City Council meeting debates Cambridge business

MD-3x sunburst highway mess-033016

Dorchester Banner/City of Cambridge
An early concept image of the possible first phase of the “Gateway Property,” being the filling station and old Burger King property on Sunburst Highway, showing the proposed new right turn onto Maryland Avenue.

CAMBRIDGE — Cambridge City Council convened on March 28 and tended to the issues demanding their attention that evening. The consent calendar topics were quickly gone over and approved, including a request from Cambridge Little League for permission to hold their opening day parade on April 9 and a police officer to lead the parade, a request from Hyatt Regency to display fireworks on June 25; and a request from the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 87 to for permission to utilize city property for their 3rd Annual Bike Show on May 14.

Ordinances adopted included an ordinance to remove the on-site residency requirement for the property owner of small commercial businesses in the NC Zone Districts and require that these properties have a property manager that is a resident of Dorchester County, otherwise known as Ordinance No. 1066. The ordinance was adopted with Commissioner Vickers opposing.

Second on the docket was an ordinance to amend Section 5.1.1.C Table #3 of the Unified Development Code to require minimum lot sizes in the downtown/waterfront development district (Ordinance No. 1073). This ordinance too was adopted, with Commissioner Vickers opposing.

Under Old Business, the Comcast Rate Increase proposal was visited once again with the Council’s characteristic careful deliberation and attention to detail. After much discussion and debate the request was approved, with Councilmen Cooke and Vickers opposing.

Council next voted to direct staff for the Sailwinds Committee to develop a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for one master developer RFP with general language regarding proposed uses and site configurations as identified in the property Transfer Agreement, the 2020 Plan, the City of Cambridge Comprehensive Plan, and in the UDC, to be brought back for Council consideration and approval. The proposal was debated and approved, with Councilmen Cooke and Vickers opposing.

Also on the subject of Sailwinds, Council was asked to vote on a proposition that the City Manager and City Attorney negotiate an amendment to the City Agreement with Sailwinds of Cambridge, providing for continued operation of Governor’s Hall during repair of the adjacent wharf. The proposal also asked of the directors of Sailwinds to provide $20,000 per year of the cost of preserving the Governors Hall building while replacement of the wharf was taking place — engineers for the project had determined that preserving the building during wharf construction (as opposed to tearing it down now) would add approximately $100,000 to the cost of the project. The proposal drew negative reaction from the board of Sailwinds, and Sailwinds Chairman Carlton Stanley, along with Bruce Reed and Jerry Burroughs, spoke in opposition. In the end the council voted unanimously to negotiate with Sailwinds of Cambridge, Inc., on the subject.

Next the topic of the Hearn Building was brought before the council, with Public Works Director Odie Wheeler informing the council that work towards shoring up the ailing building appears to be started on the site, though the only obvious sign is contractor signs, porta potties and a dumpster being brought to the location. Questions of slow response to the project on behalf of the County Council were brought up and discussed, with it being pointed out that County Council President Ricky Travers owns a business directly across the street, and that he has a great interest in seeing the street open regardless of allegations of county inactivity.

Next, Council receive a written and verbal report of the state of water pressure in Cambridge. The report showed no pressures anywhere in the city below 47 psi, which is optimum.
In new business, Katie Parks of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, gave a briefing on the Phillips Packing Company, Factory F Reuse. Ms. Parks stated that Baltimore-based Cross Street Partners was interested in creating a Food & Farming Exchange in the iconic Dorchester Street building. She promised to keep Council updated on progress.

The Gateway Property Committee gave a visual presentation and update on the so-called Gateway Property, the old Burger King and filling station property on the west side of US Rt. 50, between Byrn Street and Maryland Avenue. The committee displayed a slide showing a proposed right turn lane taking up a corner of the property, to ease the entrance into Maryland Avenue. Council voted to secure funding sources to seek a professional design consultant for property, and to have the committee present two or three design options to Council and the public, to get community input on what the final property should contain.

Council then approved a bond refunding/refinancing proposal that will result in reducing remaining debt on the marina and Public Safety building by $750,000, and reduce annual debt service by approximately $67,000 per year.

Finally, a vote was approved to give a letter of support to local resident and developer Jim Chaney, who seeks permission to renovate or replace a number of county-owned properties.
There being no other business to come before the board, the meeting adjourned at approximately 9 p.m.

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