City Council Minutes
December 8, 2003
The City Council met in regular session on Monday, December 8, 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.
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 November 24, 2003 Council meeting as distributed. Commissioner Atkinson seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Planning and Zoning-Commissioner Watkins reported that the Commission met on December 2nd and voted to make the following recommendations to Council:
- Harborwatch Condominium (200 Gay Street) - Final Submission of PWCD - The Commission made a favorable recommendation with reservations for final plat submission. Commissioner Watkins made a motion to approve the recommendation. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
- Long Boat Estates (Jenkins Creek Road) - Preliminary Subdivision Platt - The Commission made a favorable recommendation to approve the preliminary subdivision plat with contingency on growth allocation approval. Commissioner Watkins made a motion to receive the request. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
- Egypt Road Annexation (Resolution 03-06) -- The Planning Commission made a favorable recommendation for annexation and a PUD zoning classification. Commissioner Watkins made a motion to accept the recommendation. Commissioner Travers seconded. The motion was passed unanimously.
Rezoning Request by Town Point Properties (Corner of Muir & Academy Streets)-Rob Collison said Town Point Properties requested to change the zoning at 400, 402, and 404 Muir Street and 501 Academy Street from C1 and NC4 (Neighborhood Commercial) to General Commercial. Notice of the public hearing was advertised in the Daily Banner on November 20 and 28, 2003. The minutes of the Planning and Zoning Commission indicate they had made a motion to table this request until they received additional information on the specific plans before they could make a recommendation. Council is to consider whether there was a change in the use of the property since the last zoning was done (May 2003) or if there was a mistake in the zoning when it was done.
Ed Nabb, attorney for the applicant, said they are requesting the rezoning primarily based on a mistake to the zoning ordinance. All four properties under the prior zoning were listed as C2. In the rezoning, the corner property was rezoned as C1 and the other three properties were rezoned as NC4. It appears that the closest parallel zone would be GC (general commercial). The current automotive repair yard is now a non-conforming use. The owners plan to have a Laundromat which is not allowed under the current zoning. Bandad Bahar, president of Service General, is headquartered in Seaford, Delaware said their mission is to provide basic services to low and fixed-income bracket communities. They add other services to their Laundromats including a bank and post office-all under one roof. They provide basic financial services like check cashing, money transfers, money orders, and bill payments (150 different utility companies and credit cards). They have a very advanced laundry technology using "smart cards". They also sell phone cards. They like to be close to communities so people can walk to their facility. In terms of services that they provide, in every market that they have been in, they tend to be one of the lowest cost players. This will be their sixth store. He showed photographs of their existing establishments and a rendering of what they would like the Cambridge facility to look like. Their plans are to rehab the existing structure. The financial center will be Phase 1 and the Laundromat will be integrated next. In the next 5 years they have option rights to purchase the adjacent properties and will either improve them or demolish them to add additional parking. It will be sequential to how the business evolves.
Commissioner Weldon said there is going to be a condominium project on Muir Street that is going to have $200,000 and $300,000 waterfront condominiums and mixed-use commercial. Downtown is in the process of revitalization. He feels the nature of the business that they are proposing for that neighborhood is indicative of a declining and decaying economy. He likes the proposal of what they are planning to do to the building. He agrees that there are areas of the City that do need these services and areas of the City that need the revitalization and rehabilitation of buildings. Property values in the direct area are climbing rapidly. With the proximity to the water, it is not a far stretch to see that those little houses will be rehabilitated. He doesn't see their business mix addressing the needs of what may be an immerging market in that small pocket of the City. There are a number of residences in the area at this point, but it is a small pocket of residences as compared to other areas of the City that might benefit from the services. He feels they need to be aware of what is happening in their immediate neighborhood. He is concerned about that particular business mix at that particular location because of what he sees happening in the immediate neighborhood.
Mr. Bahar said they are finding in their Seaford location that they are cashing a lot of checks from people in Cambridge. While their focus is on the low and fixed-income bracket, he feels we should be aware of the fact that despite all these beautiful buildings being built all around us, the country as a whole had a 15% increase in poverty. His strategy is to add to the neighborhood.
Gage Thomas asked what other uses were permitted in the GC zoning. Rob Collison said Lynn Thomas' (former Planner) recommendation would be to grant the rezoning but to make it a C1 rather than GC. He further recommended amending the text of the zoning ordinance to allow Laundromats within the C1 district. This would be a safeguard in keeping in with the neighborhood and honor what the applicants are looking for. It is his opinion that the C1 would better fit in with the area. The parcel with the gas station is a C1. His recommendation was to grant the rezoning based on a mistake.
Rich Loeffler said as part of the Main Street program, he is concerned about the other permitted uses in GC. Rob Collison read a list of permitted uses in GC that are not permitted in C1.
Because nobody else asked to speak, Commissioner Atkinson made a motion to close the public hearing. Commissioner Bohlen seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously. Council will render a decision at the next meeting.
Presentation by Representatives of the Choptank River Lighthouse Committee-Patrick Hornberger (Chairman) introduced George Wright (Co-Chairman), Walt Travers, Jr. (Construction Chairman), Peg Wolf (Secretary), and Sonny Robbins (Funding Chairman). The lighthouse that they are suggesting is based on a lighthouse that was originally across from Castle Haven near the mouth of the Tred Avon River. It was called the Choptank River Lighthouse. They are asking to put the lighthouse at Long Wharf. The small light in the lighthouse would not be a navigational light. The Coast Guard calls it a tourist light. Their proposal would involve building an authentic replica of that lighthouse. Their intention is to raise the funds themselves with no cost to the City. The lighthouse would be built and then turned over to the City for the City's use. Their only condition would be that it would be for public use (visitors' center, dock master's office, etc.) The footprint is 42 feet from point to point. Mayor Rippons said he feels the City should arrange a public hearing to receive input from the community. Commissioner Weldon said the City has submitted a grant application for a design grant to get a landscape plan for that area.
Main Street Board to Give Update on Their Progress-Marge Lednum, President of the Board of Directors, said both the State and the National Main Street Centers have provided them with training and materials to get started. All their meetings are open to the public. They have established some priorities and have looked at highly visible and easily achieved activities to get them started. Their Marketing Committee planned and executed a very successful block party during the Summer Send-Off Weekend. They have elected officers, prepared a mission statement, prepared by-laws, looked into insurance, achieved 501(c)3 status, and set-up a bank account. Their 2004 plans include launching a membership campaign, adding to and improving the Second Saturday events, hold several more promotions to bring pedestrian traffic downtown, taking an inventory of existing structures as well as businesses and uses, formulating a public relations program to keep the community informed about Main Street, adopting a logo, setting up a website, improving the existing streetscape, and setting up a reference scrapbook of design ideas and materials, supporting the ongoing Main Street training with some special sessions of local interest, participating in a marketing study of our business mix, and hiring a Main Street Manager.
The Committee appreciates all the help that Lynn Thomas gave them and is appreciative of the guidance of Odie Wheeler. They have very little funding and a lot of faith that they can hire a manager. Their plans are to hire a part-time manager as soon as they are able in the beginning of 2004. Hopefully, later they will be able to increase the hours to make it a full-time position. They desperately need the City's financial support and commitment to help fund the manager. They will have copies of the budget and work plans ready next week. Mike Walsh, Vice President of the Main Street Board, submitted a request for part of the budget that was set up at the initial offering for the Main Street program.
Commissioner Weldon, liaison to Council, said the energy, creativity, and the dedication that the committee is showing is one of the reasons why his comments on the last proposal are very important for everybody to keep in mind. Cambridge has an asset in their downtown and we need to guard it carefully. He is asking for Council's consideration of this request so they can move forward with their budgeting process. He thanked the committee for all their work.
Discuss Suggestion from Personnel Review Committee Concerning Holiday Schedule for City Employees-Ed Kinnamon said the Personnel Review Committee recommended that some holidays be changed within the holiday schedule. David Pritchett said that with the current employee benefit package, new employees cannot take a day off for a year. With the proposed schedule, employees would receive 3 personal days in lieu of floating holidays. Commissioner Atkinson made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Weldon seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Approve Holiday Schedule for 2004-Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the holiday schedule. Commissioner Bohlen seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.
Approve Council Meeting Schedule for 2004-Commissioner Atkinson made a motion to approve the schedule. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.
David Pritchett said they are proceeding forward with the permitting process for the marina expansion. One of the issues that has been raised in a letter received from Andrews, Miller & Associates is to receive as many endorsements as possible from political entities. They suggested the County, State, and Federal governments. Mayor Rippons asked Ed Kinnamon to request this endorsement.
David Pritchett said because of the Christmas lights, it is impossible for the painter to being work on City Hall. The contractor will start shortly after Christmas.
Commissioner Atkinson said he received a proclamation from the Governor of Maryland declaring December 7th as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in Maryland. He said not too many people remember December 7, 1941; not only did we loose over 2400 people but it affected all the lives in the United States. Three City Commissioners were deeply affected. He was upset yesterday that the news media and TV did not accentuate that day as they should have. It was briefly mentioned. Commissioner Atkinson read the proclamation which will be displayed in City Hall.
Commissioner Weldon reminded everyone about the Second Saturday events downtown. He encouraged everyone to attend the holiday celebrations.
Commissioner Weldon thanked the American Legion Post 91 for their contribution to the Christmas Parade. He also thanked the Department of Public Works, the Cambridge Police Department, and Rescue Fire Company for their cooperation in the production of the parade.
Commissioner Watkins complimented Commissioner Atkinson for getting the proclamation from our Governor. He served in the Army and is proud of it.
Commissioner Bohlen said it was great to be part of the Christmas parade, as it always is.
Rob Collison announced that Council met in closed executive session at 6:15 pm to discuss a personnel matter. The minutes from the next meeting will reflect a policy that Council has adopted.
Rob Collison announced a public hearing to be held on December 17, 2003 at 7:00 pm at Maple Elementary School to consider the annexation proposal for the Egypt Road property.
With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned this portion of the meeting at 8:12 p.m. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Monday, December 8, 2003, insofar as I personally am aware.
Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk & Treasurer