MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEETING
JUNE 1, 2020
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:40 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Thomas Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, 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 May 18, 2020 or the budget workshop of May 18, 2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of May 18, 2020 and the budget workshop of May 18, 2020 as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Efland, and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating funds on hand for unrestricted use was $852,457.25.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Ms. Efland moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Rev. Tolliver, and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the budget hearing was held earlier in the evening and asked for a motion to adopt Ordinance 05-2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to adopt Ordinance 05-2020 for Budget FY2020-21, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Resolution 03-2020 had changes to the Personnel Manual for a post employee benefit that was no longer sustainable. The Resolution reduced the annual stipend to $1,000.00. Rev. Tolliver moved to adopt Resolution 03-2020 Adopting Revisions to Manual of Rules and Regulations for Employees, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that this resolution also gave some flexibility to employees by establishing “personal days” where 5 personal days can be used from accumulated sick leave each year.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he was introducing Ordinance 06-2020 Amendment to Chapter 170 which, if adopted, would allow 4-story buildings with a 50’ maximum height in R-4 (Multiple Family Residential) and R-6 (Traditional Neighborhood Development) zoning. He said that this would only be permissible in certain circumstances in areas over 10 acres and within certain terrain. The current height restrictions are 3-story buildings and 40’ height. A public hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Monday, June 15th at 7:00 p.m. in Town Hall.
Rev. Tolliver moved to introduce Ordinance 06-2020 and called for a public hearing on Monday, June 15, 2020 at 7:00 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Efland and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like all Council members to review the document and the areas in which 4-story development would be permissible, which was along Talbot Boulevard and by Stepne Manor. He said that he thought the Talbot Boulevard development would be much less jarring than 4-story at Stepne Manor. Mr. Foster asked if there was flexibility in the ordinance. Mr. de Mooy stated that going to 4-storys does not guarantee the right to it as setback requirements and other criteria of the Planning Commission had to be met and approved. He said that the Talbot property is industrial in nature and the development is planned behind it, with 4-story development behind 3-story housing, which would break up the overall impact on site. Mr. de Mooy stated that development of Stepne would be much more difficult in that the surrounding neighborhood is a National Historic District. He said that development in this location would have to be considered in a layered approach where if 4-story were permissible, it would be located further back from Quaker Neck Road to limit the visual impact. Mr. de Mooy stated that just because it was possible to have 4-story buildings, does not give automatic approval for 4-story development.
Mr. de Mooy stated that a minimum size and setback had to be established and he said that he thought it was a good approach and can work in the right conditions, noting that Design Guidelines are built in to the Ordinance that will be helpful in this regard.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the Planning Commission worked through the request and agreed to send the draft Ordinance to the Mayor and Council for scheduling of a public hearing. Mr. Foster stated that he would like to meet with the Planning Commission to see that this was not spot zoning. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Planning Commission should be invited to the public hearing to discuss their findings of fact in the matter.
Rev. Tolliver asked if there has been any negative discussion brought up about the change. Mr. de Mooy stated that he has not heard anything negative yet. Mayor Cerino stated that he hopes that people weigh in on this matter at the public hearing.
Mayor Cerino stated that the COVID case count in Kent County was now at 173 with a fatality count of 19 (28 if you count the outbreaks at Chestertown nursing homes where residency has been recorded in a different county). Mayor Cerino stated that it was imperative for each person to mitigate their own risk and wear masks when out in public. He said that the phase one reopenings to date have gone smoothly. Mr. Herz stated that Ms. MacIntosh and Ms. Goddard were working tirelessly to get the restaurants opened safely and thanked them for their time and effort.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he met with Ms. MacIntosh and Ms. Goddard earlier today and spoke to them about what plans and insurance would be required from the restaurants along with their permit application to use public sidewalks for tables and seating. He said that on Saturday, June 13th there is a plan to close the 200 block of High Street to allow for outdoor dining and he said that he thought it would work well. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he would forward the plans to the Council as he receives them.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he asked for a layout of tables and that all plans allow space for pedestrians to maneuver along the sidewalks. The Town will be added as a rider on each restaurant’s insurance policy while the outdoor dining plans are in place. Mayor Cerino asked if the Council was comfortable allowing Mr. Ingersoll to approve the outdoor dining plans as they are submitted. The Council agreed. Rev. Tolliver stated that Ms. MacIntosh sent out a detailed list of what was going to take place which made him very comfortable allowing Mr. Ingersoll to approve the plans.
Mr. Herz stated that business at 98 Cannon Street begins to creep on to Town land as the plaza appears as a natural extension of their deck but 98 Cannon has space on their land that they can use for outdoor dining. Mr. Herz stated that he did not want people to get the wrong idea that Town was helping one business over another. He said that he has no objection to 98 Cannon using the plaza during this phase of reopening, but the restaurant should know that there will be an end time to the use. Rev. Tolliver asked about renting the land to 98 Cannon. Mayor Cerino stated that he thought it was inappropriate to do that now because of the circumstances, but that was something that could be discussed in the future.
Mr. Herz asked that the restaurants work closely with Ms. MacIntosh and Mr. Ingersoll throughout the process and to wind down the uses when after restrictions are lifted. Mayor Cerino agreed, stating that when indoor dining is resumed the restaurants had to get back to their own footprint. Mr. Ingersoll stated that any approvals are probationary and can be rescinded at any time. He said that that rules on sidewalks are different than those of a promenade and every effort was being made to accommodate the restaurants. Ms. Efland asked who would check to make sure that the safety protocols are being kept in place. Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Health Department had to approve everything first as the mandates were being handed down from the State.
Mr. Ingersoll asked Chief Dolgos if spacing at restaurants has come up at all in his discussions with the Health Department or with other agencies. Chief Dolgos stated that spacing is decided by the Health Department and the police will enforce their guidelines. Mr. Ingersoll stated that if the spacing was not followed than the permits would be rescinded.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that she has bene working with Erika Hersher at the Health Department and the safe social distancing would be an ongoing issue to address while the orders are in place. Mr. Herz stated that he hoped the Health Department would help with enforcement. Mr. Herz stated that he would like a monthly report on how this is working. Mr. Foster stated that each restaurant was going to have to take responsibility for enforcing the safety precautions.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Farmers Market has been at East Coast Storage for a few weeks and the set up is working well, in the opinion of the Market Manager. He said that he broached the subject of bringing the Market back downtown but because of the 45’ distance between vendors required, High Street would have to be closed between Spring and Cross and Cross and Queen with vendors spaced out in long rows. Mayor Cerino stated that all events have been cancelled which drives foot traffic downtown and the stores were feeling the pinch. He asked if the Council would be amenable to working with Ms. King and the Health Department to bring the Market back downtown.
Mr. Foster stated that he did not think it was too soon to begin talking and that he doesn’t understand the 45’ rule as that does not seem to be the case in other jurisdictions. Mr. Herz agreed, questioning how traffic would be handled on High and Cross Street. Chief Dolgos stated that they would have traffic control in place but there were stoplights and crosswalks in those locations. Mayor Cerino asked if the streets could be closed without a big police presence. Chief Dolgos stated that was possible with established areas.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he was initially opposed to the Farmers Market relocation but now he did not want to see it leave the new location. Rev. Tolliver stated that the way Ms. King has the Market set up is working.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would speak to Ms. King about ways to accommodate a set-up downtown after speaking with the vendors to see if they are interested in moving back. Ms. Efland stated that she would like to include the artisans because there were vendors not represented who wanted to be back in the Market.
Mayor Cerino stated that this would create a festive atmosphere which the Town was missing because festivals cannot take place this year. Mr. Ingersoll stated that this could be an opportunity to allow vendors at 848 High Street another day of the week, in addition to moving the Market back to the downtown area on Saturdays.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Town can’t have fireworks this year, but Ms. Kuiper made a great suggestion to have a 4th of July Decoration Contest, similar to the contest at Christmas and asked if the Council would be in favor of the contest with small cash prizes. Ms. Efland moved to approve a July 4th Decoration Contest with cash prizes, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that he wanted to recognize the tragedy of George Floyd and said that everyone in this community has a right to feel safe and supported. He said that he was proud of the peaceful vigil that was held last night in the Wilmer Park. Rev. Tolliver stated that it was important to hear that racism was not going to be tolerated in Town and thanked Mayor Cerino for taking the leadership role. Rev. Tolliver stated that he watched the vigil on Facebook and the speakers were great.
Mayor Cerino asked for Ward reports.
Mr. Foster stated that he wanted to thank the organizers of the restaurants for outdoor dining. He said that although he was in favor of allowing outdoor dining, he was concerned that Kent County had the highest per capita death rate in the State of Maryland. He said that Kent County behind the curve on testing and has not been given much information on tracing. Mayor Cerino stated that there is a contact tracing program run by the Kent County Health Department, but the virus got loose in a privately run nursing home and it was too late by the time the Health Department became involved.
Mayor Cerino stated that a weekly presentation is made to the Kent County Commissioners and that it is worthwhile to watch. Testing was a problem on a national level and it has not been until recently that the County had testing capacity. Mayor Cerino stated that Kent County was starting a testing site at the Kent County Public Works building on Morgnec Road next Monday, but a doctor’s order was necessary to be tested.
Mr. Foster stated that he wanted to thank and the Social Action Committee for holding last night’s vigil. He said that recommendations would be coming to the Council from the Social Action Committee for ways to assist the community.
Mr. Herz stated that Ward Two was active with the restaurants beginning to reopen and said that Ms. MacIntosh and Ms. Goddard were doing their best to help.
Mr. Herz asked Chief Dolgos if the Chestertown Police Officers have the adequate training in ways to subdue a suspect while not restraining in a way that would not cause bodily harm. Chief Dolgos stated that his officers were trained, and he could guarantee that none of his officers would subdue someone in the manner used on George Floyd. Chief Dolgos stated that he was speaking with all his officers one on one regarding the matter.
Mr. Herz stated that there was an accident at the river where someone went over the bridge and asked for an update on the damage. Mr. Ingersoll stated that no pilings were lost in the accident and the damage was mostly to the railings. He said that the costs would be handled by the driver’s insurance.
Rev. Tolliver stated that Washington Park was going to have a committee meeting on Zoom to discuss maintaining the park.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he wanted to look toward supporting the data centers and the $3.4 million that was coming to Kent County for COVID abatement.
Rev. Tolliver stated that tonight’s meeting touched on so many relevant issues and he was pleased with the discussions.
Ms. Efland stated that last night’s vigil, although somber, was a nice event. She said that everyone needs to work on these issues, but the Town would do everything possible to see that their citizens are safe.
Ms. Efland stated that the YMCA is holding a food drive from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday of this week and they were looking for canned good donations.
Ms. Efland stated that tomorrow (Tuesday, June 2) was Election day and people could drop off their ballots at the Kent County Board of Elections or behind the library.
Ms. Efland stated that there was a lot of activity on Facebook regarding past Tea Party events and it was fun to see those memories.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Herz moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:04 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor