Planning & Zoning Meeting Minutes
November 14, 2012
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. This is a public hearing with regard to the proposed moratorium on classifications of the non-residential family units and various categories of the group homes. Two items are on the agenda.
- The hearing on the moratorium for boarding houses. The Planning Commission (PC) is only taking comments from the public on this item.
- Deliberation and discussion of the PC about the public hearing portion of that.
To consider the adoption of a moratorium, not to exceed 8 months, on the establishment of new group homes or related facilities as reflected in sections of the City's comprehensive zoning ordinance. The PC chose to use the name boarding houses for the name of group homes because group homes are defined in different terms. Ms. Losty did an in-depth study giving good guidelines to go by.
Ms. Roane said the moratorium gives the PC time to address this approach without allowing additional facilities like this to be established until the PC has adopted new language that will be hearing and scheduled on the day Hurricane Sandy was forecasted to hit Cambridge, the meeting was cancelled. The meeting was again advertised in the Star Democrat on November 7th, the Dorchester Star on November 9th and US Chesapeake Internet on November 7th.
Ms. Roane said the Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Department often finds out about these houses when citizens call. There is no process in place that would allow P&Z to track them.
Ms. Loeffler said it is not a violation at this point because there is nothing that regulates it.
Ms. Roane said a moratorium gives the P&Z the ability to have the cease and desist.
Ms. Losty fully favors the moratorium. There is no part of their language that would develop the process of permitting and annual inspections. Until they work it out, they will announce publically if there is a moratorium should any one proceed, they will be in violation. This gives the City authority to shut them down while they fine tune the language.
Mr. Burroughs said it is time for those who wish to speak on the moratorium...............
Richard Walker, North 107 Regulator Drive, said a moratorium is a great idea; it should be passed. He doesn't want a group home in his neighborhood; eight or 9 people could live there.
Jane Devlin, West End Citizens' Association, has been part of this discussion since April. West End was heavily impacted by this. They support the recommendations of the moratorium to the City Council and support following through with what Ms. Loeffler said. She hopes they have open discussions of permitting and licensing so they can have the quality of life across the board.
Ron Berman, 307 Oakley Street, said he has been following the hearings. He is in favor of moratoriums, but doesn't think the PC has enough information to implement it so it would work. He does not think moratoriums will be effective if there is no licensing involved for group homes. He is disappointed that no language is introduced and disappointed he can't see the proposal now. He doesn't want increased group homes in their neighborhoods.
Mr. Rickert said the moratorium language could be as short as one sentence. It could say that up to 8 months the City is not going to allow permits for group homes. The purpose is the City wants to incorporate regulatory language in the new zoning ordinance and expect to have the ordinance with the language the City would like to see on the table for public discussion before the 8 months is up. For now the City is saying don't do any more until they get this worked out.
Mr. Collison said the problem within the current code is there is ambiguity in interpretation of the halfway versus group homes, etc. Within the next 8 months they will be working on defining it in a way that is clear and distinct as well as addressing the issues of sober homes. Sober homes have certain protections available to them through the federal courts and legislation; they will be covered in this moratorium.
Ms. Losty said the PC is not focusing on group homes specifically because they cannot be discriminatory. They are distinguishing between the transitory nature of a boarding house which will be defined by any number of people coming and going at different times whether it is a voucher or lease with one landlord. They will have specific subcategories each one depending on whether it has to be mandated by the state permit. While working through this, if they have a moratorium and someone turns someone in, it will be in violation; it will be cease and desist.
Ms. Losty moved for a favorable recommendation for an eight month moratorium on classification of boarding houses, lodging houses, group homes, halfway houses, intermediate care homes as defined in the current ordinance. Mr. Rickert seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
Mr. Burroughs said in the second part of the meeting they will discuss consistency of the downtown parking lot improvements - Cannery Way with the comprehensive plan. This is up for discussion between the PC members only. They have had several hearings on it; this will be a recommendation that the PC will make to the Mayor and City Council.
Mr. Collison said Section 3.08 of Article 66B is strictly with regards to the proposed alterations to the street, park, public way and whether that is consistent with the comprehensive plan. It is then forwarded to the City Council. The Council can either agree with it or elect to over-rule it.
Mr. Rickert said if the PC finds Cannery Way Park not consistent with the comprehensive plan they need to be careful that it doesn't prejudice the rest of the grant.
Ms. Roane said the PC can make a conditional recommendation. There is a section of the code in the Maryland Article 66 B review process that is not tied to the grant; it is tied to the whole project. They have to go through the process whether through a grant or other sources.
In Mr. Craig's opinion, the plan is consistent with the comprehensive plan except for the roadway through the park. He believes the park should remain as it is now without a drive access. The grant can be used to make improvements to the parking and other walkways, etc. He believes removing the park or severely changing the park is not consistent with the plan.
Mr. Cromwell agrees with Mr. Craig; previously Mr. Jakubiak said there was adequate parking in the downtown area. He sees no reason to disturb Cannery Way; it should remain as is.
Ms. Losty agrees with the PC; she's in favor of the grant; the $375,000 could dramatically improve the parking, interconnectivity, signage, landscaping, lighting and gateways. She is opposes removing the park because it clearly states in the comprehensive plan that the designated open space of the park doesn't include any road or parking. The park was voted on and approved last year after years of work. It would be a clear violation to remove the park and put in a street.
Mr. Trego looked at this plan in depth. He can't see having a driveway one way. It is not the best mall to project for our downtown. Upgrades to the park would make it more user-friendly.
Ms. Loeffler thinks additional parking places are needed. When Chesapeake College is in session, parking spaces are not readily available. Cannery Way doesn't look like a park in the way Long Wharf and Great Marsh Park do; it needs tremendous improvement. She hopes the project improves parking, signage, lighting, security and the attractiveness to visitors.
Ms. Loeffler moved to send a favorable recommendation in compliance with the comprehensive plan; they are in agreement with the plan that there not be a driveway through Cannery Way, but would comply with the walkway that would go to Academy Street and the other improvements that have been added to this since it has been presented.
Mr. Burroughs will forward this to the Mayor and City Council. The next meeting will be on November 20th. Chris Jakubiak will address issues that come up on clarification of the zoning ordinance. It is possible Popeyes will be back on November 20th.
Mr. Burroughs asked for a schedule of the upcoming public hearing; Ms. Roane said yes.
Mr. Trego moved to adjourn the meeting at 7:48 p.m. Ms. Losty seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.
Anne D. Roane