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City Council Minutes

June 7, 1999
 

June 7, 1999 Cambridge, Md.

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

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

A moment of silence was observed in memory of Rescue Fire Company member Johnson Phillips. Mr. Kinnamon then led in the Lord's Prayer.

Mr. Collison announced that Council met in closed executive session at 5:30 p.m. this evening regarding a civic finance matter and a personnel matter.

Commissioner Watkins moved to approve the minutes of the May 24th City Council meeting; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried 4 to 0 with Commissioner Vickers abstaining due to his absence from that meeting.

Mayor Wooten thanked Commissioner Rice for running the last meeting in his absence.

PLANNING & ZONING COMMISSION REPORT

Commissioner Saunders advised that at their regular meeting of June 1, 1999, with a quorum present, the Commission made the following recommendations to Council:

SMG Management / Andy Botticello: The Commission recommends preliminary approval of the revised plan for the Oakley Beach Townhomes, pending a traffic and safety study. Commissioner Saunders made a motion to accept the Commission's recommendation; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Commissioner Rice asked what changes in the plans took place that were different from the plans shown at the last presentation?

Mr. Botticello, developer of the project, came to the podium. He then presented Council with a revised site plan which addresses all the issues that were required by the planning and review process including the reconfiguring to get the height they need for views of the Choptank River and set back requirements. One of the major items was traffic and parking along Hambrooks Boulevard. There will be only one entrance on Hambrooks Boulevard and they will be hiring a traffic engineer to study this intersection.

The project will have eight (8) townhouses fronting on the water with three (3) separate buildings of fifteen (15) units. Parking for all the structures is underneath the building so that resident's cars won't be parked along Hambrooks Boulevard.

Another issue that was addressed was the access for fire vehicles. They now have good access around all the buildings.

Although there are more units on the new site plan (53 vs. 39 originally), the square footage is actually about the same. Units in the mid-rise buildings are smaller with less bedrooms. Bedroom count has dropped, unit count has gone up, but the square footage is roughly the same as the original plan. He feels this new configuration will generate less impact on the neighborhood because of the type of purchaser they have already attracted. He also feels that most of the purchasers will be retirees with less impact on schools.

Commissioner Vickers said he had made some previous comments regarding this project since he represents this neighborhood. He was concerned about the density which has now been addressed. Unfortunately, he is still in a position, in following the wishes of a good majority of his constituents, that he still must vote against it.

With no further discussion, motion carried 3 to 1 with Commissioner Vickers opposing and Commissioner Saunders abstaining.

Bay Shore Warehousing / Herb Robinson: Mr. Robinson's request was tabled until he could be present.

Kevan Sullivan / 117 Washington Street: Ms. Sullivan's request was tabled for the July 6, 1999 meeting when Council hopes she can be present.

Theresa Stafford / Annexation Request: The Commission recommends Mrs. Stafford's request for annexation be approved, and recommended that DPW send letters to adjoining property owners to entertain further interest. Commissioner Saunders made a motion to accept the Commission's recommendation; seconded by Commissioner Rice. Motion carried unanimously.

Generation III / David Wheatley: The motion died for lack of a second.

Commissioner Saunders mentioned that a letter was received from a local business in regards to this request. She then made a motion to accept Mr. Wheatley's request to move forward with his business, based on her fact finding that the gentleman is within the law; that the Army Corps of Engineers will be the final deciding factor; they are a family business that has been here a long time and is planning on staying here and that he meets all of the PWCD requirements. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Rice who said that Mr. Wheatley is under the height restriction for the PWCD. The material that he proposes to use to install the cover over his existing work slip is within the PWCD guidelines. The usage is one that is approved.

Commissioner Watkins asked if people would be able to see through the structure from Cedar Street. Mr. Wheatley said that you would be able to see over it, if you're high enough, but you will not be able to see through it.

Mr. Phil Feldman came to the podium and stated that he owns the property at 202 and 204 Cedar Street. From his perspective, there is a provision in the PWCD rules that they followed when they built their structure. The provision was "esthetic waterfront utilization" and this structure that Mr. Wheatley is proposing will virtually block the water from Cedar Street and does not fit in with the PWCD guidelines. Furthermore, it blocks any view that Mr. Feldman would have of the creek from his building from the second floor, not the first floor. He opposes and asked Council to consider the request.

Mr. Wheatley said that the creek is over 400 feet wide at this point and the building would be 70 feet out from the bulkhead and as far as he is concerned, "that's not totally blocking the creek."

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to go into closed executive session for a 5 to 7 minute recess for legal consultation; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

Based on Mr. Collison's advice, Commissioner Saunders rescinded the motion she had previously made and Commissioner Rice withdrew his second. Commissioner Saunders then made a new motion to approve this one such structure with the dimensions, materials and color as approved by Public Works meeting the PWCD requirements; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously. Commissioner Saunders added that this is subject to the Army Corps of Engineers' approval.

PUBLIC HEARING: CONSTANT YIELD TAX RATE

Mr. Kinnamon advised that the City has been notified by the Department of Assessments and Taxation that the constant yield tax rate for the City of Cambridge this year is $1.67 which is $.02 lower than our current tax rate. For this year, the assessable base will increase by 1.3% from $199,862,004 to $202,511,580. This will yield the City additional revenues of $44,778. The Council has decided not to lower the tax rate to the constant yield of $1.67. They have proposed to continue with the $1.69 and that would be a tax rate of 1.2% higher than the constant yield.

Commissioner Swafford moved to close the public hearing; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Gage Thomas from the audience asked "what was so public about that hearing?" Apparently he did not hear when the Mayor offered public comment. Mayor Wooten then went back to open the public hearing for comment. Hearing no further comments, Commissioner Rice moved to close the public hearing; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Motion carried unanimously.

CLARENCE JOHNSON - PRODUCE STAND AT 513 COURT LANE

Commissioner Saunders said this is in the Ward that she represents and from what she understands as of 4:30 p.m. today, Mr. Johnson still had some information that needed to be submitted to Public Works. Council was advised that everything was filled out this morning. Mr. Pritchett said they did submit the materials that they had, but there were a few things missing, i.e., the property owner's signature on the application, site plan with dimensions and effects of theactivity on traffic, and parking maintained within the area.

Based on the findings supported by the Public Works Director, Commissioner Saunders made a motion to table this for another meeting. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Swafford and it carried unanimously.

Also pertaining to the special use permit for this produce stand, Commissioner Saunders made a second motion that a study of the traffic flow and the concerns of citizens be turned over to the Traffic & Safety Committee to be looked into. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Rice and it carried unanimously.

HUBERT BROHAWN - PRODUCE STAND AT 605 ROSLYN AVENUE

Mr. Pritchett advised that Mr. Brohawn has submitted everything that was required according to the Ordinance and Public Works is satisfied with all the submissions and they have inspected the site.

Commissioner Rice moved to grant permission; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Mr. Collison said that since this is a request for renewal, a public hearing is not required. Motion then carried unanimously.

PROCLAMATION FOR "BLACK INDEPENDENCE DAY"

Mr. Kinnamon proceeded to read the proclamation aloud proclaiming June 19, 1999 as "Black Independence Day" in the City of Cambridge in support of June Teenth celebration.

Commissioner Rice made a motion that the Mayor be authorized to sign the proclamation; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

The proclamation was presented to Ms. Evelyn Townsend who came forward to thank the Mayor and Commissioners for proclaiming June 19th as the emancipation of Black America. She further stated how proud she is to be a part of Dorchester County... "I've seen so many good things happen here and I believe we are working to bring all people together in this community."

She went on to explain that June 19th is declared the emancipation of Black America because the last slaves were freed in Texas on June 19, 1865. A lot of work is going into developing this as a holiday. Many people throughout this country have been celebrating June 19th for many years. Maryland has been celebrating it in the Baltimore area on the Western Shore for the last six years "so we are joining with our brothers and sisters in recognizing this date ... all people are invited." She invited everyone to come out to Cornish Park on June 19th, beginning at 11:00 a.m. and ending at 7:00 p.m. On June 20th, there will be a day of spiritual guidance with a service in the park and special activities.

LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR "COMPANY IS COMING"

Mr. Gage Thomas came before Council as spokesman for a group that is looking for their support in a program called "Company is Coming; Let's Get Ready". This is a five to ten year plan for all of Dorchester County to be managed by three local partners; the Dorchester County Heritage Tourism Council, the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce and the Association for the Revitalization of Cambridge (ARC).

There will be a formal announcement and press conference on June 23rd at Snapper's from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. where all the organizing partners will each give their partnership and blessing in putting this program on. This will be open to the public.

They are looking forward to bringing the Business Expo (which has never been in Dorchester County) to Sailwinds Park next year as well as developing many more new ideas as they come from the people that want to participate in the program to bring a spotlight on Cambridge and Dorchester County.

With reference to Page 2 of the Heritage Tourism Advisory Council's letter, Commissioner Saunders would like the second sentence 11 .... ARC would show the City how to improve the regulatory systems ... " reworded to state that "ARC would work in conjunction or in partnership with the City... Mr. Thomas agreed with her suggestion.

Commissioner Swafford referenced the sentence "ARC would also work toward having the City named a Maryland Mainstreet Community as a way of developing joint marketing programs and building improvements." He stated that Council has been led to believe that there would be a large cost involved in this. Gage Thomas said he does not know the history on the Mainstreet program but he believes if the City required funding, there needs to be a Mainstreet manager, not necessarily a City employee.

Commissioner Saunders mentioned the fact that in the last proposal that the City received this year, there were no funds available through DHCD for this type of program. She asked Mr. Thomas if he is "suggesting that ARC would submit the application and we could all cooperate and you, more or less, would be the ones to help with developing Mainstreet?" He responded, "exactly."

Commissioner Swafford asked Mr. Thomas how soon he needs the letter of support. Mr. Thomas explained that the letter of support is not needed for them to move forward but it does give them leverage and hopefully other groups will want to participate. They have extended the invitation to the City of Cambridge first and it will be sent to all other municipalities in Dorchester County.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to provide a letter of support for this project with the understanding that the wording "show the City" be changed and also that the letter will verify that the City is not committing themselves to any financing at this time. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers and it carried unanimously.

DECISION ON DINGHY STORAGE RACK AT MUNICIPAL MARINA

Mr. Collison explained that if Council is inclined to do this, he would advise that it should be handled the same as the rental of a water slip... it would be the rental of a land use slip with a lease agreement. Under the circumstances, Commissioner Vickers motioned that the City is not ready to enter into the dinghy business. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Saunders.

Mr. Keith Henry reminded Council that the slipholders in the City dock have offered their volunteer labor to work with the City government to provide a facility not only for their individual use but also to have additional use for other slipholders. He does not understand what the liability "hurdle" is here because they are willing to sign waivers of any liability against the City during the construction. They are willing to have the project designed and approved by Department of Public Works and they have licensed contractors in the State of Maryland. This is a project that would cost the City very little and would provide an amenity to the slipholders. He said it was his understanding that the public is in partnership with its government to try to serve the people at large and he thought that this would be an excellent example of how this might work. He feels the City wants to build it on its own and charge the slipholders additional fees.

Commissioner Vickers said that the City is not ready at this point to go forward with that at this time and thanked Mr. Henry for all the interest and work he put into this.

With no further discussion, motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Henry added, after hearing Council's decision, that Eastern Shore Sailing Association and the individual slipholders still would be interested in working with the City at whatever time the City would deem the right time to help coordinate and design the improvement to the marina.

REQUEST FOR ANNEXATION OF PROPERTY ON ROCK DRIVE

Commissioner Saunders motioned to refer this to the Planning and Zoning Commission; seconded by Commissioner Swafford. Commissioner Swafford confirmed that this property is in the same area as the early request for annexation from Theresa Stafford. Motion carried unanimously.

(At 8:16 p.m., Commissioner Rice left the meeting.)

DISCUSS MORATORIUM ON HOME DAY CARE CENTERS

Commissioner Saunders said that she feels uncomfortable every time Council approves the special use permits for home day care centers. She was told that regardless of what the City does that because of the current zoning, people could care for four children anyway by State law. Since the City is working on revamping their zoning, she motioned for a 120 day moratorium for anyone who comes before the City after tonight for a special use permit for day care. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Vickers.

Commissioner Rice stated that you can't put a moratorium on something that is allowed by State law (which does allow four children). Commissioner Saunders is talking about more than four children.

Mr. Lee Weldon, 116 Mill Street, came to the podium and stated that he had written an article that was published in the Daily Banner a couple of weeks ago with regards to day care centers. His wife has been a day care provider for eight years. He feels that the reason there has been so many applications for special use permits is because up until two years ago it wasn't required. There are many existing businesses that are in operation and now coming forward to get their special use permits. To put a moratorium on those people would be asking for them to cut their incomes. Commissioner Saunders said she wasn't talking about ones that are already operating and Mr. Weldon said that if they are already operating, and coming for a special use permit to continue operating that is an issue. He feels much of this is a backlash from the incident last summer on Kent Island when those two boys died in the care of the woman who was not following regulations.

Mr. Weldon said that as of this month, the State can do an unannounced call to the home to inspect records, as well as the facility without notice. This is a very tightly regulated business because of the safety and liability issues. He does not feel a moratorium is a good idea..."you can't shut somebody down that's already in business, and providing a very vital service in this community."

Commissioner Saunders said the reason for the moratorium is to allow more time to gather information about this service so she can feel more comfortable when she makes her decisions on special use permits for day care providers.

Commissioner Vickers stated that some people are saying "I don't want this business in my neighborhood." As an example he mentioned the fact that there are some blocks in the City where many people have lived for many years and it is relatively quiet and they like the way it is. They have a fear of a house right in the middle of their quiet neighborhood with eight children.

Mayor Wooten noted that "if we're going to clarify the process, we need to have adequate time to do it."

With no further discussion, motion carried unanimously.

DISCUSS CRITERIA AND GUIDELINES FOR APPOINTMENTS TO CITY COMMITTEES

Commissioner Saunders feels that it is important to have some structure for these committees because at times decisions are made by committee members "not based on fact but on certain things that had nothing to do with the facts of a decision." Bad buildings have been allowed to stand. On one street alone a building has been allowed to stand for 15 years while "falling down." In the future, she believes Council needs to look at criteria of people who get nominated to City boards so they have knowledge of what they are voting for. She feels the future is coming in a fast way to Cambridge and if we're going to do things, "we need to be uniform."

Commissioner Watkins agreed with Commissioner Saunders and said that they need to find people with a subjective opinion on matters that come before them.

Commissioner Vickers added that the City had placed ads in the newspaper asking if anyone was interested in volunteering to serve on a City committee to call City Hall ... there were only two responses and one of them had called back to withdraw his name.

Mayor Wooten suggested that Council contact the various committees and reiterated what their specific mission might be. There may be a lack of information for the people who are intending to do a good job and may not be sure what the thrust of the particular committee may be.

Commissioner Saunders said she was not going to make a motion on this but just needed to express her opinion and she thanked Council for listening.

REQUEST FROM M T S BROADCASTING FOR A NOISE VARIANCE

Ms. Beverly Jones, Business Manager of MTS Broadcasting, submitted a letter to Council requesting a waiver of the noise ordinance for the True Value/Jimmy Dean Country Showdown being held at Sailwinds Park on Friday, June 25th from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 P.M.

Commissioner Vickers made a motion to grant them a noise variance on June 25th from 7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Vickers then made another motion to allow practice on June 24th from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

REQUEST FROM-DEPT. OF GENERAL SERVICES FOR WAIVER OF SEWER TAP FEE

Mr. Pritchett had provided Council with a letter he received from Steve Cassard requesting a waiver of the sewer tap fee for the Wood's Road Juvenile Justice's Group Home which will be located in the new Wood's Road hospital site.

Commissioner Saunders stated, pending some negotiations on land that are going on with another project which is connected to this, that this be tabled until Council gets some feedback from Commissioner Swafford and an attorney who is handling that matter. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Watkins and it carried unanimously.

REQUEST TO ERECT "NO SWIMMING" SIGN AT DUCK WALK

A request has been received from the Cambridge Yacht Club to erect a "no swimming "sign at the duck walk on Water Street.

Commissioner Vickers made a motion to table this; seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

APPROVE BUDGET AMENDMENT FOR FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION

Commissioner Swafford made a motion to approve the Budget Amendment for Financial Administration; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

APPROVE BUDGETED EXPENDITURES OVER $250

Commissioner Swafford moved to approve all the budgeted expenditures over $250 since all the appropriate paperwork was submitted; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS

Mr. Pritchett referred to his memo regarding a request from Dorchester Service Associates to close Race Street from Gay to Muir on Sunday, June 13th to effect repairs to 423-425 Race Street. It will be necessary for them to set up scaffolding and they are concerned with the possibility of falling bricks.

Commissioner Watkins asked if construction could be accomplished by letting the street remain open. Mr. Pritchett said that they were advised by their insurance company that they would request the area not be accessible during the time the work is being done.

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to allow them to proceed but also that every effort is made to let the area businesses and residents know about the closing and all the safeguards. Motion was seconded by Commissioner Swafford and it carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM THE FIFTH WARD

Since Commissioner Rice was called away from the meeting earlier this evening, Commissioner Swafford brought up an issue for him.

At Sailwinds Park there are some litter containers that are complimentary and he asked if there was any way that the City, through in-kind service, could possibly do a pick up at least twice a week if the DPW crew is in the area. He asked if Council would entertain this as a motion and it was seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

Commissioner Swafford then referred to a memo from City Engineer George Hyde with regards to preliminary cost estimate for replacing the line in light of the recent suspected leak of the 20" force main (it was constructed in 1936) which runs from the Trenton Street pumping station to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. He asked if Council could possibly look for some grant money to-try to replace this particular main line. The cost would be approximately $355,000.

He put his request in the form of a motion which was seconded by Commissioner Saunders. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM FOURTH WARD

Commissioner Swafford then asked Mr. Kinnamon to direct the Housing Department to check into the 1112 newspapers on this one step on Gay Street... " Since the house has a "for sale" sign on it, this should be a guide for these people not to throw a paper out there.

He then mentioned the fact that there will be no Council meeting on June 28th because Council will be in Ocean City and the following week is the July 4th holiday.

COMMENTS FROM THE MAYOR

The Mayor shared a letter he had received today from the Mayor of Laurel, Maryland commending Officer Brian Butcher of the Cambridge Police Department for his outstanding assistance during the recent Memorial Day weekend.

He and his wife were on their way to Ocean City when they experienced car trouble and Office Butcher took it upon himself to notify a nearby towing company to help them which would normally be impossible on a holiday weekend. They were very pleased with the treatment they received during their unfortunate mishap in Cambridge and asked Mayor Wooten to convey their most-sincere appreciation to Officer Butcher.

He then mentioned a Y2K information meeting for rural communities and small businesses which is being presented by Maryland Rural Development Corporation on Tuesday, June 15th from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre in Easton.

COMMENTS FROM THE THIRD WARD

Commissioner Saunders made a motion to go into executive session to discuss real estate property purchase after tonight's meeting; seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

She then reminded Council about the Millennium Commission meeting on June 15th and asked those Commissioners who still need to make their appointments to do so as soon as possible.

Mention was then made about the wonderful affair at the Cambridge Bowling Lanes this past Saturday. Two Ravens football players were present and the children got to bowl against them. It was sponsored by WCEM and she intends to send them a thank-you.

She then gave praise to the Cambridge Police Department in their handling of a situation this weekend when a homeless man pulled a pistol on one of our officers. Thus far, she is proud of the fact that they have used common sense in the use of firearms.

On another note, the Human Relations Committee is having trouble getting people to participate. She has made her appointments but she asked Council and the Mayor if they would allow her to appoint Rhonda Cornish from her Ward to this committee. This was put in the form of a motion and was seconded by Commissioner Watkins. Motion carried unanimously.

COMMENTS FROM THE SECOND WARD

Commissioner Watkins mentioned the amount of progress that is going on in Dorchester County and the City of Cambridge and he is happy to be a part of it.

COMMENTS FROM FIRST WARD

Commissioner Vickers thanked the Council for voting unanimously last week in his absence on the proposal he had started a number of months ago about reducing the nonconforming uses from two years to one year.

He then mentioned that he agreed 100% with regards to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. If Mr. Pritchett needs a recommendation on this he is ready to give him one.

COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

Ms. Judy Moody, Chairperson of the Activities Committee for the Human Relations Committee, came forward to give details for the 4th Annual Great Cambridge Cook Out. It will be held on Saturday, August 21st at Great Marsh Park from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. On behalf of the Human Relations Committee, she personally invited the Mayor and Commissioners, newspaper people and the audience to attend.

She asked Mr. Pritchett if it was necessary for them to have two port-a-potties and he stated that as long as one is handicapped accessible, that would serve the purpose of both.

There would also be a need for more trash cans than was provided last year by DPW.

MORE COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

Mr. Lee Weldon stated that he appreciated the steps the Commissioners are taking to review the State regulations with regards to home day care centers.

On another note, as Vice President of the West End Citizens Association, he mentioned the Oakley Beach development. They are just concerned that whatever goes there is within the guidelines of the Historic Preservation.

STILL MORE...

Ms. Portia Johnson came forward for clarification to ease her mind with reference to something she addressed a few weeks ago. Mr. Collison said it has been turned over to the Ethics Committee and an answer with be forthcoming.

With no further comments, meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m.

I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting of Monday, June 7, 1999 insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon, Clerk-Treasurer