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City Council Minutes

May 17, 1999
 

May 17, 1999

Cambridge, Md.

The City Council met in a work session at 7:00 p.m. with. Mayor David J. Wooten presiding.

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

PUBLIC HEARING - RENEE CLAYTON (DAY CARE CENTER) 417 ROBBINS STREET

City Attorney Collison advised this public hearing is pursuant to a request made by Ms. Renee Clayton for a special use permit to operate a day care center at her home which is located at 417 Robbins Street in Cambridge.

Mr. Pritchett advised that notification of the public hearing was placed in The Daily Banner on April 30th and May 7th, 1999. The property, which is zoned R-3, was posted on May 4, 1999 and area property owners were notified on April 30, 1999.

Ms. Clayton came to the podium and advised that she is currently licensed for four (4) children. She had been licensed at her previous location on Boundary Avenue for eight (8) children and it could be increased at this location after she gets her permit. Her hours are 7:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. year round.

Commissioner Swafford said that he doesn't have any problem with this request but will refrain from voting since he owns adjoining property to this location.

Mr. Burt Lovell, 414 Willis Street came forward and stated that he has known Ms. Clayton for a number of years and she has been watching his son for the past two years. She is a very responsible person with the children and is very organized inside, as well as outside, her home. The property is well maintained with an enclosed backyard. He fully supports her request.

With no further comments, for or against, Commissioner Watkins moved to close the public hearing. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers and it carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARING - MARGUERITE JONES (DAY CARE CENTER) - 710 MEADOW AVENUE

Mr. Collison advised that this is the same type of special use permit request.

Mr. Pritchett advised that this case was heard before the Planning and Zoning Commission on April 20, 1999. They recommended approval and passed it to the Council on April 26th. On April 30th, the first ad was run in The Daily Banner notifying area property owners. The property was posted on May 4th and the second notification in The Daily Banner was on May 7th. This property is also zoned R-3.

Ms. Marguerite Jones came forward and stated that she hasn't started her day care center yet, but her hours of operation will be 6:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Inspection of her home was done by the State and she was told that she would be eligible for seven children because she has a 5 month old child of her own. She has not received her license yet as she is waiting for the Fire Marshall to do his inspection. Her yard is also fenced in.

Mr. Ray Shelly, 315 Somerset Avenue came forward stating that his property at 708 Meadow Avenue is adjacent to Ms. Jones, property. He does not know Ms. Jones very well but whenever he comes by, she always has a pleasant salutation. He also mentioned that in back of this property there is an alley way for emergency vehicles should they ever need to get to the children. A suggestion was made by Mr. Shelly to have the Department of Public Works take out the obstruction that is down close to the old shirt factory because no emergency vehicles would be able to get through for safety concerns. He further expressed "the children at that place are very well mannered."

Commissioner Saunders asked Mr. Pritchett if the alley in question is a private alley, is it owned by the City or is it a paper street? He said he would check into it because this was the first he heard about the obstruction.

With no further discussion or comments, Commissioner Swafford made a motion to close the public hearing. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and it carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARING - AMENDMENT TO CITY ZONING CODE/SPECIAL USE PERMITS FOR TEMPORARY OR SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT

Mr. Collison said this is in response to concerns about the nonconformity of produce stands. There is a proposed standardization of criteria to be considered by the Council when considering special use permit requests by temporary or seasonal commercial activities in Section 20-16(a)(2) of the City Code. Copies of the proposed amendments to that section have been available at the Clerk's office. At this time Council will hear any public comments either in favor or in opposition to the proposed amendments.

Generally speaking, to summarize the proposed amendments, it would require more detailed information about the location of the structure, materials it would be constructed of, its distance from the street or any other buildings, hours of operation, areas for parking and access on and off streets and whether any type of fencing is proposed. No type of wire fencing would be permitted.

Mr. Gage Thomas, 1502 Race Street, came forward in favor of the proposed amendments although he asked if the structure would need to be moved since it is for seasonal activity or can it stay year round. Mr. Collison stated that this was not addressed. Commissioner Rice said that this would depend on location... "in some cases, I think it should be moved every night." Mr. Thomas then asked if an owner of a commercial location would be allowed to build a permanent structure to be used as part of his business as a produce stand. Commissioner Rice stated that a permanent structure would need to deal with all the BOCA codes, all the zoning restrictions with setbacks, etc. It would not then be a seasonal structure and this statute would not apply.

Mr. Thomas then mentioned that the proposed ordinance closes a prior loop hole whereby "all applications shall be submitted in writing by the owner of the real property on which the activity is to be located, and by the operator of the proposed activity if it is not to be operated by the owner of the real property."

Ms. Marjorie Hull, 1301 Hambrooks Boulevard, was next to come to the podium to state, "I'm definitely in favor of this." She asked if this will affect those stands that are already in existence? Mr. Collison said that it will since permits for seasonal and/or temporary uses are only granted on a year by year basis so each year whoever has a produce stand, for example, has to come back to Council for approval. She then asked if this would apply to the produce stand on Court Lane and she was advised it would.

With no further comments, Commissioner Watkins moved to close the public hearing. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Rice and it carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARING - AMENDMENT TO ZONING CODE/ "ON PREMISES SALE" OF ALCOHOL AT BONA FIDE RESTAURANTS

Mr. Collison advised that when the County eliminated its County-owned dispensary, there was much discussion regarding the sale of alcohol. Since that time, pursuant to the needs of the community and for business, Council has come up with consideration to allow a restaurant to be exempted from the special use permit requirement if it is a true bona fide restaurant in which the sale of the alcohol is an accessory use to the primary use of the building, which would be the restaurant.

He added that the County's liquor license law provides for a type of on premises sale of alcohol for restaurants and he recommended that if Council would adopt that definition, it would be easy enforcement since the County comes into play and issues the actual liquor license. The City's only interest is on the zoning. The proposed amendment would add the following to the "special use permit" sections:

"This subsection shall not apply to the sale and consumption of beer, wine and/or liquor on the premises of a "bona fide restaurant," which is defined as follows: a commercial establishment which (1) is equipped with a dining room with facilities for preparing and serving full-course meals at least twice daily; (2) which has seating capacity at tables for 100 or more persons, not including seats at bars or counters; and (3) in which the average daily receipts from the sale of foods exceed the average daily receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages. Such a use shall constitute an accessory use of a bona fide restaurant and does not require a Special Use Permit."

The law currently reads that a special use permit is required and the sale of alcohol is not permitted within 500 feet of a church or school.

Mr. Anthony Thomas came to the podium as President of the Association for the Revitalization of Cambridge (ARC) and as a business owner at 420 Race Street. He is in favor of this proposal and "if we want to get ready for the big H (Hyatt) coming, we're going to have to look into the laws ... " The only comment he has is the seating capacity of 100. He feels that is too much for some small businesses to get started and suggested that possibly for each bar stool you would have to have four seats (or five, or six).

Mr. Tom Rolston was next to speak. He is presently one of the owners of Cambridge House Bed and Breakfast, 112 High Street, that he helped construct about three years ago. First he wanted to acknowledge two people as ambassadors and promoters of Cambridge ... Ginger Brannock and Jeff Powell. They have put a real sense of dignity to this town that is going to bring good solid development to the Race Street area.

Mr. Rolston said that he is a restaurant builder. He has spent twenty years building restaurants in New York City and he has a total of thirty-eight restaurants under his belt from a construction stand point. He presently owns one in New York City (in the village) and one in Cold Spring, New York (next to West Point on the Hudson River).

Ginger Brannock has been after him to open a restaurant in Cambridge and she finally showed him the right building ... the Nathan which is at 321 High Street. The first floor will make an ideal restaurant, certainly of 100 seats (although he agrees 100% with Tony Thomas). What he would like to create on High Street is an upstage restaurant with two to three shops at the beginning (for example, a bakery, a gourmet shop and possibly a place that sells crystal). You would walk through a garden restaurant. Upstairs would have an area that could seat possibly 200 people for banquets or wedding receptions.

Mr. Rolston said "I am highly in favor of this proposed zoning change."

Marjorie Hull, President of the West End Citizens Association came forward to say that the association has not had an opportunity to discuss this but in speaking for herself only, she said "I am definitely in favor of this." She hopes that this will meet with the favor of the Council.

Gage Thomas, 1502 Race Street, was next to speak and feels that the ordinance should be put in place. In an effort to revitalize downtown Cambridge, he also agreed with Mr. Thomas about the seating capacity. If it is kept at 100, he is afraid development will be pushed outside the area they are trying to revitalize. He also feels something should be mentioned about being "Health Department approved".

Mr. Judy Moody came forward seeking clarification on the seating. She is in favor of the proposal but has concerns so there won't be a loop-hole for a deli or gas station that is in a residential section to be classified as a restaurant.

Mr. Carroll Dail, 202 Glenburn Avenue, said that he is also in favor of the proposed amendment. One thing he would like to see done when the amendment is approve it to require the existing nonconforming uses to have a grace period under which they could convert to the new approved format.

Commissioner Saunders asked, if the County's law says 100 seating and they grant the license, what is the City's purpose of trying to change the seating? Wouldn't the County have to change the law first? Mr. Collison said the City is only -looking at zoning... "what type of license they have is between them and the County." Mr. Ralston thinks that with 100 seats a restaurant could serve beer, wine and liquor ... under 100 seats it's just beer and wine. Commissioner Saunders said she would like to see this "in writing" (from the County's Code) before she votes so she is very clear about what she is voting on.

To clarify, Mr. Collison said that the City's definition of a "bona fide" restaurant can be whatever Council wants it to be.

With no further comments, Commissioner Watkins moved to close the public hearing. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Rice and it carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARING - AMENDMENT TO ZONING CODE/ "DEMOLITION BY NEGLECT" BY THE CITY'S HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION

Mr. Collison advised that this makes a minor amendment to the previously approved Historic Area zoning section to clarify it more expressly and states that the Commission shall make a referral to the Department of Public Works. The Department of Public Works shall conduct its own investigation to determine if any action is needed. If they deem that there is action needed, they would then take the required steps. If the Department determines that there is no action needed, then it would die there and nothing else would occur. This would be Section 8 of Chapter 20-20B of the City Code.

Mr. Armond Hayward of the Historic Preservation Commission came to the podium to say he is in favor of the change and there is no problem as far as the Commission is concerned. It will clarify the intent without changing any of the substance.

Marjorie Hull said she is definitely in favor of a clarification on any point for the ordinance because when it gets up and running, they would like to see everything move "quickly and correctly with the least amount of problems coming from any action that the Historic Preservation Commission takes, and the Department of Public Works as well, in cooperation with both."

Commissioner Saunders mentioned that she keeps hearing the "Department of Public Works" but she wants to make sure the language remains as "the Department of Public Works and/or the Housing Department" because they are two distinct departments.

With no further comments, Commissioner Vickers made a motion to close the public hearing. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Swafford and it carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARING - AMENDMENT TO ZONING CODE/IMPLEMENTATION OF USE PERMITS

Mr. Collison said this is being done at the Council's request. Presently, if a building is purchased and there is no new construction, no building permit would be required. The City would then be unaware of the intended use of the property.

He added that the proposed ordinance does not address a fee for the use permit and if Council elects to approve this, they would need to determine what the fee would be.

Gage Thomas came forward with some comments and questions.
The ordinance does not make any reference to existing business or distinction between those in use now or new businesses. He feels it would be a good time to check all businesses to see if their use is in compliance with current zoning regulations.

Mr. Thomas said he thinks this came about when Mr. Lubguban was applying for his martial arts business on Race Street and added that use permits are granted in other cities.

He then asked, for example, if someone were to come to town and buy Heckler's on Cedar Street. There would be a new owner but he's not going to change the use. "Would that person be required to get a use permit?" The draft ordinance doesn't mention change in ownership, only change in use.

Under that same paragraph, it mentions "owner of the property". He feels it should state owner and/or tenant because someone could come in to rent a building and start a business. There should also be some language regarding an effective date.

Circuit Court has been supplying the City with new business licenses, but the list is usually months behind. Mr. Thomas said he feels the intent of the ordinance is good so long as the fees are kept nominal.

Marjorie Hull came forward and asked if the City still has an occupancy permit. Mr. Collison said if there is new construction there is a use and occupancy permit. She stated. that she had to get such a permit when she moved into her home and it wasn't new construction. Mr. Pritchett said that sometimes banks require it.

With no further comments, Commissioner Rice made a motion to close the public hearing; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

PUBLIC HEARING - AMENDMENT TO ZONING CODE/TIME REDUCTION FOR DISCONTINUED USE OF A NONCONFORMING BUILDING

Mr. Collison said this was a request made by Council to consider bringing both the structures and land requirements that the City currently has on nonconforming uses consistent. Currently, if a building is not in continuing use for a period of two years, they would then have to comply with new zoning requirements. This proposed amendment would reduce that two year period to a one year period. As an example, if an apartment building was empty for eighteen months and the new zoning required a two-unit building, the occupancy would have to comply with the new two-unit requirement.

Marjorie Hull as President of the West End Citizens Association came forward to say "we definitely approve this." As everyone is aware, there are numerous nonconforming uses that have existed for years within the West End as well as in other areas of the City, of which she is not quite as familiar. These nonconforming uses have really caused a real derogation of the neighborhood and this is certainly a start to be able to correct some of those nonconforming uses. She would even like it not to have a year... "once it's changed, forget it."

Gage Thomas came forward and said he has mixed emotions on the ordinance. He thinks it is necessary to straighten things out sometimes although it needs to be acknowledged that nonconforming uses came about as a result of need for the most part in many communities. His concern is getting notice of ordinance changes such as this one to the public.

Commissioner Saunders suggested working with the Chamber of Commerce, West End Citizens Association and other organizations to consider a means of getting this information to the public. Mr. Thomas said "that would be a prudent thing to do and a good gesture."

With no further comments, Commissioner Vickers made a motion to close the public hearing. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Swafford and it carried unanimously.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to go into regular session on one issue that came up late this afternoon. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Swafford and it carried unanimously.

Mr. Nathaniel Wilmer, 513 Pine Street, came to the podium and said he lives in an area that is quite busy and he is crippled on one side. He sent in a written request asking for help to allow him to be able to park in front of or close to his house. Commissioner Saunders said that no decision could be made tonight but she just wanted Mr. Wilmer to clarify his request. She said she hoped that the Traffic and Safety Committee would have an answer for him by next Monday night.

Commissioner Vickers said that this is already being considered and Mr. Pritchett said at their last Committee meeting they had three similar requests and Chief Wroten just wanted to get a verification from each one. Mr. Pritchett said he would get together with Mr. Wilmer after tonight's meeting to find out how he can get in touch with him as soon as a decision is made.

Commissioner Saunders then moved to go out of regular session and into Executive session on a real estate issue and a legal issue. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and it carried unanimously.

Mr. Kinnamon asked when Council would have a decision on the produce stand ordinance as Mr. Hubert Brohawn was anxious to open his stand. Commissioner Saunders said that it was up to the attorney. Mr. Collison said Council would make a decision on the guidelines, possibly next Monday, and then each operator would have to submit the necessary paper work.

Meeting adjourned at 8:09 p.m.

I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting of Monday, May 17, 1999 insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk-Treasurer