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KENT COUNTY, MARYLAND


Board of County Commissioners

February 10, 2004

The Honorable Board of License Commissioners met today with the following present: Roy W. Crow, Scott D. Livie, and William W. Pickrum, presiding.

T. Edward Robinson, County Administrator, was also in attendance.

Minutes of the previous meeting were approved.

W. Roger Williams, Treasurer, reported a balance of $3,746,211.00.


COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COMMUNITY MEETING

Margo Bailey, Mayor of Chestertown, appeared and welcomed everyone. She expressed her appreciation to the Commissioners, on behalf of the citizens of Chestertown, for scheduling evening community meetings (the second Tuesday of each month) which provides citizens the opportunity to attend the Commissioners' meetings. Approximately 6 interested persons were present, including a member of the media.


BAY BROADBAND COMMUNICATIONS

P.A.M. Schaller, Director of Economic Development, introduced Dr. Allen L. Hammond, of Queen Anne's County, Vice President of Innovation and Special Projects, World Resources Institute. Ms. Schaller invited Dr. Hammond to make a presentation about broadband technology and an introduction to his business, Bay Broadband Communications (BBC), which he shares with Timothy Lloyd, Jr. (of Kent County) who also was in attendance. The powerpoint presentation, "Wireless Internet Access," included the following information:

- How WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) Works - tiny low power radios can carry data very efficiently; small point to point antennae focus the signal, enabling long distance links; uses un-licensed spectrum (i.e. a government permit is not required); technology is evolving rapidly; no wires or cables, on or underground, are needed; involves the use of water towers and radio towers which "bounce" the signal to tiny antennae connected to homes and businesses, which are, in turn, connected by a wire to the individual's computer.

- The Benefits of Wireless Internet - potentially low cost; reach remote locations; has low environmental impact (no wires, no cables); it is robust against the forces of nature and can provide emergency back-up communications; it is very high speed Internet access, much faster in comparison with dial up, DSL, and cable.

- Public/Private Partnership Benefits - can enable Internet access in places that are not commercially viable; can lower costs; can help economic development; can reduce environmental impact and visual clutter by using existing towers; customers, therefore, will not have to bear a lot of the costs; the BBC office would be based in or right outside of Chestertown; BBC would serve all of the Eastern Shore. Dr. Hammond indicated that BBC's mission would be to offer its customers reliable service at a price and speed to meet customers' needs. He projected the Fall of 2004 as the commencement of BBC's service, perhaps sooner.

To questions posed regarding potential interference of the signal and the range of the signal, Dr. Hammond stated that the range of the signal is 30 miles and would be received, according to Dr. Hammond, by most places throughout the County. It is his company's goal to provide the service throughout Delaware, in addition to the County and its environs, and would receive signals across the Chesapeake Bay. The wireless signal would not create interference for an airport, or be affected by the signals received and sent by an airport.

Dr. Hammond added that, with the service of BBC in place, the County would no longer be dependent upon any one wireless carrier. Currently, he explained, to buy a T-1 would cost $1200 per month in the County, compared to the cost $700 per month in Baltimore. Commissioner Crow confirmed Dr. Hammond's cost-comparison by noting his own research which verifies the current disadvantage of citizens living in Kent County who must bear a significantly higher cost for wireless service than citizens living in urban centers, e.g. in Montgomery County.

Anne Livie, Director of the Local Management Board, was present and inquired as to whether or not the "new generation" of lap top computers projected will render the current generation obsolete. Dr. Hammond responded by advising that the "new generation" will supplement access, for example, from boats to marinas, and not render current access obsolete. He further described the projected range of access as a "godsend" for emergency medical and response services, such as hospitals, ambulances, fire engines, etc.

Commissioner Livie inquired about the security of the signal, citing as an example the information communicated by a bank's computers. Dr. Hammond indicated that "hot spots" (antennae that receive and send signals) are security-vulnerable and , therefore, his business would provide three levels of security: (1) computer systems would be given a unique identifier registered with the BBC; (2) the systems would require a password in order to log-on; (3) the system would require new software technology that can "scramble" the information when received by unwarranted parties.

Dr. Hammond advised that the current wireless internet access requires point to point antennae; however he noted that in 2006, the Intel company will produce "y-max" technology, available, for example, with new lap top computers which will have built-in receivers.

To Ms. Schaller's question about whether or not the BBC will look into the State's sharing agreement with its towers, Dr. Hammond assented and added that, given a public/private partnership, the BBC would not have any need to build additional towers. Ms. Schaller continued by expressing her anticipation of having BBC's service available in the County.

The Commissioners expressed their appreciation to Dr. Hammond for his presentation.


BOARD OF ELECTIONS SUPERVISORS

Memorandum was received from Florence Sutton, Director, Board of Elections, regarding procedures for assigning deputies to polling place in the County.


BOGLES WHARF PUBLIC LANDING
CLIFFS CITY PUBLIC LANDING

The Commissioners approved and signed Contract by and between the County Commissioners and Deckelman's Pile Driving for repair of the timber piers at total cost of $27,800.00.


CABLE TV

Correspondence was received from R. Thomas Worley, Area Director of Government Relations, Comcast of Delmarva, serving as Comcast's official notice of request that negotiations be commenced for the renewal of its franchise with the County that expires November 29, 2006. Comcast sent the letter in fulfillment of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 which encourages franchisors and cable operators to reach renewal agreements through informal discussion begun with an official notice.


CHESAPEAKE BAY

Mike Johnson, of Millington, appeared and expressed his support of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Restoration Fund as discussed by the Commissioners at their February 3rd meeting.

Mr. Johnson cited several of many occasions in which he has witnessed first-hand the effects of cold water algae on fish, describing what he has seen as "disgusting." He expressed his opinion that projected cost of $2.50 per month, per family is not an unreasonable burden for the public, given the significant pollution of the Bay. He further explained his belief that nutrients contribute for the most part to the pollution of the Bay, and , therefore, the Restoration Fund would be an opportunity to upgrade all of the State's water treatment plants and curtail this form of pollution.

Commissioner Crow responded by affirming that the health of the Chesapeake Bay is the responsibility of all citizens. However, he added that he would like to see a mechanism developed in this Fund that would enable the smaller water treatment systems to benefit financially from the Fund before the projected 2011 completion date for the design and construction of plant upgrades. Commissioner Crow underscored his concern that the urban areas be as responsible financially as rural areas, such as Kent County which has recently increased its water and sewer rates in order to provide the required upgrades to its water treatment plant and water and sewer systems. He also underscored his opinion that Kent County receive "its fair share" from this Fund as other counties are expected to receive in the near future. He noted that there are counties in the State that have not "stepped up to the plate" to raise their own rates, thereby making the necessary upgrades to their own systems.

Commissioner Pickrum noted that the proposed legislation will upgrade 66 water treatment plants; however, once these plants met the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), monies from the Restoration Fund will not be distributed to the struggling rural plants. He also expressed concern as to the lack of a sunset provision in the legislation in which funding generated could be applied to other systems in need. He concurred with Commissioner Crow that said monies will be directed primarily to the urban centers. He further expressed his disapproval of the projected $3 Million designated to cover the administrative costs for "the transfer of funds."

Commissioner Crow noted that there is significant pollution entering the Bay from the Susquehanna River and underscored the importance of addressing the significant pollution which, he believes, enters the Bay from the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal.

Mr. Johnson concluded his comments by indicating that he has watched "the Bay dying" for 30 years, lamenting that 95% of the oysters in the Bay are gone. He extended his appreciation to the Commissioners for taking the time to clarify for him their position regarding the Restoration Fund. The Commissioners thanked Mr. Johnson for his interest and input.

Correspondence was received from Allison Wiedeman, Technology Coordinator, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region III, Chesapeake Bay Program Office, expressing her appreciation for the Commissioners' comments on the draft document, Technical Support Document for the Identification of Chesapeake Bay Designated Uses and Attainability made during the winter 2003. Ms. Wiederman indicated that the Chesapeake Bay Program's proposed designated uses are "only a first cut to be refined further by the states who will tailor them to rivers like the Chester." Further, she wrote, "Like the State of Maryland, other states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will take the Technical Support Document information and tailor it to their own water quality standard process. The EPA does not, she explained, develop state-specific standards but must review and approve the standards that states propose. Ms. Wiederman commended the County for its "environmental stewardship" and she strongly encouraged the County to share its knowledge of the Chester River during Maryland's water quality standards development process.


CHESAPEAKE BAY GATEWAYS GRANT

A letter of support went forth for the nominations of the Geddes Piper House, Kent Museum, and Turners Creek Park, the Mainstay and the Prince Theater as Chesapeake Bay Gateway sites. As indicated in a memorandum from Gail Owings, Director of Planning and Zoning, inclusion in the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network "opens the door for technical assistance, grants, and additional marketing for these sites."


COMMUNITY CENTER

In response to questions posed by Cooky McClung, Editor, Kent County News, concerning the proposed Kent County community center, Commissioner Livie underscored that it is the intention of Phase I of the design and construction to provide the most economical use of scale and space and to provide social benefits. There has been discussion to connect the community center to the County High School's gymnasium, thereby permitting the public's access to the gym. Commissioner Livie also pointed out that the structural connection between community center and school would encourage opportunities for interaction between the students and the public. Additionally, he noted, the plans to incorporate the construction of the community center along with the renovations of the high school would save the County money.

At the request of Delegate Walkup, Commissioner Crow will meet with her on February 11 to further review plans for the proposed community center.


COUNTY OWNED PROPERTIES

The Commissioners approved and signed Agreement by and between the County Commissioners and Gwendolyn Newman for the following county owned facilities: Public Works Complex at $1,200 per month, County Government Center at $2,100 per month, and Courthouse at $1,050 per month. The contracts will commence on July 1 on a month to month basis and will terminate June 30, 2005. These contracts may be extended for an additional four years contingent upon annual satisfactory evaluations.


COUNTY ROADS

A request for assistance was received from Mr. and Mrs. William Jones, Wyble Road, relating to the flooding of their yard and area under their house. This request was relayed to the County Roads Supervisor who reported that the problem did not involve the County road. The house and property are located one and one-half feet below the grade of the road and, with the recent rain and melting snow, the flooding occurred. The County Administrator will contact the Housing and Community Development Coordinator to see if any assistance can be given.


DETENTION CENTER

Correspondence was received from Ronald L. Howell, Warden, seeking the Board's support of House Bill 54 which would provide eligibility for membership of correctional officers in the Law Enforcement Officers' Pension System (LEOPS). The Warden expressed his belief that it is long overdue for correctional officers to be afforded the same retirement options as other law enforcement officers. Additional information will be obtained and this request will be further reviewed next week.


DRAYTON RETREAT CENTER

Marci Brown, Planning Commission member, and Gail Owings, Director, Planning and Zoning, appeared. A summary of the February 5th meeting of the Planning Commission which included a report about the Commission's recommendations concerning the proposed Drayton Manor retreat/conference center. Ms. Brown indicated that John Petro and his company would like to purchase the Drayton Retreat Center from the Peninsula Conference of the Methodist Church and develop it into a retreat and conference center, to include 40 suites and accessory uses, such as a spa, a pool, and dining facility. Of the said accessory uses, all, except the dining facilities, could be made available to the general public, in addition to conference and/or retreat attendees.

Ms. Brown reported that the proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and that the Planning Commission intends to forward a favorable recommendation to the Board of Appeals that Drayton Manor be developed as proposed by John Petro (with the elimination of the proposed chapel) and will recommend a special exception for the proposal. The Planning Commission is expected to meet with the Board of Appeals on February 23rd to make its recommendation. She noted that the Planning Commission has made stipulations that there be no condominiums or timeshares included in the development, and that the conference/retreat center be organized under one corporation.

Ms. Brown also reported that the site of the proposed conference/retreat center is located in a Resource Conservation Area (RCA) and, therefore, would require a growth allocation from the Board of Commissioners. She added that this request would be the first of its kind coming from the Planning Commission to the Board. Mrs. Owings explained that there are three different ways in which a growth allocation can be determined for a site in a resource conservation district: as a least intensive development, a limited development area; and as an intensive development area. The growth allocation for the proposed conference/retreat center would represent a change from a "least intensive development" to the designation of an "intensive development area."

Ms. Brown pointed out the following financial benefits to the County which the Planning Commission projects from the proposed conference/retreat center: land taxes, room taxes, and income taxes. Citing other benefits to the County, such as an increase of business activity that would be generated by conference/retreat attendees, Ms. Brown also noted that the concept of a conference/retreat center is compatible with the designated area, given the latter's history as a site for a retreat center.

Ms. Brown indicated that many of the neighbors living in proximity to the proposed conference/retreat center have expressed their disapproval of the proposal. To Commissioner Livie's question concerning the effects of the traffic coming and going from the proposed conference/retreat center, Ms. Brown indicated that there would be a significant increase in traffic in that area, however, it would not be a steady stream of traffic all day and all evening. She expressed her opinion that it would not be likely that conference attendees would travel frequently during the course of their stay at the proposed center. Ms. Brown indicated that neighbors of the proposed center, adults and children, currently walk and bike along the surrounding roads, such as Cooper's Lane. She suggested that perhaps the County might look into providing trails and/or designated bicycle and pedestrian paths along the shoulders of the roads leading in and out of the proposed conference center. Commissioner Pickrum asked whether or not a provision for such paths and trails could be required of the developer, to which Ms. Brown responded that the Planning Commission has required an easement alongside the road that might be used for those purposes some day. Ms. Brown cited a number of examples of provisions which could be made a requirement of the developer, demonstrating to the surrounding home-owners that the that the proposed conference/retreat center is a "good neighbor."

Correspondence, directed to the Director of Planning and Zoning Administration was received from Jane E. Hukill and from David and Tracy Dougherty who wrote of their opposition to the proposed project of developing Drayton Manor into a retreat and conference center.


EARLY ACTION COMPACT (EAC)

Correspondence was received from Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, attaching a response to an inquiry which she made on behalf of the Board from Donald Welsh, Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as it relates to the air quality standard for ozone.

Mr. Welsh indicated that Kent and Queen Anne's Counties are not eligible for a deferred effective date of the nonattainment designation for the eight-hour ozone standard. He also conveyed that the Commissioners should be aware that the EPA has not signed the EAC for said counties. Mr. Welsh indicated that according to the EPA's "Protocol for Early Action Compacts Designed to Achieve and Maintain the Eight-Hour Ozone Standard," only areas that were attaining the one-hour ozone standard as of December 31, 2002 were eligible to participate in the EAC program.

Responding to Commissioner Pickrum's questions, Mrs. Owings explained that Kent County met the one-hour ozone standard, however not in time to meet the deadline with the EAC. Therefore, the EPA did not sign the contract.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The Commissioners approved the request of P.A.M. Schaller, Director of Economic Development, to attend a conference in Atlanta, Georgia, as it relates to business incubators.


HURRICANE ISABEL

Commissioner Livie inquired, on behalf of another interested party, as to whether or not a the owners of a house, damaged as a result of Hurricane Isabel, and determined to be eligible to receive funding assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), can appeal the requirement to elevate the house during its reconstruction. Mrs. Owings explained that the home-owners could apply for a flood plain variance; however, she noted that their flood insurance rates would "sky-rocket." She further explained that the elevation requirement is determined by an engineering evaluation: if the cost to repair a house damaged as a result of a natural disaster is more than 50% the value of the house in its original state, the house must be elevated as part of its reconstruction. Mrs. Owings recommended that the home-owners in question send a letter provided by structural engineer to their insurance company specifying that "this house cannot be elevated for the following reasons ... ."


KENT COUNTY BUSINESS PARK AT WORTON

Memorandum was received from P.A.M. Schaller, Director of Economic Development, advising that she scheduled a field trip for the Commissioners to go to the Hurlock Industrial Park on March 5th.


LEGAL COUNSEL

At 6:05 p.m., a motion was made by Commissioner Crow, seconded by Commissioner Livie and made unanimous by Commissioner Pickrum to go into executive session with Susanne Hayman, County Attorney, for legal counsel in accordance with State Government Article, Section 10.508 of the Annotated Code of Maryland.

Items of discussion related to an economic development project.

The executive session adjourned at 6:10 p.m.


LIBRARY

Correspondence was received from James A. Blake, President, Board of Trustees, and Gloria G. Urban, Director, both of the Kent County Public Library, seeking full funding of their Fiscal Year 2005 budget request.


PERSONNEL

At 5:55 p.m., a motion was made by Commissioner Crow, seconded by Commissioner Livie and made unanimous by Commissioner Pickrum to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters in accordance with State Government Article, Section 10.508 of the Annotated Code of Maryland.

Susanne Hayman, Human Resources Director, was also in attendance.

The executive session adjourned at 6:05 p.m.


PLANNING COMMISSION

Marci Brown, Planning Commission member, appeared and reported on the February 5th meeting of the Planning Commission. In addition to her report about the discussions concerning the proposed Drayton conference/retreat center, she reported that three other applications were reviewed. Gail Owings, Director of Planning and Zoning, was also in attendance.

One application was submitted by Chestertown Realty Co., Inc. for the development of 32 lots in Rock Hall. The houses would be served by Rock Hall's public sewer and by private wells. She indicated that the proposed houses would all be built on a little more than 10,000 square feet. To questions posed by Commissioners Livie and Crow, Ms. Brown stated that the Planning Commission has not yet received input from the Rock Hall Fire Department and cited some potential safety issues for the proposed development, such as availability of fire hydrants, and accessibility to the development by fire engines. To Commissioner Crow's question as to under whose authority is the classification "tidal wetlands" determined, Mrs. Owings advised that it is determined by "certified" companies that are contracted by, as in this case, the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a field inspection. The results of the field inspection conducted for the said Rock Hall property indicated that it is an "approved jurisdictional determination (JD)."

Discussion then ensued about an application for a zoning map amendment filed by Chris Shorter for a property owned by Enos Bontrager, adjacent to the intersection of MD Routes 292 and 298 in Still Pond, to be changed from "nonconforming use" in the village to "crossroads use." The Planning Commission concurred that there had been a mistake in zoning and agreed to submit a recommendation for approval to the Commissioners.

Ms. Brown reported that the next meeting about the Comprehensive Plan will take place in the beginning of March.


PROCLAMATION

The Commissioners approved and signed Proclamation in honor of Florence T. Dorsey's birthday on February 12 and in recognition of her dedication and commitment to her church, students and community organizations.


SHARP STREET PUBLIC LANDING

The Commissioners approved and signed Contract by and between the County Commissioners and Deckelman's Pile Driving for the removal of the existing deck, repair of the superstructure and installation of new timber decking at a cost of $138,775.00


TOURISM

A Progress Report was submitted by Bernadette Bowman, Director of the Office of Tourism Development, providing the activity and accomplishments of her office during the period of October 1, 2003 through December 31, 2003.


USTAR TRANSPORTATION

Correspondence was received from Charles C. Cawley, County Administrator, Caroline County, sent to Nancy Noonan, Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), requesting, on behalf of Caroline, Kent, and Talbot Counties, Ms. Noonan's cooperation and input in an endeavor to establish Delmarva Community Services (Dorchester County) as the operator and manager of a regional transportation system for the three said counties. The counties have requested proposals from Delmarva Community Services to provide either a regional system or three individual agreements.

In his letter, Mr. Cawley requested Ms. Noonan's assistance with working out the change in funding, such as Statewide Specialized Transportation Assistance Program (SSTAP), and the Section 5311 grant, which come from the MTA that allow USTAR to operate its current transportation program for the Counties of Caroline, Kent, and Talbot, and other funding/operating issues.

On behalf of the Board, Commissioner Pickrum expressed his appreciation to everyone for their attendance at the Community Meeting and for "seeing your government in action."


There being no further business to claim their attention, the Board adjourned to meet again on Tuesday, February 17, 2004.


THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
OF KENT COUNTY, MARYLAND


Janice F. Fletcher
Executive Assistant


Approved: William W. Pickrum, President

 

Please contact Ileana Lindstrom or Janice Fletcher at (410) 778-7435 or by e-mail with any questions or comments.




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