Planning & Zoning Meeting Minutes
May 15, 2012
Absent: Dwight Cromwell
Others in attendance included: Anne Roane, City Planner; Dan Brandewie, City Planner II & Robert S. Collison, City Attorney
Chairman Jerry Burroughs called the meeting to order and asked for a moment of silence.
Mr. Burroughs said tonight's meeting will be a discussion on regulating group homes, halfway homes and transitional homes. We will take questions from the audience.
Mr. Rickert said he is a legal guardian to his brother who is developmentally disabled and lives in a state residential facility. He believes he can objectively consider what is discussed.
Ms. Losty said she has a mentally disabled brother who does not live in a group home; he lives with her. Nonetheless she believes she can objectively review this situation.
Mr. Collison said the definition of family has expanded over the last 20 years. A family constitutes related individuals or a finite number of unrelated individuals. Whatever the municipal code defines as a family must also apply equally to unrelated individuals who may have a handicap. Under the Fair Housing Act there cannot be more restrictive standards on a family with related individuals than unrelated individuals. If the City's code says you can have a group of 8 unrelated individuals as a family, then you can have a group home or halfway house, or whatever you classify it as where there are unrelated individuals who may be there recovering from either alcohol, substance abuse dependency provided they are still not using illegal substances. Regarding group homes or halfway homes they make a distinction in the cases where people are out on parole relating to criminal matters. You can create higher standards for those or prohibit them within certain areas.
Ms. Roane said Chris Jakubiak will propose language in the new code addressing this more clearly than our current code. P&Z received e-mails from the community raising concerns. They will forward them to the Planning Commission (PC), Mr. Jakubiak and Stuart Sirota.
Deborah Keller, Crossroads Program Coordinator, 404 LeCompte Street, Cambridge, Maryland, asked what kind of parameters are the City thinking of in terms of group home moratorium.
Mr. Collison said because you cannot distinguish between group homes and those protected classes from a single family residence, the City would require a moratorium on all single family residences. His recommendation is they do not move forward with a moratorium on those because if they impose a moratorium on just those classes then they are creating a more burdensome standard on those than is permitted. Tonight was advertised as a proposed moratorium because the advertizing was done before these issues came up. There is not a moratorium on group homes in Cambridge.
Ms. Roane said this is not a public hearing. There will be no decision that is made tonight.
Jane Devlin, West End Association, asked Mr. Collison since the 2003 Code shows 8 or less as a classification, but it includes certain classifications where it would be permitted, is Mr. Collison saying the 2003 Zoning code as it stands today could possibly be countered to Federal law?
Mr. Collison said it appears the intent of the code is to make the distinction consistent with the law of the Fair Housing Act in the State, but he agrees it is not clear. There are a lot of municipal and county codes in direct contradiction and in violation of the Fair Housing Act as it has been interpreted and applied. If our code were to state that, they would not be able to enforce it and be in compliance with Federal law.
Ms. Devlin said West End recognizes the previous PC saw a need for these facilities in the community. By regulation it would allow anyone living in the area to understand what is expected of them and what they can expect from the community. If we have a fail-safe method where people can live safely in the community and their quality of life not impacted, that would bring us closer to a solution beneficial to everybody.
Laurence Chitlik, 703 Locust Street, Cambridge Maryland, thinks this is faced by all communities. We need regulations; unregulated halfway houses may adversely impact our ability to raise tax revenues. Mr. Burroughs said many people wish to speak tonight who have a time limit so, he told Mr. Chitlik to submit his notes to the PC and they'll review them.
Kenneth Wireman, executive director of Main Street Housing in Baltimore and Easton, has properties in Dorchester County. He is glad there is no moratorium. Main Street Housing operates in the antithesis of a group home. He distributed Belmont Center papers, a federal organization for people's rights with disabilities. Prince George's County assessed property values in group home areas; the findings were significant in that there was no property devaluation. Halfway housing needs regulation. Because of Prince George's County regulations of group homes, the property values are better than neighborhoods without group homes.
Kimberly Gscheidle, with Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA), lives at 114 High Street. They provide services on the Eastern Shore with group homes and alternative living units. She gave Ms. Roane information on Title 7 and group home regulations operated by the DDA under the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. All group homes operated and funded by the DDA are through private not for profit providers who must meet stringent guidelines before they are considered to be licensed to provide services to our most vulnerable citizens. Requirements are important to ensure the health and safety of the individuals receiving services as well as the community. The goal is to develop partnership between individuals living in the community and community members.
On the Eastern Shore there are 88 group homes licensed through the DDA. They do that in concert with the Department of Social Services and Maryland State Department of Education and licensed under the DDA licensing regulations. Ms. Roane distributed this information.
Mike Maloney, local attorney and former State's Attorney for 23 years, 500 Race Street addressed the sober house. It is for recovering addicts, alcohol or things of that nature. It is not subject to local regulations and laws; it is governed under the Americans with Disability Act. There is a house manager who makes sure all rules and regulations are followed. It gives people coming out of rehabilitation a place to go where they can be with people with like conditions and support one another. He does not think there will be any problems because it is self-regulating.
Brian Roche, 903 Locust Street, said he shares concerns with those who have invested in their properties like he has; it is only fair to consider their needs as well. He thinks a lot of people who spoke in favor of these types of properties have vested financial interests as well. The property was a friend of his who lived there. His stepfather owned the property which was listed as his primary residence, but yet he lived in Texas. Then an organization makes it a group home. The property had leak problems; the electric had not been upgraded. This property was not registered with the City for having lead-based paint. He doesn't know who is accountable for this, but the process is broken. It is a primary residence of someone who no longer lives there on the tax rolls, it is not registered as a rental property with no lead-based paint certificate and the City has no knowledge of it.
Mr. Burroughs said if anyone has any comments on this subject, to put it in writing and submit to Ms. Anne Roane to be distributed to the PC. At this time we will hear from Chris Jakubiak.
Chris Jakubiak, Jakubiak & Associates, Inc., an urban planner, writes zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans. He has been working for the City of Cambridge on the comprehensive re-zoning. He has prepared to address this issue, but he has familiarity with group home issues having worked in communities throughout Maryland and throughout the state writing zoning codes. He often brings it up before the PC and the City Council to advise them they have to incorporate and permit these types of uses in their cities and towns. Many are reluctant to accept that fact, but we often bring in local attorneys and they advise the town that in fact they do. There is a way of doing it that is compatible with the objectives of the community.
There seems to be two issues here. One is how does one get an improved use, how does one get an approval from the City to just open up a group home. There is a process he hopes to write for the City's zoning code that would apply to all uses, all ways we use our land. If one converts a house to something other than a single family house, you are affecting the change in the use and a change of use requires some zoning permit. Some plan and application needs to be submitted to the City. Then a permit is issued. The permit is issued based on reviewing what the use is and what its impacts will be on adjoining properties. If it is a change in use we often require a building inspector to go on site to inspect to make sure the building is safe to accommodate the new use. If there is going to be people with disabilities we want to make sure the building code regulations governing those types of facilities are applied so that there is adequate exit and entrance signs for the site. That is the minimum requirement, the building inspection takes place, and all of these things happen before a permit is issued.
That is the approval process. Then the question about whether a use is permitted can be qualified and regulated somewhat on standards such as size and number of occupants. At some point a group home can become an institutional setting if there are so many people. It becomes something like a hospital or an assisted living center which is not what is always compatible with the neighborhood. We have to make some judgments on where you draw that line.
The other qualifying criteria would be licensure. Many of these uses should be licensed to ensure the community's interests are protected and the residents are protected and the operation is run according to the standards you have heard expressed by the professionals. That is how he would envision recommending a solution to this, moving forward and in the upcoming months we will be at that stage in the process. Mr. Jakubiak said he will provide a draft to the Planning Commission for their consideration.
Mr. Burroughs said this ends their discussion period on this particular subject.
Mr. Craig thanked the members of the audience who spoke. Their comments were good.
Work Session - Zoning Maps and Ordinance-Jakubiak and Associates
Mr. Burroughs announced that June 5, 2012 is the next meeting with Chris Jakubiak. At that meeting they will have public comments on the zoning ordinance. Those people who are in the group sessions, they will be speaking to them at that point in time.
Ms. Roane said Shawn came down and spent a lot of time in her office. There was change that she did not give to him. They need to include the Christ Rock Annexation because it is now part of the municipal boundaries. She will get him in touch with Scott Shores.
Mr. Jakubiak said after Shawn takes us through the zoning changes, Stuart will re-introduce the form based code. Stu has had the leadership role of drafting these post standards. He will take us through the entire document that you have.
Shawn Brown, Jakubiak & Associates, Inc. did his presentation of zoning changes. He said he believes they have done what was requested. He said they would like to move forward on this.
Mr. Craig asked to speak to Mr. Rickert because he has talked to Ms. Roane and continues to focus on the big parcel that he thinks, even if it is right, is not what they intended. Mr. Jakubiak said they will hold that back until they talk about that; it will be tentative at this point. Mr. Craig is talking about the annexed portion - Rt. 16.
Stuart Sirota is the Principal of TND Planning Group, 6600 York Road, Suite 209, Baltimore, Maryland. He is working with Mr. Jakubiak and Shawn Brown on this project. He discussed form-based codes. It is a fundamental idea of applying a form-based code to a part of the city where you want to reinforce, foster or build upon this idea of making a vibrant walk able place. His goal and role here is to walk you through since the last work session when Mr. Jakubiak walked you through and then they came back with their first draft of the zoning map. In form-based code terms is really called a regulating plan. Now they are coming back to show you how they have made changes to the draft regulating plan based on the comments that they received. Also to walk through each of the zones and give the highlights of what the actual format is of each of those zones.
Mr. Sirota said the changes they made from version 1 to the current version is to add the Sailwinds property in as well as the parcels on the northwest side of High Street which were not in the first version. The parcels on the south side of Washington by and large are now also in the zone. Rather than only zoning on one side of the major road, they usually want to do them on both sides. He understands the City is in the process of acquiring some land in this area for a park. He understands there are other parcels that should also be uncategorized. Ms. Roane said the park does not make it in the comprehensive plan. On Maryland Avenue going back to the first version they have added additional parcels to fill out all of the way to Dorchester.
Ms. Roane said under retail it says bar, tavern or nightclubs are not permitted, not allowed and she is thinking of the waterfront re-development. Do we want to be that restrictive? Mr. Sirota said that should have been under conditional, but maybe we need to tweet it. Ms. Roane said yes, that is probably something we would want permitted or conditionally permitted. She cannot image the developer re-developing that property without it. Mr. Sirota said it was an oversight.
Mr. Sirota continued with his presentation to the Planning Commission.
Mr. Burroughs said he will approve the minutes at the next meeting which will be June 5th.
Anne D. Roane
Note: These minutes were approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on December 20th, 2012.