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  • City of Cambridge Maryland
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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
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City Council Minutes

June 3, 2002
 

The City Council met in regular session on Monday, June 3, 2002, in City 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 May 20, 2002 Council meeting as distributed.  Commissioner Weldon seconded the motion.  The motion was passed unanimously.   

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Historic Preservation Commission-Commissioner Bohlen reported that the Preservation Commission met on May 16, 2002 and heard the following cases:

Frank Cooke and Claudia White (303 Mill Street) requested permission to remove some of the cedar siding to expose the original clapboard siding.

Thom Huntington (116 Oakley Street) requested permission to build a storage shed similar to an existing shed.

David and Gena Levy (111 Vue de Leau Street) requested permission to remove one of the rear chimneys.  They are also going to change a few windows.

Robert Dicus (108 Vue de Leau Street) requested permission to install vinyl siding.

Tony Thomas (420 Race Street) requested permission to install a 4-ft high black steel railing in front of Canvasback.  He also proposed to enclose the rear lot with a 6‑ft stockade fence so he could create a beach atmosphere. 

Commissioner Bohlen reported that no one spoke against any of the proposals.  Because a quorum was not present, a decision on each case was pending on the vote of a third member at a later date. (It is his understanding that this has been done and each case was approved.)

APPOINTMENTS

Pete Macenta (Cornerstone Assembly) to Request Permission to Hold a Bake Sale on July 4th at Long Wharf-David Hines said they would set up the bake sale at 5:00 pm and end about 30 minutes after the celebration (fireworks).  They will secure a permit from the Health Department.  Commissioner Weldon made a motion to allow the Cornerstone Assembly to hold their bake sale on July 4th in the parking lot at Long Wharf and to waive the peddler's license fee.  This is contingent on the church meeting the requirements of the Health Department.  Commissioner Watkins seconded it.  The motion was passed unanimously.

Request from Susan Antonelli and Tara Foxwell (Snappers) to Have Outside Music Every Sunday Through Labor Day (5:00 pm until 10:00 pm)-Susan Antonelli said they don't have any large bands--they either have one person or a duo who will play from 5:00 pm until 9:00 pm.  They have been doing this for 8 years now.  Commissioner Weldon made a motion to approve the request including a noise variance.  Commissioner Bohlen seconded it. Mayor Rippons asked if anyone in the audience wished to speak on this matter.  No one did.  The motion was passed unanimously. 

Brenda Hayward to Discuss Amendment of Floodplain Requirements-Brenda Hayward (711 Locust) read a letter from the West End Citizens Association, Inc.    As a community organization with 344 members, WECA is concerned about the effects of elimination of the 100-ft floodplain setback, especially on the Oakley Beach property.  They are opposed to any relaxation of the floodplain guidelines that would allow development in such low-lying areas, as there could be an adverse impact on neighboring properties. They feel there has been insufficient public disclosure of this proposed amendment and suggests tabling the vote until more information can be provided to the public. 

Council has also received a letter from Octavene H. Saunders and will take this letter into consideration when voting.

Rob Collison said this arose in the discussion for the development of the Arundel property at the head of Cambridge Creek.  Council has reviewed the floodplain requirements, which require a 100-ft setback in any area along the shoreline within the floodplain.  It would amend Section 5.4 of the Floodplain Management Plan.  This is a non-zoning issue.  Zoning would deal with the 100-ft setback or any setback that would apply to any property in the district.  This is only dealing with floodplain issues in Chapter 7 of the Code which is non-zoning so that is why the City was not legally required to run a public advertisement for 2 weeks. 

Rob said the area between Woods Road and Great Marsh Park is excluded from the enforcement provisions of the Critical Areas legislation.  The Critical Areas legislation has within itself a 100-ft setback requirement anyway on any waterfront property.  In the floodplain provision of the 100-ft setback is basically the area from Woods Road to Great Marsh Park.  To date he does not know of any development that has occurred within that area that has been required to adhere to this.  For example, Harbor Haven was dealt with on an elevation construction basis.  The first level is just garages.  This is how the issues are addressed.  The Department of Public Works and Planning and Zoning enforce those building requirements. 

David Pritchett said it has no real purpose as far as the integrity of a structure, which is covered through the construction permitting process.  It is also part of the Critical Areas Setback.  In reference to the Oakley Beach project, he does not see any adverse impact on anything else.  The whole parcel is the same elevation so you restrict development on the first 100 feet.  It is not like it is sloping up on a grade; it is still the same elevation.  You are only affecting the actual impact of a flood on the structure built within that 100 feet which would be handled in the fact that they would have to build to a certain elevation.  Anything built below that level has to be addressed with proper venting, etc.  

Commissioner Weldon said he thinks the concern that WECA has is related to the previous developer's proposal for Oakley Beach.  The reason it was not allowed was because the 100-ft setback was in place.  The issue was less of a floodplain issue than a zoning issue.  He believes they are concerned about the density of anything that is constructed on that parcel.  Jim Michael is not aware of any setback requirement from the water under zoning.  The only setback requirement he is aware of in the zoning ordinance pertains to setbacks from property lines, other structures, etc.  The ordinance could be changed through a text change to require a setback from the water.  Floodplain requirements are strictly elevation issues; they are not setback issues.  David Pritchett said the development they spoke of on the Oakley Beach property met the 100-ft floodplain setback. They came forward with future plans taking into account the 100-ft setback. This is not what stopped the project; it was dealing more the historic preservation. 

Edgar Williams (100 Oakley St.) asked why the 100-ft setback was originally put in the floodplain requirement.  Jim Michael said the former ordinance did not mention it.  He felt it might have been some sort of boilerplate, which was incorporated at some point as an example.  In his experience with the County government, there was no such 100-ft setback from the water in the 100-year floodplain.  There is no such thing in the County. 

David Pritchett said it is dealing with the structure itself.  It is not dealing with surrounding properties or safety.  It is only dealing with construction of a specific unit.  Years ago it was much more difficult to build a structure that could take the water.  Now design engineers have a way of allowing water to pass through without actually causing damage at the ground level to the upper part of the structure.  It is much more feasible to construct in that area and still allow for a storm that may occur every 100 years to pass through without doing any damage. 

Mr. Edgar said regarding the Oakley Beach property being at the same level, obviously if you have seen floods come up that field, he has seen water cover 2/3 of that which indicates that the top 1/3 is a different elevation than the bottom 1/3.  David Pritchett said he is talking a real flood-not a high tide and a rain event combined with a northeaster that creates water on that property.  Mr. Edgar is concerned that there is a reason that the setback requirement is on the books.  Mayor Rippons said Council has consulted their representatives from legal, planning and zoning, and the department of public works.  They said setback has no valid consideration as it relates to the floodplain requirement.  Jim Michael said he spoke to John Joyce with the State MDE.  His comment was that a lot of time it is kept on the books in some jurisdictions but it has no bearing on FEMA. 

Marjorie Hull (1301 Hambrooks Blvd.) said it brings to mind some years ago the City the contracted with Redman/Johnston to re-do the zoning ordinance for the City.  This was to be completed two years ago in October.  They had the privilege of walking the West End and speak with Mr. Johnston.  In looking over their particular area, one of the things he had said to them at that time that he envisioned the next zoning code to be quite different from what it is now but in particular it would be neighborhood compatibility.  The zoning as it now stands is totally incompatible with the neighborhood.  One gentleman wanted to build 58 units 10-ft from the bulkhead that exists on the property and go up 5 stories plus.  She feels what Council is doing tonight is leaving the West End open to anybody who wishes to come in from anywhere and build "Harbor Havens" in a neighborhood where you have no such thing.  Harbor Haven is fine where it is now because it does not impact on any neighborhood in particular.  David Pritchett said that wouldn't be effected one way or another with this 100-ft setback.  Mayor Rippons said it has no relevance.  Jim Michael said Mr. Peter Johnston will be at the Planning Commission meeting on June 4th and his recommendation is to prepare the final report, which will be presented to the Mayor and Council.  The public hearing process should commence this summer.  Commissioner Weldon said the reason they have taken their time is because the zoning ordinance is a very complex document.  The reason people have problems with the existing zoning is because it was basically compiled from copies of stuff that didn't apply and it was a very bad ordinance.  There will be plenty of time to discuss the issues Ms. Hull spoke about tonight.  Commissioner Bohlen added that what Ms. Hull is describing could happen right now with the 100-ft setback in place. 

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Second Reading and Vote on Amendment of Floodplain Requirements (eliminate 100-ft setback)-Rob Collison said the amendment is to eliminate Section 5.4 of the Floodplain Management Plan.  Mayor Rippons invited public comment. 

Andy Madera (6 Oakley St.) has seen conditions of severe flooding at the Oakley Terrace apartments.  He showed pictures of the area when it was completely flooded.  If they build the area up, the water will come right around and flood the rest of them out. He is very much against it.  He is concerned with congestion and building down by the water.  Mayor Rippons said the density can be discussed when they talk about zoning.  Right now the second reading is the 100-ft setback.

Carol Daffin (101 Belvedere Ave.) has a home improvement license.  She asked about parking during flooding.  Mayor Rippons said parking is a zoning issue; not a 100-ft setback issue.

Commissioner Weldon made a motion to revise the floodplain ordinance as outlined by the City Attorney eliminating the 100-ft setback.  Commissioner Atkinson seconded the motion.  Rob Collison said this would eliminate Subsection 5.4 of the Floodplain Management Plan.  The motion was passed unanimously.

NEW BUSINESS

Request from Dorchester County Republican Central Committee to Hold Picnic at Great Marsh Park on August 17 (noon until 5 pm) with Amplified Music-Commissioner Atkinson made a motion to grant this request including a variance from the noise ordinance.  Commissioner Travers seconded it.  The motion was passed unanimously.

First Reading of Ordinance to Amend Riverwalk Requirements-Rob Collison said presently under the design standards for PWCD in Section 20-15b there is a requirement that all non-residential waterfront projects would have a public walkway along the water.  This proposed ordinance would eliminate the word "non-residential" thereby requiring all waterfront projects to have that type of waterwalk.  Because this is in the PWCD, it will be going to public advertisement before the second reading. 

Public Comments on Proposed Disposition of Portions of Green Street, Fletcher Street/ Avenue, and Howard Street-Rob Collison said this is the follow-up of the discussion on the disposition of platted streets and a portion of Trenton Street at the Arundel property.  The City has received a letter from Gage Thomas indicating that he has no objection provided that certain access is provided to his property.  His family owns properties that run along Cedar Street and bind upon a portion of Fletcher Street which runs north of Cedar Street. 

Sandy McAllister, an attorney representing the Deep Harbour development team,  said this issue was thoroughly discussed a few weeks ago relative to the Trenton Street matter.  The portions of Fletcher Street, Green Street, and Howard Street are all areas that have been depicted as necessary to develop the Deep Harbour project.  Representatives of the developer met with Mr. Thomas at the encouragement of the Council after the last meeting.  In essence what Mr. Thomas is requesting is that the Deep Harbour build a new road at their expense and make it available to Mr. Thomas.  Mr. Thomas has access from Cedar Street contiguous to his property and the use of Fletcher Street for parking is in violation of the City's ownership rights of the paper street.  The developer believes the street should be abandoned because of the value enhancements that it would bring to this project.  If the street is abandoned, the designers and architects can find out the best way to screen the existing commercial building owned by the Thomases and the traffic on Cedar Street.  This requires the paper street to be closed and space made available for landscaping, planting, etc.  There is no question that the developer would make available an 8-ft easement for pedestrian access to the building over what is currently Fletcher Avenue and over which the owner of the building has no current legal right to access at all.  If the Thomases would like to contribute to the cost of the road, this could be accomplished.  The developer has authorized Mr. McAllister to assure the City that an appropriate pedestrian access will be maintained.  The screening would be planted on the Harbour Haven side of the pedestrian access.  Any improvements made would be paid for and utilized by the developer. 

In answer to a question by Commissioner Atkinson, Mr. McAllister said Mr. Usab from Andrews, Miller met with Mr. Thomas.  They are willing to provide the pedestrian access but are not willing to provide a new road based on the fact that Mr. Thomas does not want to participate in sharing the expense. 

Rob Collison said since Council just received the letter from Mr. Thomas today, he asked Council to defer a decision on this until next week.  Commissioner Weldon said since Mr. Thomas was present, he can address the issue.

Gage Thomas (1502 Race Street) is one of five owners of 7 Cedar Street better known as the Cedar Center. He said the Arundel group petitioned Council to give the street up.  He thinks it is in the best interest of the City but doesn't think it should be at the expense of an existing landowner.  J. T. North is a landowner on the other corner.  Fletcher Avenue was laid out in 1930 and actually never came out to Cedar Street.  The Cedar Center is zoned industrial but is primarily commercial.  They are gradually getting rid of a lot of the equipment that is an eyesore.  He is coming to the City Council to protect his rights or anybody's rights for properties that have been here for a long time.  The fence runs down the division line close to the building on the left side.  It would be nearly impossible to back a tractor-trailer and get it turned around to the loading dock.  He would have to back down to Cedar Center and have absolutely zero visibility of anything coming westbound on Cedar Street.  Planning and Zoning will require that the road meet certain standards to handle the fire, garbage trucks, moving vans and other heavy vehicles.  He met with Ken Usab and agreed to landscape the side of Cedar Center.  What was not mentioned about the new Fletcher Avenue is that it is about 250 feet long and the only purpose is to provide access to 24 apartments.  He isn't looking for a turnaround or cul-de-sac, he is looking for continued access and use of Fletcher as it was designed when the buildings were built with the intent that the City was going to put streets there eventually.  If Fletcher Avenue is a public street, he thinks we should be able to use it in the way it was originally configured to get full access and use of that property. 

Rob Collison said the proposal as presented to the Council, is basically for the developer who is proposing to construct the streets within the project and similar to the other project, it would be a gated community.  They are asking the City to grant them that type of development.  They would maintain the streets internally.  It appears what Mr. Thomas is asking the Council to consider is to do that for the other streets but for this segment of Fletcher Street, do not permit it to be a closed gated street.  The street would be just like any other public street; the developer would construct it and it would remain open.  Rob Collison asked if there was anyone opposed to the disposition of the portion of Green Street that would run westward of Trenton, Howard Street between Dorchester Avenue and Fletcher Avenue, and Fletcher Avenue excluding the 250-ft segment from Cedar Street to Mr. Thomas' access.  Sandy McAllister said time is of the essence for the developer.  If Council wants additional information or clarification, he will provide it.  Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve this whole concept except that particular street that Mr. Thomas is talking about (the 250-ft section of Fletcher).   Commissioner Weldon seconded the motion.  The motion was passed 4:1 with Commissioner Atkinson opposed.  Mayor Rippons asked Council to be ready to vote on the remaining section of Fletcher Avenue next week.

Approve Job Classifications for Planning and Zoning-Jim Michael said some very minor changes were made to the Planning and Zoning Coordinator job description.  The other job description is for a part-time Code Enforcement Officer.  Commissioner Bohlen made a motion to approve the job classifications for Planning and Zoning.  Commissioner Weldon seconded it.  The motion was passed unanimously.

Approve Change to Employee Manual-The change allows the City employees to have a casual Friday from Memorial Day until Labor Day.  Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the change.  Commissioner Watkins seconded the motion.  The motion was passed unanimously.

Approve CPD to go to Bid for a Storage Shed-Chief Malik said the request is to go to bid for a storage shed for bicycles and community policing equipment.  Commissioner Travers made a motion to allow CPD to go to bid.  Commissioner Weldon seconded the motion.  The motion was passed unanimously.

Discuss Constant Yield Tax Rate - Public Hearing - Ed Kinnamon said on May 24, 2002 there was an ad that appeared in the Daily Banner notifying all the residents of Cambridge's Constant Yield Tax Rate hearing.  That is the difference between the current tax rate and the constant yield rate. The difference is when the assessments fluctuate up or down.  There is a difference and in this case there are more assessments which would yield the City additional revenue ($43,330) if the City Commissioners do not lower the tax rate to a constant yield rate. 

The current tax rate of the City is 0.676 per $100 of assessed value.  The current constant yield tax rate is less than that 0.664.  The ad read that the City Commissioners of Cambridge proposes to increase real property taxes.  This might be misleading.  They don't intend to raise taxes necessarily, but because they do not want to lower the tax rate to the constant yield, it would yield them the additional $43,330.  Beginning for the tax year July 1, 2002, the estimated real property assessable base will increase by 1.7 percent from $370,211,433 to $376,621,202.  In order to fully offset the effect of the increasing assessments, the tax rate should be reduced to 0.664 (the constant yield rate).  The City is considering not reducing its real property tax rate enough to fully offset the increasing assessments.  The City does propose to adopt a real property tax rate of 0.676. This turns out to be 1.8 percent higher.  The County alone is 0.88 and they have a State rate that goes along with that of 0.84.  The total rate is 0.964. 

Commissioner Weldon said there was a comment made in one of the County sessions that people should appeal all their assessments because they felt they were going too high.  If you look at Dorchester County compared to other counties, we still have a lot of catching up to do in terms of what our property values could be.  Things are improving in our community.  As our properties become more viable, City services will be able to be more viable.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS

Commissioner Bohlen said last Thursday, Jim Michael, Commissioner Weldon and he attended an MML seminar on revitalization strategies.  It was an excellent seminar and they gathered a lot of good ideas which they hope to put to good use.

Commissioner Weldon said he is working with a group of people to target housing issues.  It is a multi-facetted group because it is a multi-facetted problem.

Commissioner Atkinson asked about the paving schedule.  David Pritchett said they will begin right around July.  The next phase will be in October.

Commissioner Atkinson commented on a letter Commissioner Weldon wrote to Pastor Wooten with the Bay Country Bible Church concerning parking.  His first recommendation was to reconfirm the availability of the Board of Education lots.  One of those lots in not owned by the Board of Education but is owned by Zion Church.  He is requesting that this be clarified because there is not enough room for the people from Bay Country Bible Church to park in Zion's lot on Sunday.  Commissioner Weldon said he was not aware of the ownership situation.  He has asked the Church to contact the Board of Education because he was advised that at one time there was an agreement with the Board of Ed that he doesn't believe involved the lots that Zion owns.  There is a great deal of illegal parking and it is causing a great deal of concern in the neighborhood. 

David Pritchett said they will begin repair on June 4, 2002 in the 600 block of Academy Street.  It will be rather extensive, but the street will be opened each night. 

Jim Michael said they have four properties that are ready to be demolished. 

Chief Malik reminded everyone that this Sunday is the Triathlon and there will be an abundance of traffic in Cambridge.

Mayor Rippons extended his well wishes to our Color Guard who again participated in the Memorial Day services.  He sent a thank you letter to the Cambridge South Dorchester High School Band for their participation.  Quite a few veterans that have commented on how nice it was to have the band perform.

Portia Johnson Ennels (700 Cornish Dr.) said she talked with Jim Michael about the issue of the house on Camelia Street.  The neighbors have decided that they will cut the grass but it is so high it would take a sickle.  She is asking something be done about it.  Jim Michael said he is working with Public Works to get the grass cut and bill the property owner.  The property is not on the current demolition list; however, it is on the next list.  If a sale occurs first, the owner can fix it up.

Portia Johnson Ennels said that DPW came to her street in front of her house  and put stones down.  Something needs to be done because the stones are being thrown up on the grass.  David Pritchett said they will do something shortly.

Portia Johnson Ennels said at 803 Center Street the area is completely dark and she is requesting additional streetlights. 

With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned this portion of the meeting at 8:30 p.m.  I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Monday, June 3, 2002, insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk & Treasurer