MAYOR AND COUNCIL
FEBRUARY 1, 2016
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Council members Liz Gross, Linda Kuiper, Samuel T. Shoge 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 January 19, 2016. Mr. Stetson moved to adopt the minutes as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Gross and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to pay the bills. Mr. Stetson moved to pay the bills as presented, was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino called on Mr. Owen Bailey to talk about BookFest. Mr. Bailey stated that BookFest would take place on March 4th and 5th this year and would be a two part event celebrating the works of Jack Gantos.
Mr. Alan Girard of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was present with his colleague, Erik Fischer, Nancy Nunn of the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and Kees de Mooy to discuss the Healthy Waters Roundtable.
Mr. Girard stated that the Healthy Waters Roundtable was an initiative to reach out to local jurisdictions regarding the different stormwater needs of Eastern Shore communities. They found that working across jurisdictional boundaries and partnering on grant opportunities was a great help. He said that staff assistance through circuit riding, was also helpful.
Mr. Girard stated that members of the Roundtable were representatives from the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Jen Dindinger from Maryland Sea Grant Extension and Sandy Hayman of Earth Data, Incorporated.
Mr. Girard stated that work began early on in a meeting with Mayor Cerino and then Ms. Gross came to the Roundtable to address Chestertown’s needs. All other Eastern Shore Counties and five municipalities were included.
Mr. Erik Fisher discussed how the six priority actions of funding, tracking and reporting of progress, sewer extension policy and implementation, circuit rider/staffing support, information clearinghouse and maintenance of best management practices. He stated that one of the most important things to come out of the Roundtable was the need for increased staff as resources were limited. He said that a survey would be out next week to all municipalities in an effort to hear feedback on more specific needs of the municipalities. Mr. Girard stated that some short term actions that came up were grant workshops and training, procurement models, tools and tips for public education and guidance for MDE on storm water.
Ms. Nunn stated that she thought it was exciting for the Eastern Shore to be working collaboratively on long-term goals. She said that in the short-term she urged discussions with other municipalities and said that she would be offering grant writing workshops.
Mr. de Mooy stated that Chestertown worked diligently on storm water management and outlined projects that have been implemented in Town already.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would be thankful for any financial help that the Town could receive as many projects were difficult to implement due to a lack of funding.
Ms. Gross stated that she would like to see some of the other towns in Kent County participate in the Roundtable.
Ms. Kuiper stated that she would like to see maintenance of the step conveyance ponds addressed by the group, as she felt there were mosquito problems due to storm water areas that remain wet.
Mr. Mark Hampton of Washington College was on the agenda to discuss the College’s beneficial financial impact on the community. He said that he thought there was a misconception about the College’s holdings as far as their tax exemption was concerned. He presented two diagrams that showed taxed and non-taxed properties. He said by an acreage standpoint, Washington College properties fell into a 50/50 ratio, where half of their properties were taxed and half were not. He said that properties purchased in recent history have not requested exemption status, noting that the Board of Education property on Washington Avenue was tax exempt when it was purchased.
Mr. Hampton stated that over the last 10 years, there has been over $550,000.00 in water and sewer hook-up fees, $70,000.00 in permit fees, $650,000.00 in property taxes, and hotel room taxes of $40,000.00 paid by the College. He said that if the College hosts a for-profit event, they pay the hotel tax. Water and sewer payments have amounted to $2.2 million over the last 10 years.
Mr. Stetson stated that water and sewer fees are paid to Chestertown Utilities Commission, which is a corporation separate from the Town of Chestertown. Fees paid to Chestertown Utilities are for water and sewer services used by the customer and those funds are not co-mingled with Town funds that are used for things like police protection, fire protection and the maintenance of roads.
Mr. Hampton stated that the College believed that there were intangibles to which values dollar values could not be attached, such as the role of the College in attracting new residents to Town.
Mr. Hampton stated that given the amount of non-profits in Town, he said that the reasonableness of a PILOT caused concern in attracting and retaining non-profits in Town. He said that non-profits live from donation to donation and from grant to grant, so an added fee would be difficult for any entity.
Mr. Hampton stated that Washington College has a $64,000,000.00 budget, but short of a windfall, any leftover money has to be passed along to the students. He said that the College froze tuition for the next year and a great deal of their strategic plan was being delayed as well.
Mr. Hampton stated that at the corner of Rt. 213 and Rt. 291 there was a vacant lot that would be a good space to build and expand jobs, thereby bringing new people to live and work in Chestertown. He said that they could also engage private developers to build housing where students could live without disrupting the quality of life in Town.
Mayor Cerino stated that properties that were currently paying taxes could come off the tax rolls if they were used for educational purposes. He said that the property at Rt. 213 and Rt. 291 was zoned RB (Professional Office). He said that there was nothing stopping the College from building office space to rent or apartments for students in that location.
Mayor Cerino stated that he felt as though the Town should support the College in every way possible, noting that the Town saved the College a great deal of money in interest payments by supporting their bond issues. He said that was a meaningful way of supporting the College. The College was a tremendous economic engine with a meticulous campus and was a huge draw, but much of said revenue did not touch the Town’s bottom line. He said road crews and police protection comes from the taxpayer and a collaborative partnership, with some financial help from the College, would be quite meaningful to the Town.
Ms. Gross stated that it would be a mutual benefit to have a good working relationship. Ms. Gross stated that acreage was one way to look at tax exempt property, but assessed value is the best. She said that approximately $160,000,000.00 of the assessable base is tax exempt of which 42½% is owned by the College. She said that the College’s most recent audited financial statements show a net annual income roughly equal to the total annual budget of the Town. Ms. Gross stated that Heron Point was cited as a non-profit area in Town but they actually pay $500,000.00 per year in taxes as a quasi-PILOT (where independent living units were taxed but the central facility was not).
Mayor Cerino stated that as Mayor, he needed to find ways to increase the revenue stream to Chestertown and due diligence was a part of that. He said discussing this issue was appreciated and asked that the College understand the unique infrastructure strains of Chestertown, especially for police and fire protection.
Ms. Kuiper stated that when the College took over Gibson Avenue they donated four full-year scholarships for Chestertown residents. She said that currently there is almost $1,000,000.00 set aside for Kent County residents to attend Washington College. Mr. Hampton stated that the tuition was from an endowment and was to go to a Kent County resident.
Mr. Hampton stated that he hoped the Town and College continued to grow and thrive while working together.
Chief Baker was called forward to give the Annual Report of the Police Department. He also thanked the Council for the new police building acquisition this year, noting that the move was underway.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that tonight would be the introduction of Ordinance 01-2016 Energy Conservation. He said the Ordinance merely removed the BOCA Energy Conservation Code and replaced it with the International Energy Conservation Code as accepted by the State of Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Council was given a copy of the 2015 Planning Commission Report. He said that it would be forwarded to the State Planning archives if there were no corrections.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had prepared the Ordinance 02-2016 Amendment to Chapter 170 Zoning, a text change amendment to the Fuel Pump portion of the C-3 Neighborhood Commercial District, for introduction. The Town Council had held a public hearing on this proposed text change amendment on January 20, 2016. However, he said that Section 170.16(B) of the Preliminary Site Plan requirements in the Zoning Ordinance gives the Planning Commission the power to waive or vary preliminary site plan requirements that were considered “non-essential” to a proper decision. Mr. Ingersoll read the section aloud and stated that fuel pumps in the C-3 District were accessory to the actual permitted use as a convenience store. The number of pumps was a subset of the accessory use, along with five other site requirements, all of which amounted to site plan considerations. In his opinion as the former zoning administrator and author of the C-3 zoning section, and supported by the Town attorney, the issue was less of a Town legislative matter than a preliminary site plan decision for the Planning Commission. He said that legislation should not be the first step to remedy the applicants’ problem with the ordinance if a more obvious solution was already in the zoning ordinance. He noted that the legislation could still be the final option, if necessary. He asked the Council for their decision on the text change ordinance.
Ms. Kuiper moved to table a decision regarding a proposed text change amendment to C3 Zoning and to remand the issue of the additional number of fueling pumps to the Planning Commission to be decided as a part of site plan review, was seconded by Ms. Gross and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that dredging at the basin of the Marina was already about two-thirds finished. He said that there was a delegation from the Department of Natural Resources coming to Chestertown the following day and he thought they would be impressed with progress. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Town had until February 15th to complete the project as they would then have to stop dredging for the fishery season. He said that if permitted, he would like to remove the finger piers and fix and replace the bulkheads, items that are not subject to the February 16th fisheries deadline.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Chester Gras sent a copy of the street closing that they would distribute to everyone on the 300 block of High Street. They would put their tent on the middle of the street.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he thought the Town may be reimbursed for the blizzard from FEMA or MEMA. Total initial storm costs that can be reimbursed have been calculated at $56,505.00.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to nominate Mr. Ted Gallo to the Historic District Commission and said that he would like to appoint him at the next Mayor and Council meeting.
Mayor Cerino stated that the next Mayor and Council meeting would be held on Tuesday, February 16th due to the President’s Day Holiday.
Mayor Cerino stated that at the next meeting, the owners of the Fish Whistle would be present with a proposal to expand their crab deck and discuss ways to partner for a solution to the raising of the Marina lands and the Fish Whistle property.
Ms. Gross stated that a light was needed on the 100 block of Philosopher’s Terrace were a dark stretch of road.
Ms. Gross stated that she wanted to thank the Street Crew for their work during the storm. Ms. Kuiper agreed, noting that the Farmers Market was thankful that the snow was removed in time for the market on Saturday.
Ms. Kuiper stated that Chester Gras would be held on Saturday, February 6th beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Ms. Kuiper stated that Garnett Elementary School was having a new reading program this year with the same book being read by each student. She said that instead of the top reader award, perhaps the children can come to a meeting to read with the Council.
Mr. Shoge stated that the alleyway between Calvert Street and High Street had an area that has become a dumping ground. He would like letters to go out to the residents in that area including the fees for bulk trash.
Mr. Stetson stated that he attended the January COG meeting and there was a talk from the County Economic Development Manager who spoke about the hotel room rental tax. Mr. Stetson stated that Rock Hall is given the full 5% collected for the tax and Chestertown received only 3%. He said that now that Chestertown has its own Economic Development and Marketing Manager he thought the entire tax should be returned to the Town. Mr. Stetson stated that he expressed his thoughts to Mr. Fithian, who said that he would likely support the request. Mr. Stetson stated that it would add approximately $40,000.00 (actually $60,000.00) per year to revenues in the budget. Mr. Stetson moved for a resolution to the Kent County Commissioner’s requesting the hotel reimbursement at 5% ($.05), was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that the large pothole on South Cross Street would be repaired on Tuesday morning, noting that it was tied to a water leak.
There being no further business, Ms. Gross moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:56 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor