• City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
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BZA Minutes

July 30, 2013

Board of Zoning Appeals
July 30th, 2013

The Board of Zoning Appeals for the City of Cambridge met at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 in the City Council Chambers located at 305 Gay Street, Cambridge, Maryland.

Jane Devlin, Vice Chair called the meeting to order and took the roll call of members present.

Board Members in Attendance: Brian Manning, Jane Devlin-Vice Chair; Frank Cooke (arrived at approximately 8:30PM). Wendell Foxwell, Ted Brooks.

Other representatives in Attendance: Dan Brandewie, City Planner II;

Jane Devlin noted that this is a workshop with the following discussion items from the agenda:

1. Review and Approval of Finding of Facts
BZA# 06 FY 12/13, 606 Williams St.
BZA# 08 FY 12/13, 601 Chesapeake Ct.
2. Review of Draft By-Laws
3. Report of Subcommittees on review of Draft Zoning Ordinance.

Mr. Brandewie stated that the draft findings of fact for BZA#08 FY12/13 have not been finalized. BZA members reviewed the Findings of Facts for BZA#06 FY12/13 and suggested deleting items 4 and 8 from page 3 with one minor typo elsewhere. Members concurred with these changes with the recommendation that the Vice Chair sign them.

Ms. Devlin noted that more time is needed for review of the draft by-laws and there was no further discussion on these changes.

Mr. Brandewie provided hand-outs from Mr. Cooke, who along with Mr. Manning, were to look at the draft Unified Development Ordinance for suggested changes relative to the BZA's area of focus. The following topics were reviewed:

1. Decision-making by the Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Committee, and the Board of Appeals

Discussion followed on whether a three person quorum of a five member commission can act by a 2-1 vote on matters. Mr. Cooke had cited some recent court cases where this was called into question. Mr. Brandewie stated he will consult with a City Attorney on the matter.

2. Appointments to the Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission, and the Board of Appeals

Mr. Cooke's comments were as follows: "Staggering of the appointments would seem to reduce the influence of politics and the particular political climate at the time of appointment. We would suggest amending the document to stagger the appointments. It was recommended that the State Statute be reviewed for the length of terms and that BZA terms are staggered. Presently, they are not staggered for BZA members.

3. Appeals of Decisions by the Planning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission

Ms. Devlin reviewed Mr. Cooke's observations: "Appealing a decision of the Planning Commission or Historic Preservation Commission would require direct appeal to the Circuit Court rather than the intermediate step of an appeal to the Board of Appeals as is the current practice. This seems onerous and costly to residents who feel they were unfairly treated. While any resident may ultimately appeal to the courts, does it not make sense to have some review first? The experience to date would suggest that only in a rare case would the Board of Appeals usurp the authority of either group".

Mr. Brandewie stated that while he agrees with the philosophy of allowing an accessible, low cost appeal process to the BZA, he noted, however, that approximately 70-80% of the HPC's in Maryland direct "appeals" to the Circuit Court. Montgomery County is one that doesn't follow this pattern. There are no clear guidelines from the State on this process; although changes to the codification of Article 66B, Sections 8.01 thru 8.17 suggest that an appeal of an HPC decision are now to be made in the same manner as an appeal of a decision by the Planning Commission. On this point, the Planning Commission is considered the platting authority for matters related to subdivision regulations and appeals of their actions on this subject are made directly to the judiciary. Whereas, if a Planning Commission were to make a decision related to a zoning matter, some local governments allow this aspect of their decision making to go to the BZA for an appeal or variance. It may need more legal research. He further pointed that the City has three quasi-judicial Boards, the Housing Board of Review (HBOR), the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) and the Historic Preservation Commission. In the case of the HBOR and BZA, appeals go to Circuit Court. Why should the HPC be treated differently? Discussion followed.

4. Non-conforming Uses/Situations

Ms. Devlin previewed Mr. Cooke's comments on this topic as follows: "The length of time for the abandonment of a non-conforming use is somewhat confusing with two periods, one 90 days and the other 180 days. It is not clear how the 180 day period adds value or how it could be enforced. The term "non-conforming situation" is first used without explanation as to its meaning. The 2003 Zoning Ordinance tries to define the term to clarify its use. We should consider doing the same in this version of the ordinance." A BZA member noted that it would be impossible for one to tract this. Discussion also followed about the authority of giving staff the ability to allow a non-conforming use to be replaced with another similar non-conforming use without public input. Mr. Brandewie noted that this language is not unusual but can be problematic sometimes. This type of situation rarely comes up in his experience.


5. Temporary Housing

Ms. Devlin reviewed Mr. Cooke's comments on this as follows: "Section 4.2.4 treats B&Bs, Boarding Houses, and Country Inns the same. While we wish to discourage boarding houses, we may want to encourage B&Bs. Consider revising this section to reflect such preference." Discussion followed about the concerns over lack of a definition of Group Homes; concerns over the spacing or density limitation as it applies to a number of these uses. For example, if B&B's are a positive asset, why should they be limited by a density or proximity standard? Discussion followed about whether Country Inns should even be allowed as there is very little difference between this use and a hotel.

6. Expanded Uses in Neighborhood Sub-districts of the Downtown/Waterfront Development District

Ms. Devlin reviewed Mr. Cooke's comments as follows on this topic: "The draft would allow many new uses for properties along High Street between Church and the waterfront. This would bring commercial activity to an area that has historically been residential. Other neighborhoods, primarily residential, could also be affected." Discussion followed. Some BZA members expressed concern that this may be beyond their authority to comment on this and the community is well aware of this proposal.

7. Expanded Use of Two-family Uses

Ms. Devlin noted Mr. Cooke's comments on this as follows: "A two-family use is distinct from a duplex use. The latter is based on an original two-family design of a structure with a vertical wall separating the two. The former is an adaption of a structure originally intended for single-family use. Under existing code two-family use is not allowed in the NC and R Districts. The draft would change this to allow the conversion of single-family dwellings to two-family dwellings. Such change would provide a strong economic incentive to landlords to begin conversion. This would have the adverse effect of increased parking on smaller streets and would certainly increase the likelihood of fire, especially in the NC District where most structures have older wiring". Discussion followed. Some BZA members noted that is seems reasonable to allow some alternative land uses for large structures but the recent trend toward more rental housing and higher densities in the core area including the Historic District are of a concern such as with on-street parking and the condition of properties. Mr. Brandewie noted that one additional concern could be what to do with two family units that have sat vacant for a long time: would they have to go through a special exception (SE) review process, when already active and occupied two family units would not? Or would all two family units have to be reviewed as a SE use? A better tracking mechanism or process is needed to determine their active or vacant status. Discussion followed.

8. Limits Related to Residential Districts

Ms. Devlin reviewed Mr. Cooke's comments on this topic as follows: "The limits on lot size, building heights, etc. for residential use should also apply to the NC District". It was noted that there is a proposed table of setbacks and lot standards for the NC District and that this something that has not been overlooked.

It was suggested that Ms. Devlin put together a draft of summary comments from the BZA members and submit them to Ms. Anne Roane or the Planning and Zoning Commission prior to the public hearings coming up in August on the matter.

The workshop adjourned at approximately 10:00PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Daniel L. Brandewie
City Planner II


Signature: ____________________ Date: _________________
Vice-Chairman, Board of Zoning Appeals


Note: These minutes were approved at the BZA meeting conducted on August 27th, 2013.