Planning & Zoning Meeting Minutes
May 1, 2012
The Planning and Zoning Commission for the City of Cambridge met on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 305 Gay Street, Cambridge, Maryland.
Commissioners in Attendance: Jerry Burroughs, Chairman; Hubert Trego; William Craig, Vice Chairman; Marshall Rickert; Gage Thomas, City Commissioner
Absent: Joy Loeffler, Dorchester County Liaison; Mary Losty; Dwight Cromwell
Others in attendance included: Anne Roane, City Planner; Dan Brandewie, City Planner II; Robert Collison, City Attorney
Chairman Jerry Burroughs called the meeting to order and asked for a moment of silence.
P&Z Case # 9-FY 11-12 - "St. Mary's Refuge of Sinners Cemetery"
Ms. Roane said St. Mary's Refuge of Sinners Catholic Church, located on 1515 Glasgow Street, wants to put a cemetery on their property located between the Church and Sandy Hill Elementary School. Cemeteries are permitted through a special exception; they are requesting a special exception. Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Staff has reviewed the request and finds the general standards for a special exception can be met. They recommend the Planning Commission (PC) give a favorable recommendation to the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). The BZA is the Board that grants the special exception. Sean Callahan is the engineer retained by the Church to help them get through this process and come up with a site plan. Once the special exception is approved, the plan has to come back before the PC through the site plan review process not unlike Christ Church and Zion Baptist Church which did the same thing.
Sean Callahan, Lane Engineering, is here with Father Lawler, Bill Griffith and Barbara Wallace who have been helping him with cemetery planning. They had meetings at church and invited the public; they sent a letter to folks who will be notified of the special exception. The intent is to build a road out in the farm field between the directory and the school. They sent a notice and a copy of the site plan to the school board who had no comment and no substantial input.
Bill Griffith, chair person for the church committee, said they sent out information to all local neighbors. All responses were positive; they were happy to hear the church was not building on.
Barbara Wallace, parish secretary, said one person had a concern about the people visiting the cemetery being disturbed by the noise of the children. That was the only concerned response.
Mr. Griffith was asked to give the PC copies of the responses and the PC will forward it and include that with the packets that go to the BZA.
In full disclosure, Mr. Collison said he is a neighboring property, so he cannot answer any legal questions. He thought this was well planned and he had no problems with it.
Mr. Burroughs said this will be coming back for a site plan review.
Discussion - Regulations regarding Group Homes, Halfway Homes and Transitional Housing
Mr. Burroughs said this discussion was recommended by the Mayor and City Council to come to the PC. City Attorney, Mr. Robert Collison will explain what is going to happen in the future.
Mr. Collison said this arose with regard to a particular use on Locust Street and was brought to the City Council's attention. From there it was referred to the P&Z for comment and further investigation. There has been a running advertisement that may place this back on the agenda for May 15th. Chris Jakubiak, consultant is drafting the City's Revised Comprehensive Revisions to the new zoning code to see how other cities and communities handle this.
Mr. Collison is researching to confirm with the Attorney General's office if there is a distinction between community homes whether it is a group home or halfway house. The issue arises when looking at the current code passed in 2003. There is a definition for group home in the permitted use charts. There is no definition for halfway house. There is difficulty determining a halfway house from a group home. It appears that a residence up to 8 people cannot discriminate having a law prohibiting that use within any residential district if it is within one of the protected classes.
It appears one cannot prohibit as a use within any of the R districts housing up to 8 residents if they are recovering alcoholics, drug dependent individuals, individuals with physical disabilities or mental health disabilities. There is a distinction from those homes that are greater than 8-16 residents or for those types of homes where individuals are there because of criminal convictions or violations. Criminals are not a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It appears the only restrictions you can place on those protected classes are the same restrictions you would apply on any resident. You cannot create a higher standard on protected classes than one would a family of 7 or 8 residents living next door. You can create higher standards for homes greater than that or for the halfway houses for the criminal convictions.
In the next two weeks prior to the May 15th meeting Mr. Collison should get confirmation of that from the Attorney General's office. Everything he has read clearly states that any ordinances that create higher burdens or standards for housing units in any district that are housing individuals unrelated who are recovering from mental health, substance abuse or alcohol cannot be any greater than a regular residence. You can impose size requirements; you must have 200 sq. ft. per resident setback because that will apply to all residential structures within that district.
Ms. Roane said one of the charges of the PC is to recognize that there are discrepancies in their code and they are in the midst getting close to 50% through on re-writing the zoning ordinance. There are discrepancies in their current zoning ordinance that needs to be addressed. That is what the City Council has charged the Commission to do.
Mr. Craig said the PC wants an outline from the P&Z Staff of what they can and cannot do.
Mr. Burroughs asked can the PC impose regulations, security and moratoriums. He wants the public to know the process and what the PC will be charged with.
Mr. Collison said they'll have the ability to make recommendations to Council. It appears they will be able to impose a moratorium on 9 residents and above, the criminal based ones, but not the ones less than 8 people who are in the protective class because to impose a moratorium on them would require one to impose a moratorium on any and all housing during the moratorium periods. No one would move into a new house because one cannot treat them differently.
Mr. Collison said he anticipates they will have entire categories of restrictions, limitations and regulations they can impose on those non-protective ones. They may have some that within parameters they can impose on certain classifications whether it is drug and alcohol rehab. There may be some parameters within that which they can create that would result in a text amendment in the interim between now and the end of the year.
Mr. Trego said there is no mention of assisted living. Ms. Roane said it is treated as its own in the use table; it is its own category. Maybe it should be together. It was noted that assisted living is a specifically defined category in Maryland licensing.
Mr. Burroughs said for the record, it is noted that the Board commissioner and liaison was not present at the table because of the presentation the PC brought back from the Mayor and City Council. He set himself out to not be a part of this proceeding tonight. Mr. Burroughs applauds him for doing so. The PC is doing this as a recommendation from the Mayor and City Council.
Approval of Minutes - April 10, 2012
Mr. Craig moved to approve the minutes with no corrections. Mr. Trego seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
It was properly moved and seconded to adjourn the meeting at 7:48 p.m.
Anne D. Roane
Note: These minutes were approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on December 20th, 2012.