MAYOR AND COUNCIL
JANUARY 7, 2019
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:36 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Linda C. Kuiper, Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver and Mauritz Stetson, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council Meeting of December 17, 2018. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the minutes as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating cash on hand for unrestricted use is $1,214,978.99. There were also restricted funds for the Marina project totaling $318,446.96.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Mr. Foster moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Stetson and carried unanimously.
Ms. Elizabeth Watson was present to discuss the renewed Urban Grid solar field proposal on Rt. 291. She said that she was here tonight as a concerned citizen of Chestertown, but she was also on the board of directors of the Kent Conservation Preservation Alliance who have fought inappropriate solar installations elsewhere in the County. Ms. Janet Christianson-Lewis, Chair of the board of Kent County Conservation Preservation Alliance was also present. Ms. Watson stated that she was first exposed to this site several years ago during a Charrette by the Town sponsored by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy where it was decided that there would be housing community, which included solar, as an extension to Town. This concept was also in the Comprehensive Plan for both the Town of Chestertown and Kent County.
Ms. Watson stated that she thought the Town was waiting for the Kent County Commissioners’ decision on a text amendment application before becoming involved as an interested party in this case. She said that she would hate to see a decision made by the Public Works Commission before the County decided on the text change amendment requested by Morgnec Road Solar, or before they intervened in the case. She urged the Council to file a Motion to Intervene (through the Town Attorney), which would allow them a seat at the table and the ability to help negotiate conditions. She said that the judge was pushing January 23rd as the hearing date. The Conservation Alliance has submitted a letter. She said that a new letter is appropriate from the Town even if it is the same intervention brief that was sent to the Public Service Commission with Morgnec Road Solar’s first application. Ms. Christianson-Lewis stated that the original case was withdrawn, and this case shows as new to the Public Service Commission, rather than a second application. No records from the first hearing will transfer to this hearing.
Ms. Watson stated that filing a Motion to Intervene did not commit the Town to engaging in any litigation. The point was to let the Public Service Commission know where the Town stands and to help convince the judge to postpone the hearing date.
Mr. Ingersoll asked why the Kent County Commissioners have not rendered a decision on the text change amendment request. Ms. Watson stated that the Kent County Planning Commission recommended against the proposed text change amendment (to allow industrial-scale solar in any community in the County next to residential areas). She said that Ms. Amy Moredock was presenting before the Kent County Commissioners on January 8th. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Kent County Planning Commission recommended against the text amendment at their December meeting and there have been two (2) Commissioners meetings since then. He said he didn’t understand why the Commissioners hadn’t acted on the proposed amendment after receiving the planning Commission’s recommended denial. He said that by not acting the County was adding extra pressure to the hearing scheduled for January 23rd.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Town Attorney does not believe that this hearing should take place until a decision on the Washington County case was decided. Ms. Watson stated that both Kent and Queen Anne Counties have submitted briefs in the Washington County case.
Ms. Christianson-Lewis stated that the Legislative intent put forward to give due consideration to local zoning and Comprehensive Plans came after the decision in the Washington County. This changes what the Public Service Commission does. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he agreed with Mr. Barroll’s recommendation to send to the Public Service Commission a request to postpone any decision until the outcome of the Washington County case took place, as the decision had to be made if local jurisdictions have control over their zoning or not.
Mayor Cerino asked if Morgnec Road Solar was the owner of the Clarke Farm property. Ms. Christianson-Lewis stated that the solar company was in an option for a 35-year lease, with an option to extend.
Mayor Cerino stated that it was made clear to the Public Service Commission that both the County and Town did not want to see a solar farm on the scale of Morgnec Road Solar’s first application. Mr. Foster asked why Urban Grid thought that this was an appropriate location and asked Ms. Watson to elaborate on the reasons why the location was inappropriate. Ms. Watson said that utility-scale solar fields did not belong directly outside of a municipality. They were designated specifically in the Kent County Comprehensive Plan for other areas in the County where their size and location would be acceptable. She said that utility-scale solar fields should not be built on the outskirts of a town like Chestertown, noting that Chestertown and Kent County were one of the first in the State to look at zoning and figure out where to place solar and it was decided that solar farms should be installed in employment zone areas. Ms. Watson stated that there was also a great deal of effort put into allowing farmers to install solar at their farms (up to 5-acres).
Mr. Stetson stated that the Charrette incorporated everything that was desirable for the Clarke Farm area and said that he thought it should be reviewed again. Mr. Stetson stated that there were plenty of areas to install a system such as this, suggesting the landfill as one example. He said that any installation of this nature had to be done in a way that was not offensive to the people who live here.
Rev. Tolliver asked why the applicant was so adamant on the use of this site. Mr. Stetson stated that they wanted the property because of the available power lines. Ms. Watson stated that there was a loop that followed the Kent County Railroad Line into town and then went back out to Rt. 297 and that this corridor is going to be the most vulnerable to these types of applications. Mr. Stetson stated that a solar field of this nature does not create jobs after the site is constructed.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Council agreed that this was not the site for a utility scale solar field. He said that this was Kent County’s issue and what was being asked of the Town was to incur legal fees before Kent County became involved. Ms. Watson stated that they were only asking for the Petition to Intervene to be filed.
Mr. Frank Rhodes, Chestertown resident and local business owner (directly across from the proposed site) stated that he attended the Kent County Planning Commission meeting where the text amendment was discussed for the solar application. Mr. Rhodes stated that he supports solar energy farms in the appropriate place. He asked the Kent County Planning Commission to keep solar farms at least 3 miles from any town in Kent County to ease the view of a massive solar field. He also requested that the County have a requirement that any installer or operation company be in the United States with a back-end agreement or bond for removal. He said that a solar field should not be a gateway to a historic town like Chestertown.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that filing as an interested party in this case may be all that will have to be done in this case. He said that Chestertown was not the leader in this although the applicant could later decide to request annexation. In that case, a Motion to Intervene would show where the Town stood on the matter. Mr. Ingersoll read the Motion to Intervene prepared by the Town Attorney into the record. Rev. Tolliver moved to file a Motion to Intervene in the Morgnec Road Solar Case #9499, with the understanding that this was Kent County’s issue, but Chestertown wants to get the message across that the Town felt strongly that there be no solar farm in this location, was seconded by Mr. Stetson and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll asked if there was anyone in the audience who had business to go before the Utilities Commission as Mr. Sipes was now available for questions. There were no questions for Mr. Sipes.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the State of the Town Address would be read at the next meeting.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. Carolyne Grotsky of the Garden Club was going to make a presentation on a new project “Good Seeds” at the next meeting.
Mayor Cerino read the Christmas Decoration Contest Winners into the record:
1st Ward: $50.00 John and Trish DeFord, 15 Byford Court
$25.00 Frank and Susan Rhodes, 203 Philosopher’s Terrace
2nd Ward: 3-way tie:
$25.00 Walter and Marjorie Adams, 220 S. Water Street
$25.00 Nina R. Houghton, 108 Cannon Street
$25.00 Robert Allen Harvey, 101 S. Queen Street
3rd Ward: $50.00 Charles and Miriam Satchell, 222 Devon Drive
$25.00 Bruce and Tammy Wetterau, 328 Devon Drive
4th Ward: $50.00 Dr. and Mrs. Harry Hart, 201 Cedar Street
$25.00 Amy Meeks, 115 Elm Street
Commercial Winners: 1st Place: $100.00 – Blackbird Boutique, 314 Park Row
2nd Place: 50.00 – The Kitchen at the Imperial, 208 High Street
Mayor Cerino stated that the next Mayor and Council meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 22nd due to the Martin Luther King Holiday.
Mayor Cerino asked for ward reports.
Mr. Stetson stated that he attended the Legislative breakfast this morning and the entire State Delegation was present. He said that they gave their insight on what can be expected with redistricting. He said that a quarter of the Senate is new and many of the new senators do not have experience and there was concern expressed over just how much will get done. The delegates said that school funding was a problem and they were trying to help smaller districts who were underfunded and understaffed to receive additional aid. There was also discussion of funds being redistributed to hospitals so that rural hospitals can compete with larger hospitals. Mr. Stetson stated that the Bay Bridge issue seemed to be on the back burner for now.
Rev. Tolliver stated that all is quiet in the Third Ward, adding how beautifully decorated his ward was for the holidays. Rev. Tolliver stated that he attended Planning Commission and Historic District Commission meetings and hoped to see a representative of each committee give a report to the Mayor and Council on their decision-making process.
Ms. Kuiper stated that Ms. Emily McCoy of Kent County Economic Development told her about a local project where there was an agricultural market program that will have a series of grants available, including Farmers Markets, and she thought there may be funding available for advertising.
Ms. Kuiper stated that volunteers were needed for the Tea Party Festival. She said that last year each volunteer had two (2) jobs and although this was the largest money maker for Chestertown as the Committee had less than a skeleton crew this year.
Mr. Foster stated that Mr. Stetson gave good report on the Legislative Breakfast this morning. He said that the one disappointment he had was that the Care One Commission, who didn’t have a plan, but presented a figure of $4.7 billion dollars in itemized costs. He said that he did not see a promise for providing additional money to our schools, although he hoped that would happen. Mr. Foster said that he was concerned about the Hospital, especially with Senator Middleton no longer in office as he was a big supporter of saving the Hospital.
Mr. Foster stated that he was asked to serve as a liaison for the Environmental Committee. He said that the Committee’s main interest was to serve by working on items of interest to the Mayor and Council.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Stetson moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:20 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor