SEPTEMBER 17, 2014
Chairman Jeffrey Grotsky called the public hearing to order at 6:30 p.m. In attendance were Commission Members, Morgan Ellis, Rob Fordi, Jane Richman and Paul Showalter, Kees deMooy, Zoning Administrator, Jennifer Mulligan, Stenographer, Andy Meehan, Attorney and guests.
Mr. Grotsky welcomed everyone in attendance and asked that they sign-in. He also said that after the presentation, anyone who wanted to speak would have the opportunity to do so, but asked that they keep their comments to three (3) minutes. There would be no voting at this meeting.
Mr. Grotsky stated that the Commission would like to vote on the final draft of the Comprehensive Plan on October 15th and then submit the document to the Mayor and Council.
Mr. Grotsky stated that the Planning Commission would meet in a workshop session on Wednesday, October 1st to discuss any changes.
Mr. Grotsky stated that there has been written testimony submitted and entered into the record.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the Planning Commission has been working on this document for approximately a year and a half. They were working on a time schedule for the Mayor and Council to adopt within the next two (2) months.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the Comprehensive Plan was basically a vision for the Town of Chestertown. The State of Maryland mandates that the Comprehensive Plan be revisited every six (6) years to see if it should be updated or changed. He said that the plan was more or less planned neighborhood by neighborhood.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the last Comprehensive Plan was written in 2009. He mentioned projects that were completed since then, such as the Gilchrest Rail-Trail, Margo Bailey Community Park off of Rolling Road, Remembrance Park on Horsey Lane, the water trail on Radcliffe Creek, and Street bike path and tree islands on High Street. Residential infill projects such as Coventry II, Oak Hollow and the Village at Chestertown and current ongoing projects like the roundabout, Kent Plaza, Twilley Lane and the Washington College waterfront development were also envisioned in the 2009 plan.
Mr. de Mooy stated that comprehensive rezoning was completed in 2012 and many aspects of the Comprehensive Plan flow from the new Zoning Ordinance. He said that the Comprehensive Plan clearly defines where the Town can grow. He said that the revised Plan was reviewed by all State agencies including the Department of Planning, Department of the Environment, Natural Resources and State Highway Administration, and the recommended changes were included in the current draft.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the Town has been using GIS for mapping for the last five (5) years and it has resulted in vastly improved maps. The draft Comprehensive Plan addresses pedestrian and cycling connectivity and issues such as greening, storm water, sustainability and sea level rise.
Mr. de Mooy stated that there was a map of existing land uses and then a future land uses map indicating how the Town could change.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the transportation component was an important part of the Comprehensive Plan and each area of Town is shown in detail.
Mr. de Mooy stated that there were consultants had developed a Public Arts Master Plan, which included a concept vision for Stepne showing potential road connections and walkways. He said it was likely that the Public Arts Master Plan would be adopted as an appendix to the Comprehensive Plan.
Ms. Gross stated that she thinks there needs to be some updating of information, such as storm water control at Kent Plaza, which was now in place, and the ongoing Police Station Study. Ms. Gross stated that she was distressed that there was not more emphasis on sidewalks, particularly in the Executive Summary. Ms. Gross noted that on page 35 there was discussion of walkability, but no mention of sidewalks. There should also be reference and emphasis on affordable housing and impervious surfaces.
Mr. Colin McCrae, Washington Avenue resident, stated that he was a member of the Washington Avenue Neighborhood Association (WANA). He said that the 100 and 200 block of Washington Avenue is short-changed in the plan. Mr. McCrae stated that this part of Town was in the Historic District and there were burdens and responsibilities placed on the citizens and residents living there. He said that the Council has an obligation to help develop the area as more than a conduit to a shopping mall. He said that the area should be treated as an attraction, not a truck run. He said that there had to be directional signage to downtown Chestertown because people drive through missing the downtown altogether. He said that the 100 and 200 block of Washington Avenue is a significant part of the Town and should be treated as a gateway.
Mr. Stephen Meehan stated that he had two requests for amendments. He said that he represented the Moore Trust for a 20-acre parcel of property at Flatland Road and Cromwell Clark Road, which was designated as low-density residential. He said that he would like to change the designation to medium-density residential, to match Coventry II and Coventry III on the Future Land Use map. He said that this parcel lends itself to townhouses, duplexes and cottage type housing.
Mr. Meehan stated that he was a principle owner of Talbot Road LLC, which owned a 23-acre parcel, currently zoned LI-2, off of Talbot Boulevard and abutting the future Phase IV Rails-to-Trail extension. He said that he has spent 10 years trying to find an interested purchaser. He said that he continues to get interest in multi-family rental apartment housing for a 55 plus community or affordable senior housing. He said that written testimony was submitted for the record. Mr. Meehan stated that a text change and a Future Land Use map change from industrial to high density residential was being requested.
Mr. Joe Holt was present representing Washington College and said that a letter was delivered this evening seeking a 90-day extension to the comment period. He said that he was hearing for the first time tonight that the mark-up session would be on October 1st with passage at the October 15th meeting. At Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting and the Marina Concept and Public Arts Master Plan were unveiled. He said that both of these plans neighbor College properties and the College would like time to provide thoughtful commentary on the recent additions that may be adopted as an appendix to the Plan. He said that the College just finished their strategic planning process.
Ms. Barbara Jorgenson, Washington Avenue resident, stated that she was a member and participant in the Washington Avenue Neighborhood Association. She said that the oversight of the 100 and 200 blocks missed the point that these parts of Washington Avenue are as important as the northern and southern entry points for Chestertown. Ms. Jorgenson stated that many people visit and spend money in Chestertown each year and enter from the north travelling from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and drive right past the houses on Washington Avenue and that these two blocks should be recognized just as an important entrance as crossing into Town from the Chester River Bridge. It was the grand promenade to Washington College from the south.
Ms. Jorgenson stated that the largest problem on Washington Avenue was traffic. The speed limit is 25 mph and people were speeding at all times. She suggested speed cameras on Washington Avenue. Pedestrians were at a risk crossing Washington Avenue and there was not sidewalk on both sides of the road in all areas, Kent and Washington Avenue being a major problem with two (2) crossing signs, one (1) of which obstructed by a tree. She submitted an example of a crossing with an overhead sign in another part of Maryland.
Ms. Jorgenson stated that there should be no commercial traffic on this section of Washington Avenue and Rt. 301 should be used instead.
Ms. Jorgenson stated that nothing has happened along Washington Avenue because nobody wants to take responsibility for it. She said the Town claims it is the State’s responsibility and the State claims it is the Town’s responsibility. She said it should be maintained as a beautiful gateway to the Town.
Ms. Carol Mylander, 208 Washington Avenue, stated that she would echo all of Ms. Jorgenson’s comments. She said safety was most important and sidewalks were needed for pedestrians.
Mr. Bart Stolp, Washington Avenue resident, stated that Washington Avenue was also important from a commercial point of view. He said that there was no attention paid to this main avenue through Town.
Mr. Ted Byrne, resident of Chestertown, stated that he did supply a letter for the record but wanted to address the north/south traffic and the bypass. He said the proposed bypass is basically a truck route and there should be emphasis on the effects of the bypass on more things than traffic. He said nobody likes to be “bypassed” so the road should be called something different. He said noise and pollution should be addressed and the Town should envision what Rt. 213 could be if it was not used as a truck route. Mr. Byrne stated that Queen Anne’s County should be a part of the process as they had to deal with the issue. Mr. Byrne stated that the State Highway Administration also had to understand that their traffic surveys are outdated and wrong.
Ms. Alice Macnow, resident of South Kent Street, stated that the sea level rise should be addressed as well as moving development away from the river. She said that the buffer is only 100’ but said she thought there should be at least a 200’ buffer. Nuisance flooding had to be dealt with at some point and should be addressed in some way. Ms. Macnow suggested forming a committee to begin a discussion on the buffer issue.
Ms. Pat Clarke, Chair of the Kent County Commission on Aging, stated that she was present to support the Talbot Road, LLC request for an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan allowing for affordable multi-family housing for seniors. She read a letter into the record.
Dr. Neil Brayton, property owner on Speer Road, stated that he was not opposed to Mr. Meehan’s suggestion for a change in zoning adding that he thought consideration should be given to changing his property at the same time. He said that the current doctors in Town are aging and he feared that there will not be many new doctors coming to the area because doctors are moving to large group practices. Dr. Brayton stated that he thought the area from Talbot Boulevard to Rt. 213 should be considered for a zoning change.
Mr. James Judge, of Radcliffe Creek School, stated that he did not necessarily object to Mr. Meehan’s proposal but did have concerns about high density residential housing and how it would affect the traffic through Talbot Road and the school’s ability to use the field across the street.
Ms. Sylvia Maloney, resident of North Kent Street, stated that she wanted to support the comments of the Washington Avenue group and their discussion regarding the 100 and 200 block of Washington Avenue. She said that if she had to define a northern gateway it would not be at the intersection of Rt. 291 and Rt. 213. She would define it was Greenwood Avenue to Spring Street and Maple Avenue. She said that first block from Rt. 291 was only commercial properties. The open space of the College and the Victorian and Edwardian properties begin at Greenwood Avenue. Ms. Maloney stated that she could not understand how a bypass could be built in Church Hill but not in Chestertown.
Ms. Linda Cramer, resident of Queen Anne’s County, stated that she was opposed to the bypass coming across Fey Road. She said that as the bypass is shown in the plan, the road was off a little bit. Mr. de Mooy stated that he would be happy to meet with Ms. Cramer at a later time and show her exactly where the bypass was planned. Ms. Cramer stated that she was also opposed to being annexed into Chestertown as she was happy with her well water system.
Mr. Byrne stated that there was a master plan that showed where the bypass was located. He added that a person has already gone through two (2) stop lights in Town by the time they hit Greenwood Avenue so it was not a gateway, as expressed earlier by another member of the audience.
Mr. Stolp asked about the evolutionary process that would lead them from the Comprehensive Plan to an action plan. Mr. Grotsky stated that the Comprehensive Plan was guidance for the Planning Commission when dealing with development plans brought to the Town by an applicant; it was not an action plan.
Mr. Stolp asked who would take the plan and bring it to fruition, noting that he thought that was why there was no bypass built after all these years. Mr. de Mooy stated that the Executive Summary lists the priorities for the next six (6) years. He said that the bypass is included in that summary but it does not guarantee that it will be built, noting that there were many things that were completed such as the roundabout, the Rails-to-Trails, Remembrance Park, etc.
Ms. Gross stated that the Town takes action on property controlled by the Town, saying that the SHA has to be convinced to approve and fund the bypass as the Town Council cannot build it. Mr. de Mooy stated that easements for the bypass have been purchased on the Queen Anne’s County side but not the Kent County side. Therefore, no bypass is going to be constructed at this point, adding that the project also cost millions of dollars.
Ms. Gross stated that the State Highway Administration was presenting to the Kent County Commissioners on Tuesday, September 23rd at 6:00 p.m. She said this was a public meeting where residents can voice concerns.
Ms. Kuiper stated that she was the Second Ward Councilmember, which encompassed the College, the Marina, and the area encompassed in the Public Arts Master Plan. She said that there was a request made by the College at this meeting for an extension and wanted to know when that would be discussed. Mr. Grotsky stated that the letter was just received and they would get back to the College as soon as they could. Ms. Kuiper asked if it would be before October 1st. Mr. Grotsky stated that the Commission would discuss the request during the regular meeting, which was about to start.
Ms. Sylvia Maloney asked what can be done to influence the State Highway Administration regarding a northern bypass. Mr. de Mooy stated that attending the SHA meetings would help. Mr. Grotsky stated that State representatives should also be contacted.
Mr. Grotsky closed the public hearing at 7:29 p.m.