MAYOR AND COUNCIL
MAY 4, 2015
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 April 20, 2015. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the Mayor and Council meeting minutes of April 20, 2015 as presented, was seconded by Ms. Gross and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to pay bills. Mr. Shoge moved to pay the bills as presented, was seconded by Mr. Stetson and carried unanimously.
Chief Baker introduced Corporal Tyler Baitsholtz and Corporal Martin Heinefield and reaffirmed their oaths of office. Chief stated that the officers were promoted to Corporal in April 2015.
Ms. Bernadette Bowman, Kent County Director of Tourism and Ms. Heather Ertz, Partnership and Outreach Manager for Maryland Office of Tourism Development were present and showed a PowerPoint of the economic impact of the War of 1812 campaign events held last summer. The presentation is attached to the record.
Ms. Ertz stated that overall the War of 1812 events impacted the State by $330 million dollars and the Kent County events generated over $100,000.00 (more than any other single event held last summer) adding that it was also well organized and well attended. She said that the Town and County would reap the benefits for the next 3 to 5 years as the public was just catching on and would continue to visit the area, noting that Caulks Field was the most intact battlefield of the entire War of 1812.
Ms. Bowman stated that Kent County was building on the event by the 1812 interpretive panels that are located throughout the County. Also, the Chesapeake Independent Blues, the reenactment unit created by a separate grant, lives on and performs at events on the Eastern Shore.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he was in receipt of a permit request for the Chestertown Tea Party Parade on Saturday, May 23rd at 10:00 a.m. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the Tea Party Parade permit request as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Gross and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was a request for the annual Memorial Day Parade for Monday, May 25th at 10:00 a.m. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the annual Memorial Day Parade permit request as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Gross and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Kent County Commissioners have agreed to continue to fund the tub-grinding for Chestertown, which amounted to $11,113.00. He thanked the County Commissioners for this consideration as it did not make sense to have taxpayers take their own brush to the Nicholson transfer site. Mr. Ingersoll stated that if a resident put out a large amount of brush at one time there was a cost associated with the Town picking it up.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Task Force members for the State Highway Administration Task Force were as follows: Ward 1- Anne Vansant; Ward 2 – David Bowering; Ward 3 – Brandt Troup; Ward 4 – Herb Friedman; Washington College representative – Jerry Roderick (Director of Public Safety). Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would forward the names to the State Highway Administration.
Mayor Cerino stated that he was in receipt of many emails regarding complaints about parties on Washington Avenue. He said that it was frustrating to him as he felt powerless to help the residents as he thought these parties were addressed before the school year, along with how they would be handled by the College and the Police. He said that these parties have continued, unabated, and something had to be done to remedy the situation as nothing has deterred these students from having loud and disruptive parties.
Mr. Tom Clark, a resident of Kent Street, stated that he backed up to a student occupied property on Washington Avenue. He said that students are urinating in the yard and there is constant profanity and noise at the property. He said that he was quite disappointed as everyone wanted to make Chestertown the place to visit, but the College kids were holding residents “hostage” with continuing disruptive behavior and nothing is being done to correct it. Mr. Clark stated that neighbors are in a “vigilante” mode and it was not a good thing for the community because something could happen that would put Chestertown in a negative light. Mr. Clark stated that he invited a police officer into the house who witnessed the behavior and the officer seemed to make excuses for the students.
Dr. Xavier Cole, Vice-President of Student Affairs at Washington College, was present and stated that he met with the residents of Washington Avenue last summer and told them that he needs names of students in order to adjudicate. He said that he has a close relationship with the Chestertown Police Department and was also updating the “Code of Conduct” at Washington College with tougher sanctions for students, noting that he would prefer that most students live on campus.
Dr. Cole stated that he thought landlords had to be accountable for their tenants. He suggested that citations not be written to one person, but to all tenants whose names appear on the lease at the property. Dr. Cole stated that it was difficult for him to take responsibility for students who were in a house owned by another person. He said the houses should be registered with the Town and that landlords should better manage their properties under penalties for not doing so.
Dr. Cole stated that he was not a fan of warnings and would rather see a citation written the first time an officer responds to a call, involving a violation.
Chief Baker apologized for not finding a solution to this problem and said he was going to continue to try to figure out how to solve it. He said that when an officer arrives on scene what the neighbor reports is not necessarily what the officer hears or sees. Chief Baker stated that many times there are calls for students on the street and that street noise cannot be tied to a property. Chief Baker stated that he has two (2) ordinances to use at his disposal; loud noise and loud party. He said that if a noise can be heard 50’ away there can be a $100.00 citation; a loud party carries a $500.00 fine.
Chief Baker stated that he thought things were getting louder because the weather was warmer. He said that an officer responded to a party last Saturday and a citation was written.
Mr. David Bowering stated that he attended a meeting in the fall with Dr. Cole and said that it was suggested at that meeting that cooperation from the students, the College and the Police would happen. He said that a meeting was held with the students and that very weekend there was a disruptive party and the problems started.
Mr. Bowering stated that a rental inspection and licensing program should be implemented where landlords face penalties if issues arise at their property with tenants. He added that when the College first meets with the students and explains to them what is expected of them if they are living off campus, that should be their warning and citations issued after that.
Mr. Bowering stated that he contacted the owners of one of the houses on Washington Avenue who claimed to be completely unaware of the problems at the rental unit. He said that the Police and the College should be contacting the owners if the tenants are receiving citations and are a disturbance to the neighbors.
Ms. Mylander stated that she lives next to the Theta Chi Fraternity House and said she does not know why a fraternity is allowed off-campus. Dr. Cole stated that Theta Chi will have housing on campus next year.
Ms. Gross asked if the students supplied the College with off-campus addresses. Dr. Cole stated that that they did supply their addresses. Ms. Gross stated that it should then be easy to find out who is living at what address. Dr. Cole stated that it could be that easy, if all the students are listed on the lease, noting that some students write down their address as on campus and keep the off-campus residence to themselves. Mr. Ingersoll stated that off-street residency information could help the Town establish overcrowding violations.
Dr. Cole stated that last year there were 256 students who applied and met the requirements to live off-campus and this year there would be 156 who will live off- campus (the others did not meet the requirements). Dr. Cole stated that his 5 to 7 year goal for Washington College was to have nearly 100% of the student body living on campus, with the exception of students whose accommodations can’t be met due to medical conditions.
Dr. Cole stated that the students do have rules to follow, but they also have rights. He said that when he is provided information on violations, including names, those students will get back on campus and they will be reprimanded. He said that Washington College would like to see stronger enforcement of the ordinances because it sends a message to the students.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that in 2009, problems came to a head with loud parties and the Town drafted and passed the Chronic Nuisance Property Ordinance which was directed at landlords who were not responsive and for multiple offenses (3) of noise, alcohol, or zoning violations and property disrepair. This ordinance anticipated rental housing licenses and enforcement and included fines for the property owners. He said if there were problems at a specific address, it did not take long for citations to add up.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that one real problem the Town has is when more than four (4) unrelated individuals are living in a residence. The College could let the Town know if their records indicate more than four (4) students in a single house. Dr. Cole agreed, noting that there are instances in Town where a student has an assigned residence on campus but “chip in” for off-campus rentals and are not a part of the lease.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that if the Town began with a rental registration it might help things, noting that a landlord received a violation they lose their ability to rent at that address for a period of time. Ms. Kuiper stated that she was looking into rental permits that were used in other college towns. Mr. Bowering stated that property managers might be served violations as well.
Mr. Shoge stated that residents of the properties are being cited, but the students attending the parties are not. He asked why that was the procedure. Dr. Cole stated that the students attending parties are reprimanded when the College can prove they were, in fact, at the party.
Mr. Ingersoll asked Chief Baker if the liquor inspector ever accompanied the police to a party. Chief Baker stated that he did. Mr. Chris Kelch, resident of Washington Avenue, stated that the open container law is not being enforced because he sees the students walking down the avenue with alcohol every Friday and Saturday night.
Mayor Cerino asked residents and the police to be vigilant during these next couple weeks before summer break. He said that he would like to set up another meeting after school is out to examine ways to solve the problems with rowdy college students and parties and said he would also discuss a rental permit process with the Council.
Ms. Barbara Jorgenson asked if Dr. Cole could send an email to off-campus students putting them on notice that there would be no more warnings, only citations. She said the residents of Chestertown needed support from the College. Dr. Cole stated that he would send an email out to off-campus students.
Mr. Stetson stated that vandals went into the Dog Park and tore off limbs from three (3) new trees. He said that Mr. Ingersoll pruned the trees back so they should live, but it would now take more time for suitable shade. He said that anyone who noticed anything like this occurring in any of the parks should call the police.
Mr. Stetson stated that the Dog Park would have a pavilion installed in the next month that was completely paid for by private donations.
Mr. Shoge stated that he met with the Marketing Committee and they would like to create a Facebook page geared toward events. He said that the current Facebook page had many administrative restrictions and it was not conducive to what the Marketing Committee wanted to implement. He said that he would also like to build a section to the website on existing website for things to do while visiting Washington College.
Ms. Kuiper thanked Chief Baker for his three (3) years of service to Chestertown.
Ms. Kuiper stated that parking on the street during the Farmers Market was still a problem. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he has created new “No Parking” signs to go up on the High Street side of Fountain Park.
Ms. Kuiper stated that there was traffic backing up on Washington Avenue by Campus Avenue. Chief Baker stated that he placed a call to the State Highway Administration and they were going to check on the timing of the lights at that intersection.
Ms. Kuiper stated that the first Porchfest was a success in the downtown. Mr. Shoge stated that the entire weekend was a success as First Friday was also well-attended.
Ms. Gross stated that there seemed to be a number of traffic issues on Campus Avenue. Chief Baker stated that there would be an officer posted at the Middle School from now until the end of the school year during peak hours.
Mr. Shoge stated that there was a Peace Rally in the Fountain Park on Saturday night in honor of Freddie Gray and the issues in Baltimore and said it was a very nice event, noting that Chief Baker made comments that were well-received by those in attendance.
There being no further business, Mr. Stetson moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:10 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Gross and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor