units per acre which is being proposed. They agree that 10 dwelling units is on the low end of the density spectrum and suggest that the R-3 density be increased to 15 dwelling units per acre.
Regarding the plan to get new commercial area around Route 16, they had originally planned to have a long strip of highway commercial along Route 16. They came back with the idea of creating commercial nodes around the major intersections and then neighborhoods could develop around them. The other thing they are recommending is zoning it general commercial (not highway commercial). This would also allow multi-family. He is also suggesting that a shopping center be added to the general commercial as a permitted use by special exception. They have also added a buffer requirement in the ordinance. At the edge of each district will be a landscape requirement and a street front buffer requirement.
Ginger Brannock asked if there was an area where a Lowes or Home Depot could build. Mr. Johnston said there is the highway commercial zone on Route 50. Ms. Brannock said there is not much land available. Commissioner Weldon didn't think there were adequately-sized lots. Mayor Rippons said Home Depot had already looked at the site where the fire was. They said it is not conducive to what they want. He asked three big box groups to come to Cambridge and they all said the same thing. Mr. Johnston said they want to be on Route 50. If there are not any vacant parcels available, the solution would be growth to the City. Commissioner Weldon said some information they got through the Land Conservancy said there are ways they can construct the zoning to encourage big box development within the confines of the City. The Phillips Property has a huge amount of acreage. If the City could consolidate a package of conducive zoning that is in the Enterprise Zone and bundle an economic development package, then the City would have a market for them. It is currently zoned industrial but could be changed to general commercial.
Open Proposals from Engineering Consultants for the Marina Expansion Project-Ed Kinnamon opened two proposals:
- Andrews Miller Associates (Cambridge, MD) -- $99,930.
- Morris and Ritchie Associates (Cambridge, MD) -- $140,500
Mayor Rippons said there is only $75,000 in grant money available to fund this project. Commissioner Atkinson made a motion to forward these bids to DPW for their review. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Request from Relay for Life for Noise Variance for May 16 and 17, 2003 at Cambridge South Dorchester High School-Commissioner Atkinson made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Mayor to Appoint Member to City's ADA Citizen Advisory Committee-Mayor Rippons said there are two vacancies on the committee. Commissioner Travers made a motion to appoint Mr. Larry Jones. Commissioner Atkinson seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously
Re-districting Committee-Mayor Rippons asked the Commissioners to try to find people who are not on the other committees. Rob Collison said Commissioner Watkins gave him the name of William Nichols, Commissioner Weldon gave him the name of Vicky Stanley, and Commissioner Atkinson gave him the name of Sharon Whitten. He said the representatives from the wards will have public hearings and then Council will hold a public hearing. Mayor Rippons asked that the rest of the names be submitted by the next Council meeting.
Request to Charge Rental for Electrical Adapters at Yacht Basin-David Pritchett recommended $3 a day or $5 for a weekly rental. Commissioner Weldon made a motion to accept the recommendation. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Approve PO 2741 Jess Jr's & Sons to Refurbish 1986 Chevrolet Fleetside Truck (RFC) ($69,355)-Mayor Rippons said this is a substantial amount of money for a truck that is 15 years old. Ed Kinnamon said the truck was Federal surplus property and was given to RFC. The cost is for the equipment to refurbish the truck into a piece of fire apparatus to fight brush fires and similar type small fires and is very specialized work. Commissioner Weldon asked if it is something that is subject to bidding. Rob Collison said if it is the actual acquisition of equipment, it is a capital good and would have to go to bid. Commissioner Weldon said we are purchasing capital equipment and he feels it needs to go to bid. Rob Collison said he will look into it for the next meeting. Commissioner Weldon made a motion to table the PO until they get additional information. Commissioner Atkinson seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Approve PO 2743 Potomac Fire Equipment - Emergency Repairs for Engine 1 (RFC) ($2852.79)- Commissioner Weldon made a motion to approve the purchase order. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Approve PO 2713 Fireworks Production, Inc. for Annual Fireworks Display ($20,000)-Mayor Rippons said Dorchester County contributes $5000 to this display. Commissioner Watkins made a motion to approve the purchase order. Commissioner Weldon seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Approve Financial Statement for March 2003-Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the financial statement. Commissioner Watkins seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Ed Kinnamon reported he received another request for annexation. It is on Jenkins Creek Road. The request will be referred to Planning and Zoning.
Ed Kinnamon said Mrs. Irene Thomas has asked the City to provide a timeline for correcting the water problem on Camper Street.
David Pritchett reported that DPW picked-up 16.17 tons of garbage in the 5th Ward on clean-up day.
Commissioner Weldon said a question surfaced after the action the Council took during the last meeting concerning water rates. He would like to get a clarification about a building with more than one business in it but only one water meter. He asked if each business would be charged the minimum water rate. Mayor Rippons said it would be the greater of the usage or the minimum times the number of units in the building. The minimum is contemplated by the size of the line that physically goes into the building. Rob Collison said the ordinance reads that if there is more than one commercial or residential use, there will be a minimum charge for each unit. For example, Harbour Haven has 12 residential units. Therefore, at a minimum they will receive 12 minimum monthly fees from that building. If a commercial building has two businesses located in it, they will be billed at least two minimum monthly fees even if the meter only registers one minimum. Commissioner Weldon said there is an unfairness here. If the usage for two businesses in the building exceeds two minimums, then he is o.k. with that. If the two businesses never exceed one minimum charge, then there is an inherent unfairness here. He thinks it needs to be fixed. Commissioner Weldon made a motion to withhold the billing system until it is clarified because we are double billing and the City is big on complaining to the County about double billing. We don't want to double bill people for a product they aren't using, especially when it is multiplied three times over for sewer use as well. Commissioner Atkinson said it is not double billing because you are billing two separate people. Rob Collison said he thinks the ordinance could use some clarification. If you have three commercial users on one floor and they share a restroom, should it be minimum meter use per restroom? It is easy to distinguish what a residential or living unit is and they should have the minimum. Commissioner Weldon said there are tenants in the Phillips Hardware Building that don't have water service to their leased space. Rob Collison said they should clarify the definition of a commercial unit.
Jack Rosemere said he is one of the businesses Lee Weldon is talking about. He has been downtown for 18 years. He and State Farm share a minimum bill of approximately $32. They never use the minimum. He was told at MUC today that the bill will jump to $60 a month. This doesn't attract business to downtown Cambridge. All the people on Willis, Choptank, and Pine Street who are trying to pay their rent and just barely making ends meet, and are sharing a water bill with 4 apartments in one building, the City will be raising their rent $25 a month because the landlords will be passing it on. Mayor Rippons asked why is it fair for someone living in a trailer who is never going to come close to using the minimum, but she has to pay the minimum? Jack Rosemere asked why is it fair that someone like him who is never using the minimum to get double billed. This is affecting the lives of people around the whole city. Commissioner Weldon said he doesn't think anyone has a problem with recognizing that you need to have a minimum rate to cover infrastructure and other things that MUC has to do, but if you have a meter and the meter clicks one time, nobody should be paying more than the minimum. He suggested a possible solution. On a residential application where you are more likely to have an increased volume of water use, designate a residential vs. commercial meter and establish a rate that is equable to cover the additional revenue that MUC needs to have. If they are concerned about the trailer park, maybe they need to lower the minimum. An apartment building with 12 apartments would have a lower minimum but they would have to account for each living unit. Ginger Brannock stated that the Brannock Building has one set of restrooms on each floor; they don't have bathtubs or a dishwasher. Right now they have three tenants. Under this plan they would be assessed three times the minimum. Commissioner Weldon said this building is an easy target to bleed revenue off of. Mayor Rippons said that wasn't the intention. Commissioner Weldon said it wasn't the intention, but it was the result. He restated his motion to withhold enforcement of this billing until they have a clearer picture and he is asking Rob Collison to review the legality of how this charge is being assessed. He thinks the City will be in trouble if they don't. Rob Collison said they have the ability to assess a minimum user fee and that is what they are doing. Commissioner Watkins said if they establish a minimum fee for the businesses and apartments, what about the people paying the minimum fee who are poor? Commissioner Weldon said if they keep it uniform, it is as harmful to the tenants of low income housing as it is to the business people.
Gage Thomas asked if the trash pick-up portion of the bill will being going to a per unit basis. David Pritchett said the trash pick-up portion has not changed.
Commissioner Weldon said if there is no second, he will withdraw his motion. He asked to let the record show that he is opposed to this and he is sorry he voted for it last week. He didn't understand it and he doesn't think they understand it.
Commissioner Atkinson said one thing they aren't computing in is the infrastructure replacement. They are just computing the amount of water pumped. There is a cost involved to replace the lines. Commissioner Weldon said that should be accessed across the board; not levied against multiple tenants in one building. They are targeting the one segment that is least able to afford, it in most cases, to subsidize the work that needs to be done.
Rob Collison said he thinks there needs to be a clarification on what a commercial unit is because you could have six commercial tenants sharing one common bathroom. Mayor Rippons said he thinks that point is relevant.
Commissioner Weldon said his motion is back on the floor to pull the assessment of this fee until it is reviewed and the definitions are clear. Commissioner Bohlen said in light of Mr. Collison's discussion, he will second the motion. The motion was denied 3:2 with Commissioners Bohlen and Weldon voting for the motion.
Robert Brannock, President of Brannock Tire Services, said he received a letter from the City saying he has to get rid of all his old tires outside his tire shop. He is licensed from the State of Maryland Department of the Environment as a secondary scrap tire collection establishment. His tires are monitored very heavily by the DEP. They come in three times a year to look at them and spray them for mosquitoes. He cannot run his business without a pile of tires. Last month they removed 1000 tires. This month they got rid of 389 tires. He would like to be exempt from the new ordinance. The tire pile has been there since 1938. Rob Collison said he could store the tires inside or have them covered by some means so they are not collecting water. Council could make an exemption if the tires are removed a minimum of twice a month and they have a strict spraying policy. Commissioner Atkinson said they can't spray every tire in the pile. Mr. Brannock said he doesn't own the property so he can't put a roof over the tires. David Pritchett said he doesn't see the tires being rotated out every two weeks. Mr. Brannock said he can buy a fogger and spray the tires himself. He wants to work with the City. David Pritchett said he will contact major tire companies and make a recommendation during the next meeting.
With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned this portion of the meeting at 9:06 p.m. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Monday, April 28, 2003, insofar as I personally am aware.
Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk & Treasurer