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City Council Minutes

January 25, 1999

January 25, 1999

The City Council met in regular session at 7:00 p.m. with Commissioner Philip Rice presiding.

Those Commissioners in attendance were: Commissioners Watkins, Rice, Saunders and Vickers.

Mr. Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer.

Council President Rice advised that Mayor Wooten is away on City business this evening and Commissioner Swafford is enjoying a needed vacation.

Commissioner Watkins moved to approve the minutes of the January l1th Council meeting; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.


In the absence of Larry King, Commissioner Saunders advised that last year the City allowed Black History banners, depicting the lives of a few heroes and heroines who have served humanity, to be put on Pine Street.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to allow the Community Renaissance Organization and the Cambridge Institute for Excellence to put the signs up that they used last year to began as soon as possible since February is Black History Month; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Commissioner Saunders then amended her motion to include allowing them to hold their celebration walk on Saturday, February 27th from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on historic Pine Street and to receive assistance from the Department of Public Works with putting up the banners. The amended motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and carried unanimously.


Mr. Chris Abbott, 2835 Ocean Gateway, Cambridge, Maryland, came forward to discuss City Ordinance #799. He stated, "in order for a law to be enforceable, it must set specific boundaries and limits whereupon the opinions and judgments on the part of the enforcing officer as well as the complainant are not entered into the process of determining what is and is not a violation of that law. City Ordinance #799 does not fall into that category." He went on to say that it is true that sound does travel, but because it can be heard over fifty feet away does not mean it is loud. As the ordinance now reads, the only noises permitted between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. are construction, power tools and lawn care machinery. "Does that mean that my neighbor can split wood with a chain saw until 10:00 p.m. but I can't turn on my radio?" Without setting a decibel limit, there is no way to tell how loud a sound really is, only that you can hear it.

A proposal for amendments to the ordinance, as prepared by Mr. Abbott, was handed out to the Commissioners. The proposal suggests placing decibel limits within the City for residential, commercial and industrial zones. He then stated, "without said decibel limits added to this noise ordinance, this noise ordinance #799 is completely unenforceable."

Mr. Todd Hurley, 3505 Aberly Road, E. New Market, Maryland then came forward to show a graph (in decibels) as to what different levels of sound would be. He passed out copies of noise ordinances from research he had done on the internet. The research obtained shows ordinances from five cities that include noise decibels in their ordinance.

All of this research stems from the Police Department receiving complaints about the noise from their band practicing. The band has been practicing at the same location for over eight years and has just recently been receiving complaints. For this reason, they would like to have the ordinance amended to be more specific.

Mr. Hurley stated that if the City is unable to fund a sound level meter, and the ordinance gets amended, the band members would like to donate the first one which they could buy for $88.00.

Commissioner Rice advised Mr. Hurley and Mr. Abbott that Council will give the data presented to the City Attorney for review and move from that point. He thanked them for their consideration and for their interest.

Mr. Hurley asked when they could expect an answer since playing music is their business and they need to practice. Commissioner Rice advised that as soon as a decision is reached, they will be notified as to the date it will be on Council's agenda. Commissioner Saunders also requested that Mr. Collison research Maryland State Law since they have a law on the books that is enforced by the State Police.

She went on to say, "the same way you have the right to practice your craft and make your living, we have the right to not be disturbed by it."

Mr. Dominick Vigneri stated that right now, according to the City ordinance, they do not have the right to practice at all, as musicians, either day or night. This is their main concern. Commissioner Saunders asked, if any consideration is made, do they need to practice until 10:00 p.m.? Mr. Vigneri informed her that they all have day jobs and their practices are usually on Sundays from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Tuesdays from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. They could be more flexible with their hours of practice if necessary.

Commissioner Vickers asked if they had considered practicing outside of the City and they informed him, "if I could find any place that's secure like the place I have now, and with the rent I'm paying now, I'd move."

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to have the City attorney look into the possibility of a legal waiver where they could do their practice two nights a week and end it at 9:00 p.m. without infringing on everybody's rights; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Saunders made another motion to have an answer to her previous motion by the end of February. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and carried unanimously.


Ms. Tyboria Banning came forward on behalf of the Dorchester County Health Department. She is a Minority Community Outreach Worker whose job it is to educate minorities about HIV prevention.

She requested permission to close Pine Street between Cedar and Cross Streets for an event being sponsored to educate the public about HIV/AIDS on Saturday, June 5, 1999.

Commissioner Watkins moved to allow this activity from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.


Commissioner Rice made mention of previous Council minutes (8/25/97) and a letter from the Mayor stating the City's support of this project by giving relief in the form of waiving building permit fees ($4,605.) and curb cuts ($1,560.) specifically limiting the dollar amounts. The building permit came in at $9,745. and he asked Council, "what is your pleasure?"

Commissioner Saunders has checked with David Pritchett, Public Works Director, and he has advised that they have only cleared the property. They haven't laid any footers or done anything to show "that this is going to be a go." She then made a motion to delay refund of any building permit monies until this comes to fruition and also, that if the City honors the building permit monies (which the State said the City had to give support financially or in-kind), that it is only limited to the amount that was voted on by Council and was agreed upon with Homes For America and the State. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers and carried unanimously.


Mr. Kinnamon advised that he had contacted Santo Grande regarding the request made by DCS for a support letter for the re-funding of transportation grants his agency applies for to operate the bus service in and around Cambridge. Mr. Grande was requesting this letter of support "if you like the service." The letter would then be included in the packet when they go for the public hearing. It would not require any monetary contribution from the City.

Commissioner Watkins made a motion to allow the request provided there are no funds involved. "The service has been helpful to the community." Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers and carried 3 to 0 with Commissioner Saunders abstaining.


Mr. William Jackson, President of the Human Relations Committee, was present to discuss some school bus safety issues that this committee is trying to resolve. He proceeded to read a letter he had submitted to Council regarding this issue.

Ms. Margaret Morrison came forward to also share her concerns and the need for another adult on the school buses. She has personally seen too many incidents of what has happened on the bus. Her five year old grandson got off the bus today with "a big gouge" out of his cheek. He was sitting up front where he was supposed to be, "but one of the boys that gives the bus driver a hard time had to be seated up front and had to sit next to my grandson." She has also seen the bus stop several times because the driver had to discipline the children. On many occasions, she has even offered to ride the bus.

Commissioner Rice noted that the place this presentation needs to be made is not here, but at a meeting of the Board of Education. The concept is something over which the City Council has no control.

Commissioner Saunders advised that it is the City's Human Relations Committee that is making this proposal. She had been a guest at their last meeting when this was discussed in hopes of presenting it to the Board of Education. Since Council appoints the members to the Human Relations Committee and they are an extension of the Council, she made the recommendation for them to submit to the Mayor and Council a review of what they intend to present to the Board of Education for review by the City attorney. This is the reason they are here tonight. After the attorney reviews their presentation, Council could make a decision if they are in agreement with the HRC bringing their presentation to the Board of Education.

Ms. Chareka Harris, a freshman at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School and a member of the Human Relations Committee, also expressed her concern for the need of supervision on the school buses and stated, "I would love to volunteer."

Mr. Jackson also felt that they should go to the County

Commissioners as well since they give the Board of Education "lump sums of money." The Commissioners could allot part of their finances strictly for aides on the buses.

City Attorney Collison said that he has no problem with the presentation that was in Council's packet.

Based on the attorney's review and comment, Commissioner Saunders made a motion "that this particular document as presented, with no alterations, be the document that is presented to the Board of Education of Dorchester County by the Human Relations Commission as members appointed by the City of Cambridge." Commissioner Watkins seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.

Commissioner Saunders then asked Mr. Jackson to let Mr. Kinnamon know when he gets on the agenda because "some of us may just want to be in the audience."


A request was received from Commissioner Swafford for a "load and unload" sign to be placed at 418 Muir Street.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to refer this request to the Traffic and Safety Committee; seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Motion carried unanimously.


Council President Rice read a draft of an ordinance which was submitted by the City Attorney to amend Sections 15-1(a) and 15-1(b) of the Code of Laws of the City of Cambridge.

Commissioner Watkins moved to adopt the ordinance that has just been read relative to the changes of the Board of Police Commissioners. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers and carried with a vote of 3 to 1 with Commissioner Saunders opposing.


Commissioner Saunders made a motion to table this until two regular meetings from tonight; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.


Regarding this matter, Council President Rice mentioned that there is a public hearing scheduled for Monday, February 1st at 7:00 p.m. to amend the City's Zoning Code:

1. To eliminate subsections 20-6(b)(9) and (10) as permitted uses in the R-1 "Single Family Residence District";

2. To eliminate subsection 20-8(b)(3)c as a conditional use in the R-3 "Two Family Residence District"; and

3. To amend Section 20-16 "Special Uses" by adding the following as a Special Use in R-3 and R-4 districts: "Professional offices operated by the owner of the property, provided that the building used for such purpose shall be in harmony with the surrounding structures."

After the public hearing and the findings-of-fact, this will also be dealt with.


Commissioner Saunders, with approval from Commissioner Swafford (Finance Chairman), made a motion to approve the Police Department's Budget Amendment as presented. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and carried unanimously.


Commissioner Saunders made a motion to approve the expenditures as submitted; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.


Commissioner Saunders referenced a request from Odie Wheeler to attend a one day recertification training in order to retain his certification with the Maryland Department of Agriculture in Mosquito Control for the City.

She had spoken with David Pritchett and he has people in his department who he feels should take this training. Since Mr. Wheeler is no longer in that department, she didn't see the need to send him to be recertified.

A motion was then made by Commissioner Saunders to allow Mr. Pritchett to proceed with getting the certification and training for his staff people in the use of pesticides. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and carried unanimously.

Commissioner Saunders then referred to another request from Mr. Wheeler to attend a LGIT seminar. The flyer he submitted was for a "Public Officials Symposium" and since it states that it is for elected officials, she made a motion not to send him to the workshop. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins.

There is another workshop, "Law Enforcement Symposium", scheduled on the same date and Commissioner Vickers asked if anyone was planning to attend that workshop. Mr. Kinnamon said that Mr. Wheeler had told him that there are some people from the Police Department going to it. With no further discussion, the motion carried unanimously.

On another note, Commissioner Saunders made a motion, with a discounted rate of $425.00, to have a booth promoting Cambridge and local businesses at the MML Convention in June. Commissioner Watkins seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.

Commissioner Watkins then moved that Commissioner Saunders be Chairman of the Committee; seconded by Commissioner Vickers. Motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Rice suggested offering the Hyatt people and the Holiday Inn people to have something at the booth.

A motion was made by Commissioner Saunders to go into Executive Session after the meeting this evening to discuss a personnel issue and a financial issue. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and carried unanimously.


Mr. Kinnamon referenced a letter from LGIT announcing available money for Risk Management grants and asked Council if they would like him to look into it. Commissioner Rice asked whether or not there is any money in this year's budget that has been planned which falls into this category. If yes, it would be his concept, "if we already planned to do something, why not get half the money." If not, it would be a non-budgeted expense and money would not be available.

Commissioner Saunders stated that in looking at the budget, she could not find anything that had been budgeted.

The only other item Mr. Kinnamon had was a "draft" copy of a letter regarding the tipping fees.

Commissioner Rice advised that the prior County Council did allow the City a $24,000. tipping fee waiver for demolitions (approximately $10,000. has already been used per Mr. Kinnamon). Due to timing, court procedures, etc., the City could not get in all of the demolitions that they wanted. In the letter referred to by Mr. Kinnamon, the City is asking the County for the same consideration this year in order to be able to do the same thing.

Once the City attorney has reviewed and approved it, Commissioner Rice suggested that the letter be sent under the Mayor's signature. Commissioner Saunders moved to accept Commissioner Rice's recommendation; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.


Mr. Pritchett referenced his memo requesting a trailer for park maintenance. If there is no emergency, Council President Rice preferred that this be tabled until there was a "full Board" even though the concept certainly makes sense. It was also recommended that Mr. Pritchett's memo regarding changes to the City Hall parking lot also be tabled.

On another note, Mr. Pritchett said he had a request to allow slip holders at Long Wharf to build a small rack, at their own cost, to store a dingy in. The boat owners usually set them on the ground near their boat or in an area by the Yacht Club. Mr. Collison stated, from a legal standpoint, "I would not encourage it." He then advised Council that he would do further consideration and report back.

Mr. Pritchett then thanked everyone for their condolences, both individually and collectively, on the passing of his mother last week.


Ms. Judy Moody came forward to state that when Delmarva Power (now Conectiv) moved from Cambridge, their customers were assured that payment of their bills could be made at several locations With no additional charge for this service, Unfortunately, some of the designated locations are charging as much as a dollar and some won't even accept checks.

Commissioner Saunders said she ran into the same problem when trying to pay her telephone bill. She contacted the utility companies and was told that there is a contract between them and the individual stores and they are paid for this service and are not to charge the customers.

As a service to the community, the City contacted Delmarva Power and Jay Mason promised that there would never be a charge to the consumer. Commissioner Saunders stated that the City "went above and beyond the call of duty" asking for this service as well as contacting Conectiv when they found out that stores were charging for this service. In response to Ms. Moody asking if the City would follow-up on this, Commissioner Saunders stated, "as a consumer, if you are dissatisfied with a service, it is part of your responsibility as well to check it out."


Mr. Randy Whaples came forward to advise that tomorrow would be the fourth anniversary when all State, County and Governments offices must be in compliance with the ADA. He stated that some curb cuts have still not been made to accommodate wheel chairs.

Mr. Pritchett advised that there were almost 100 different location of things that needed to be addressed in one way or another (from the height of mirrors in a bathroom to all new curb cuts). There was no time frame discussed at their October 27th meeting and the City has made a priority list along with Risk Management and they are addressing them.

Council President Rice asked Mr. Pritchett to have this list at next Monday's meeting.

Mr. Collison then advised Mr. Whaples of what is being done and that "almost all of the issues that were addressed at that meeting are going to be complied with by the year 2000."


Mr. Andy Morris, on behalf of Cambridge International, came forward to express their concern regarding the proposed crab chum processing facility for which the City is considering a special use permit. Commissioner Rice advised him that the public hearing is scheduled for February 8th and he can express their concerns at that time.


Ms. Marge Hull came forward to say that "one of the most important historic buildings we have on High Street is gone." They received a permit from DPW to restore the building. The framing had been left but now all that is left is the chimney. With the permit they received, 50% of the original building was to be left standing so they could do the renovations.

So many of the citizens have worked hard to get the Historic District Ordinance approved by the City. She feels that if the guidelines had been in place, she assumed this never would have happened.

Commissioner Rice feels that whoever owned the building and allowed their property to be in that state of disrepair is a sin.

Ms. Hull stated that, from what the Maryland Historic Trust has said, "Cambridge has more historic buildings antiguous to each other, in one area, in useable condition, than any other area within the State of Maryland." The building on High Street is the first one that is gone.

In response to a question from Mr. Whaples, Ms. Hull stated that the Historic District Guidelines do not address use. They only address exterior or the facade that shows to the public ... has nothing to do with use.


Mr. Gage Thomas was present as President-Elect of the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce and Vice-President of the Association for the Revitalization of Cambridge. As a continuance of Ms. Hull's comments, Mr. Thomas noted that the metal cornices have been taken off the old Arcade Building which was recently sold to a new owner. It is the owners prerogative, as long as it is within the law, to take those features off the building although Mr. Thomas felt they were architecturally significant.

He then referenced Mr. Abbott's and Mr. Hurley's presentation earlier this evening regarding the noise ordinance and stated they came in with some well thought out ideas and commended Council for being receptive in hopes of a positive resolution.

With no further business, Commissioner Watkins moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:54 p.m.

I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting of Monday, January 25, 1999 insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon Clerk-Treasurer