Why do politicians play with the city’s future?

Dear Editor:
Thank you for publishing my open letter to the Mayor and City Council of Cambridge with regards to the development of the Sailwinds Waterfront property.
I have received a great amount of feedback from the community in support of what I wrote, and NONE AGAINST. I’ve even had someone reach out to me who approached the Mayor about developing part of the site for a youth sailing school based on the same program that organization successfully launched through DCsail.org called “Kids Set Sail” where many scholarships are granted to those who may not normally have such an opportunity, plus it’s not just a two-week program. It offers several programs throughout the summer. He tells me his call to the Mayor was dismissed.
I’m aware of other businesses – industrial/commercial – that have a great interest in investing millions of dollars to be on our waterfront, while creating jobs. It doesn’t appear these options are being considered. I hope I’m wrong.
A few questions have come to my mind – Who is this developer with whom the City is working? Why a plan for development that won’t benefit the community? What sense does it make to even consider an unneeded and unwanted hotel/condo development? Is this all the developer knows how to build? Is someone receiving a benefit of which we’re not aware for furthering the developer’s interests?
In so many words, a good friend said to me, “It’s a curious thing when politicians vote against public opinion. Follow the money. An ill-conceived project can kill the soul of a town. Somebody is getting paid by the developer in some way.”
The community should be aware that the City Council is meeting in Closed Executive Session on Dec. 15, at 6:15 p.m. to discuss Sailwinds. It is important that anyone who has an opinion, or is against more hotels and condos, contact their Councilperson in advance of this session to let them know what you support, and what you don’t support, regarding this development.
If anyone wants to reference my letter and suggestions, they are more than welcome to do so. Included with my letter to the Mayor was a suggested plan/idea/recommendation worthy of investigating that would fulfill the state’s requirement for the property to be a multi-use development without the construction of a hotel or condominiums. I would like to share that with you. It may not be perfect, but it’s a direction to consider, and it makes sense to me and for the overall legacy and long-term economic benefit of our community.
I have great fear that we are about to witness a major political gaffe, and at the expense of a great part of Cambridge’s future. Please speak up, as I have!
Sincerely,
Lynda S. Brooks
Cambridge
OPERATION: DESTINATION CAMBRIDGE
Goal: To develop the Sailwinds property to encourage public use and participation of the property; stimulate economic development; increase and encourage visitors to Cambridge while capitalizing on the assets of this prime waterfront location in a respectful manner, with special consideration to construction that is visually appealing and inviting, to endure for many years to come.
1. Transportation Terminal.
Construct a ferry terminal with satellite retail (ie; Ocean Odyssey crab cakes, Leaky Pete’s Maryland Crab Soup, RAR beer station, Crabi Gras t-shirts, and a newsstand) on the site of the existing Governor’s Hall.
Would consist of a parking area for lining up vehicles to board ferry. Add a right hand turn lane onto Maryland Ave. to encourage visitors to head downtown with informative signage. Ferry terminal building would consist of rest rooms, a ticket counter, a waiting area ad traveler services (maps, information, ATM). Include benches/park area outside for waiting and lockers for bicyclists/day trippers from the Western Shore.
Would require partnership with the State to gain access to property on the western shore with a place to dock/load a ferry, a small ticket terminal with rest rooms and vending machines, etc., and a parking area to line up cars for boarding.
Would also be a good and safe location to incorporate a bus/taxi terminal and/or park & ride. There currently is no bus service in Cambridge nor a park and ride.
Would coincide with existing grant funds to improve the bulkhead/dock/terminal area.
RATIONALE: Currently, there is only one way in and out of Cambridge and that’s US Route 50. You can’t make people stop or turn off US Route 50 if they already have a destination in mind, such as the beach. Improving the gateway will help, but providing a completely new means of arriving in Cambridge – and conveniently to both downtown and US Route 50 – is a game changer. This would bring people INTO Cambridge, as opposed to them passing through on their way elsewhere.
Approximately 24 nautical miles to points on the Western Shore to the Chesapeake Beach area with more than 1/3 of the distance on the Choptank River. It would be roughly a 2-hour excursion to cross the bay in a traffic-free, stress-free, and even fun environment.
Drivers crossing over the bridge will see the ferry coming up the Choptank and realize that Cambridge has something big going on if a ferry is transporting people and vehicles across the bay.
NOTE: I understand the Cape May – Lewes ferry buys a new ferry every 5 yrs or so. Used ferries available for approximately $750k – $1 million.
2. Relocate Dorchester General Hospital and replace with Community Center/Entertainment Venue.
Partner with the state or relevant developer to relocate Dorchester General Hospital to a location that opens up our prime waterfront property. Possibilities include the former K-Mart and Fresh ‘n’ Greens property on US Route 50 (which would be easily accessible to the public as well as emergency crews, it would show passersby an investment in infrastructure, and a state of the art facility may invite more qualified people for high level jobs, which is good for the local economy); or out on Route 16 by the psychiatric hospital where there would be more space.
Build a community center/entertainment pavilion with interesting and unique architecture (THINK: Sydney Opera House). This would not only satisfy the needs the existing Governor’s Hall fulfills, but increases the opportunities to have first class events in town which will attract visitors to Cambridge as a destination.
Rationale: All members of the community who have participated in public hearings on the development of Sailwinds have all expressed the importance of having a public-access facility for events, outdoor shows, concerts, weddings, etc. This will satisfy a big portion of what the community wants to see happen with the property.
A newly-constructed venue would be more energy efficient and green technology could help it be energy self-sufficient. The cost of maintaining the current Governor’s Hall has always been a budgetary concern.
A ferry service will help increase participation at events.
3. Commercial Wharf Area.
A. Invite boat building and maintenance-type industry to lease part of the waterfront area and take advantage of our deep harbor.
B. Adding a fuel facility would go hand in hand with industry as well as recreational and commercial boaters.
C. Dedicate part of the waterfront to recreational pursuits such as sailing excursions, boat rides, charter fishing trips, etc.
Rationale: Cambridge was built on industry based on the river and bay, and has evolved away from its commercial roots. The creation of jobs would be a boon to the city’s economy as well as place it back on the map as a worthy, energized commercial place of business.
Currently, there is no place for visitors to go for a boat ride or charter fishing trip or duck boat tour, etc.. Having these types of recreational water activities available to visitors will help make Cambridge a worthy destination as well as a fun, and well-rounded place for our existing community.
BENEFITS:
• increases tourism, shows what Cambridge has to offer
• boosts the economy, not just for the short-term, but for long-term growth, with new businesses and tax dollars as well as job creation
• makes Cambridge a worth destination, not just a place with “potential”
CONSIDERATIONS:
1. Encourage the incorporation of Green Energy & Technology.
Wind. Geothermal. Solar. An entertainment venue is expensive to operate. Providing energy for that facility as well as a transportation terminal would be smart, if energy efficient, and self-sufficient, and green. Creating its own energy would make federal and state grants accessible for construction and operation, and cut back on the funds needed to keep a facility running once operational.
2. Creates Visibility.
People see a ferry coming up the Choptank and think, “Cambridge is a big deal.” A windmill would be noticeable. An interesting venue would be visible. People will start to think that there is a reason to stop off in Cambridge. The city could market on the Western Shore to beach travelers during the summer who may not want to deal with Bay Bridge traffic and instead, take a 2 hr ferry ride and enjoy spending time with their family rather than making an often stressful drive. They arrive in Cambridge in a good mood and relaxed and ready to either check things out, or continue their journey. Can also market for daytrippers and bicyclists to come spend some time and ride around downtown, or stay at a bed & breakfast; or attend an event at the venue.
3. Long-term Legacy.
If the city partners with the state to invest in a transportation terminal – which would require approaching the state to provide a site for a small ferry terminal on the Western Shore – and assisting with the relocation of Dorchester General Hospital, it will lay the groundwork for Cambridge to become a place to visit. Currently, Cambridge lacks things for families to do, and incentives to stop and visit, aside from the retail shops and restaurants that struggle to survive in our Main Street area. We need events that are worth traveling to see; activities for families such as miniature golf, water slides, arcades, a nice cinema, and improved shopping options. But first, let’s create some jobs, get some attention, and improve access via transportation options. The rest will follow when Cambridge is perceived as a viable, vibrant community.

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