East New Market proceeds with plan for storm water runoff

EAST NEW MARKET — The longstanding problem with storm water runoff and debris-filled ditches may be on the way to resolution this year. At the June 13 East New Market town meeting commissioners unanimously approved a proposal by Lane Engineering to proceed with its storm water management plan to clear obstructions in the ditches.

Mayor Caroline Cline said, “We know from experience that ditching is an ongoing problem so this is permission to proceed.” Vice Mayor David Tolley explained the process will begin with a major ditch adjacent to Sugar Drive. The area has experienced flooding during periods of heavy rain over the past several years. “It will be done in a series if we can’t do it all at once,” said Mr. Tolley. “We will have enough money to do the worst of it.” The commission hopes that grant money will raise enough funding to move to Phase II.

The Historic District Commission has played a vital and vocal role in the governance of East New Market for many years. Known locally as “HDC,” the commission includes Nicole Douglas, chairperson; Charles Hurlcy Jr., Vice chair; and members Vanessa Sullivan, Stephen Tolley, and Margaret Miller.

In 1975 East New Market joined a distinguished group in the National Register of Historic Places. With that, certain regulations and standards were codified into the town government. Information from the town’s website explains that new development is approved “only in the parameters that foster strong protection and enhancement of historic resources, thus preserving the extraordinary visual character and uniqueness of the town.”

To do its job, the HDC needs code compliance. Mr. Tolley read a letter from HDC to the town commission stating, “Citations … are of great concern.” For property owners who do not fix their code violations, “legal proceedings then need to begin.”

HDC members feel the town’s attorney has “not been very effective nor proactive involving legal matters with regards to properties within the Historic District” and if he does not “act in a timely manner,” the HDC suggests retaining a new attorney. The letter recommends steps to correct the problem including solving the “ongoing issues with properties who are willfully disregarding citations.”

Mayor Caroline Cline said the HDC has “council support for all of the issues raised.” Commissioner Cindy Merrick is the liaison between the council and the HDC. She said, “I want you all to know how much these people care about our town.” She noted they are all volunteers who take their responsibility seriously and included employees and commissioners in her praise as well. The mayor added, “What they do is priceless.”

Dorchester Banner/Susan M. Bautz
The recent East New Market election returned Mayor Caroline Cline, left, to her mayoral position, David Tolley to his commission and vice mayor post, and gave a commission seat to Dr. Donna Flaggs, former chair of the Historic District Commission.

Executive sessions

Resident Gary Blackstock said, “The last couple of meetings we’ve been talking about transparency. I have no problem with the open meetings we have here but I have reservations about executive sessions. I don’t know what’s going on and that really bothers me.”

He asked town clerk Michelle Jackson to read sections of the 2014 edition of Roberts Rules of Order about executive sessions. There are times when a board has to meet in executive sessions and the meeting is closed to the public. Councils should be familiar with state and federal statutes, including the Open Meetings Act and Sunshine Laws which determine the only reasons a meeting can be closed. There can be no vote on an issue until the open portion of a meeting. Most important, these closed sessions are confidential.

Mr. Blackstock mentioned a symposium held many years ago about using Roberts Rules of Order to conduct meetings. Ms. Cline said she thought the decision was to use the classic book on parliamentary procedure as it applied to small towns but the commission was not bound to adhere closely to it.

She added, “You bring up some good points, Gary. We have had many challenges and ups and downs but we have never failed to acknowledge the important suggestions from people that might be really fruitful.” She asked Mr. Blackstone to present a summary of his points at a commission work session and he agreed.

Metal detecting in park

Steven Tolley raised the issue of visitors to Friendship Park whose express purpose is metal detecting on the grounds. Mayor Cline will raise the issue with the town attorney but reported she has spoken with “a person who regularly uses his metal detector. He informed me that since it was a public park he has every right to be there doing these explorations. I said that’s probably open for debate. But anything you find, because this is town property, will not be yours to dispose of. If you find something here we would love to have it in our museum. He said, ‘well, you’re very misinformed.’ I suggested he was misinformed. So that’s how we left it. This is something we need to clarify.”

Commissioner Tolley noted the town partners with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) who has an easement on the park property. Anyone seeking artifacts would need permission not only from the town but from the ESLC. “If we have to draw up an ordinance that goes with that we’ll do it.”

Solar meeting July 11

Mayor Cline reported the town was alerted that the Legg Farm on Richardson Road is under consideration for a solar facility. The company, associated with OneEnergy, will present its plan at the July 11 commission meeting. While the proposed facility is not in town limits, it abuts town property. “That facility would be within the viewscape of our town so that gives us a special interest to know something about the size and placement,” she said.

The June 10 session of Dorchester Council for the Arts “Art in the Park” outreach program was a great success, according to Ms. Cline. Well known guest artist Chris Carter led the group of 20 in an art project that appealed to all ages – from a 2 ½ year old to the mayor, who suggested she may have been the oldest attendee. The next session, free to the public, is July 8.

Dorchester County councilman Rick Price reported on two recent public hearings. One was presented by the Maryland Department of the Environment on vertical expansion of the Beulah Landfill. About 15-20 people testified, all in opposition to the plan. A second was sponsored by the Maryland Health Commission to seek public input into plans for more access to health care in rural areas.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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