Public Hearings - Drayton Manor Public Hearing

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PUBLIC HEARING - January 23, 2007

Drayton Manor Public Hearing




January 23, 2007

A Public Hearing was held today at 10:00 a.m. in the County Commissioners’ Hearing Room, County Government Center, Chestertown, Maryland on application submitted by John Petro to use growth allocation for the operation of a retreat (or spa and conference center) on property known as Drayton Manor and formerly owned by the Peninsula Conference Methodist Church. The subject property is located on12651 Coopers Lane, Worton, Maryland, Third Election District.

County Commissioners, Roy Crow, Ronald Fithian, and William Pickrum were in attendance as well as Susanne Hayman, County Administrator, Thomas Yeager, County Attorney, and Amy Moredock, Environmental Planner, John Petro, applicant, and representing him were: C. Daniel Saunders, Esq., and a team of witnesses as follows: Kent Abraham, Project Designer; Check Weinkam, Environmentalist; Robert Greenlee, Fiscal Impact; Kevin Shearon, Stormwater; Glen Cook Traffic Specialist; and Craig Goodwin, Wastewater. The following persons were in attendance representing the opposition: Paul DeSantis, Esq., of the law firm of G. Macy Nelson; Jerry Smith, Ray Lokay, President of Kinnairds Point Property Owners Association; Paul Hanley, Tony Redman, representing Redman Johnston Associates, Ltd.; and Jane Hukill. There were approximately 75 interested persons in attendance as well as several members of the media.

Commissioner Crow read the Notice of Public Hearing into the record as well as Procedures for Testimony.

Correspondence dated December 17, 2004, was received from the Planning Commission advising that at its December 2, 2004 meeting the preliminary site plan for the proposed expansion of the Drayton Manor Retreat Center was reviewed. At its meeting the Planning Commission voted 4 to 1 to grant approval of the preliminary site plan with the following conditions:

-Issues related to design, parking, and environmental standards must be completed and clarified. These issues include the number, location, and interior design of the rooms; elevation of proposed buildings including the view from Coopers Lane, Drayton Landing Road, neighboring properties, and Still Pond Creek; the types and colors of materials used in each building; parking and lighting.
- Determination from the Betterton Fire Department that the department has the equipment to handle the project and review any recommendations concerning for the provision of fire and emergency services.
- The facility received approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment regarding water usage and sewerage disposal.
- Growth allocation is granted by the County Commissioners.
- Specific guidelines concerning potential day use of the facility, i.e. parking areas, hours of use, etc., are submitted as part of the final site plan.

Commissioner Crow invited Mr. Saunders to make presentation on the growth allocation application submitted by Mr. Petro.

Mr. Saunders explained that he feels it important to provide the Commissioners with the history of the Drayton Manor project and presented the following Exhibits for review:

Exhibit 1- Spiral bound submittal book (originally
submitted 4/24/06)
Exhibit 2- a. Revised Project Plan S1
b. Revised Project Plan S2
Exhibit 3- Tax Map enlargement of Drayton Manor
Exhibit 4- Historical aerial photograph
Exhibit 5- Modern aerial photograph
Exhibit 6- Draft Resolution and property description
Exhibit 7- Kent County Growth Allocation Policy
Exhibit 8- Minutes of Planning Commission Meeting (2/5/04)
Exhibit 9- Water Quality Report
Exhibit 10- Excerpts from Comprehensive Plan

Mr. Saunders then explained that the application for growth allocation is not seeking to rezone the Drayton Manor property, but is seeking to change the critical area classification. He reminded that the proposed expansion of the property is permitted under the existing zoning ordinance. Mr. Saunders stated that when the zoning ordinance was last revised in 2002, a provision was included to allow the expansion of certain existing uses. The proposed growth allocation application falls under the revised uses. He stated that the Drayton Manor project is further along in the review process than a project would normally be because the growth allocation process has been delayed. He reminded that if growth allocation is permitted, a public hearing review process will have to be completed by the Critical Area Commission to ensure that all provisions of State critical area law are satisfied. He also reminded that public hearings will be held by the Maryland Department of the Environment for a wastewater discharge permit and on ground water appropriation.

Kent Abraham, Project Designer, gave a brief description of the proposed uses for the existing buildings on the property and new buildings that are proposed. He explained that buffering will be used around the property to allow as much invisibility to the neighbors as possible. Existing buildings that will remain on the property include the manor house, the bell house, the barn, the farmhouse, and the shed. The manor house will be restored and made handicap accessible. New buildings proposed for the property will include conference centers and residential buildings.

Commissioner Crow invited the opposition to speak.

Paul DeSantis explained that he is representing approximately 120 residents who live in the Coopers Lane and Kinnairds Point area. He stated that the proposed Drayton Manor project will not resemble the religious retreat that was previously in place on the property and will be in conflict with the growth allocation policy as it relates to critical area regulations.

Ray Lokay presented a brief slide show overview of the Drayton Manor facilities using aerial photographs taken by Paul Hanley in September, 2006. Hard copies of the photos were submitted to the Commissioners for the record. Photos were shown of the current property layout and of the future property layout (using a superimposed scaled computer image) once the proposed changes are completed.

Paul Hanley stated that the proposed conference center and 40 suite hotel is not what is being built at the Drayton Manor location. He stated that based on what has been presented in site plans to date, the project appears to be a 35,000 square foot banquet facility and an 85 room hotel. He stated that the owners will be unable to find employees to accommodate the project’s proposed five star rated facility because qualified people will be unwilling to relocate to such a remote area and work for inexperienced operators. He stated the proposed room rate is three times the average being charged throughout major cities in the area. He suggested that the proposal be rejected and the developers be demanded to submit plans of all square footage including banquet, conference, sleeping, and parking areas. Mr. Hanley stated that traffic for the area needs to be studied in peak volume reports rather than studied over a 24 hour period, which has been previously been conducted on the area.

Jane Hukill read her letter of opposition into the record. Ms. Hukill explained that when homeowners of the Coopers Lane and Kinnairds Point area attempted to meet with the developers to address their concerns about scope, size, and scale, their concerns were ignored.

Tony Redman submitted a report that stated 18 findings of why the Drayton Manor project is inconsistent with the Growth Allocation policy and the Comprehensive Plan based on these findings, he feels the Growth Allocation application should be denied.

Commissioner Crow opened to the floor to remarks from the audience.

Testimony in opposition to the Drayton Manor Growth Allocation application was received from the following: Phillip Dutton, Steve Russell, Mike Auth, Courtney Sjostrom, Barbara Silverstein, Martin Stock, Clark Foster Johnson, Michael Johnson, Christine Smith, Carl Gallegos, Richard Lessons, Stuart Appel, Wally Gordon, Linda Dutton, Jerry Smith, Ray Lokay, John Caldwell, and Betty Spence.

Comments highlighted the following concerns; size, scope, and scale of the project, property values, inabilities to sell real estate in the area due to the proposed project, potential water demands, septic issues, site plan confusion, traffic, safety of residents, spot zoning, possible negative environmental impacts, a possible loss in quality of life, a lack of clarification in project proposals, excessive noise pollution, a lack of compliance with the Kent County Comprehensive Plan, possible threats to water quality, possible threats to plant and animal habitats, possible exceeding of carrying capacity to area, lack of detailed completion of environmental, fiscal, or economic impact studies, and a possible loss of Kent County heritage.

Testimony in favor of the Drayton Manor Growth Allocation application was received from the following: Lou Michael, Jenifer Donisi, Tom Stevenson, John Fedas, Michael Hanscomb, and Nancy McGuire.
Comments highlighted: fairness and due process for all, the addition of adequate venues for events and weddings to the county, the addition of appropriate businesses for Kent County, additional tourism for the county, additional economic benefits to the county, additional medium and high priced hotel rooms in the county, and additional dimensions to county projects.

The Commissioners requested clarification on the following issues related to the project:

Commissioner Fithian requested clarification for concerns about sewage runoff on the property. Craig Goodwin, presenting applicant on wastewater matters, explained that the applicant is now in the middle of a permit process. Through this process, the applicant must have an evaluation of the hydraulic capacity of the soils at the site, they must have ground water monitoring wells put in place, mounding analysis, and nitrogen balances to meet a zero impact limit established by MDE. A public hearing will be held and a detailed publication with all of this data will be made available as required by the permit process. Mr. Goodwin reported that this information has yet to be made available to the public for review. Commissioner Fithian questioned what type of system would be in place at Drayton Manor. Mr. Goodwin responded that the project would include a drift irrigation system rather than a septic system. He stated drift irrigation system and treatment will allow for superb environmental impact. If the system works properly there should be no discharge on the property.

Commissioner Crow requested clarification regarding the economic impact of the Drayton Manor project to the County. Robert Greenlee, representing the applicant on fiscal impact, reported that in July his firm completed a fiscal impact study on the project using an objective third party opinion. The study was based on the least number of rooms available for the project. His study concluded that the Drayton Manor project would allow for a 6.5 million dollar positive fiscal and net impact for the county over a twenty year period.

Commissioner Crow requested clarification regarding traffic impact for the area. Glenn Cook, representing applicant on traffic matters, reported that Mr. Petro had a traffic study conducted previously which confirmed that traffic on Coopers Lane during peak traffic times is very low. He stated that the ability of a two lane highway to handle traffic varies depending on several factors including the amount of passing zones, and directional distribution of traffic. Mr. Glenn stated that because the level of traffic is low on the roadway it currently functions at a Level A - acceptable roadway. He stated that even with the added traffic proposed by this project, the roadway would still perform at a Level A. Mr. Glenn stated that based on observation this development plan would not adversely impact the roadway.

Commissioner Fithian questioned how much control the Planning Commission would have on the design of the project if growth allocation is granted. Mr. Saunders responded that the developer has agreed to hold a 300 foot buffer that will not be developed around the property. He also stated that the final interior design of the project will be affected by any limitation factors that may arise. Mr. Saunders stated that the Planning Commission will be able to rationally control the scale and scope of the project and review the site plan. He reminded that performance standards were developed to control the impact of the project on the environment and make sure that they are pleasing to the area.

Mr. DeSantis stated that the community is fearful of the change of the property from RCA to IDA. They are also concerned with allowing this development to take place in a pristine area. He stated that the Smart Growth Policy should be used rather than placing growth in the middle of nowhere.

Amy Moredock, Environmental Planner, stated that growth allocation is only one standard in a total of 24 required to be meant in order for the Planning Commission to make site approval.

Commissioner Crow requested Jack Steinmetz, Director, Economic Development, to clarify the actions of the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) regarding the Drayton Manor Growth Allocation application. Mr. Steinmetz informed that at the EDAB’s May 3, 2006 meeting, Mr. Petro made a presentation to the Board regarding the Drayton Manor project. A motion was made by the Board to support the Drayton Manor Growth Allocation application with the suggestion that the Commissioners schedule a growth allocation meeting relating to the project. A month later, Mr. Steinmetz received correspondence from Bob Kramer stating that the concerns of many members of the community were not heard by EDAB, and requesting a chance for himself and Jerry Smith to speak before the Board. Mr. Kramer and Mr. Smith appeared at the July EDAB meeting and presented their concerns to EDAB. Mr. Steimetz reminded that at the time of the meeting there was concern over the project’s financial information and whether the growth allocation would contain a positive net influence on the county. Mr. Steinmetz took Mr. Petro’s original presentation as a full financial plan and suggested that a greater study be conducted to clarify financial information before a decision is reached. During the August meeting the EDAB held the same approval in support of the Drayton Manor Growth Allocation, with a suggestion that Commissioners require additional financial information to determine the financial viability of project. Mr. Steinmetz clarified that the Board suggested requiring additional financial information based on confusion from numbers presented in Mr. Petro’s project. Mr. Steinmetz recommended that the Commissioners approve the application for growth allocation and allow the project to return to the Planning Commission for determination of size requirements.

Mr. Steinmetz read and submitted correspondence in favor of the Growth Allocation from Jim Gillespie, Economic Development Advisory Board, for the record. Mr. Gillespie stated that the majority of the people in Kent County are in favor of the project. He also stated that the project will promote good tourism and good jobs for the county.

Commissioner Fithian requested clarification as to what plans are to take place at the waterfront area of Drayton Manor. Mr. Saunders stated that the site plan calls for a one boat dock with a maximum of five slips. He stated that there will be no access by boat to the facility and there will be no marina facility on the site.

Commissioner Fithian also requested clarification as to whether the project goes against the Kent County Comprehensive Plan. Ms. Moredock stated that there are elements of the proposal that are supported by the economic section of the comprehensive plan. She stated that she is hesitant to speak about the environmental aspect of the plan because formal reviews of the environmental impact studies have not been completed. If there are no negative environmental impacts associated with the proposal, the Comprehensive plan would also support the proposal on environmental impacts as well.

Commissioner Crow requested clarification as to whether this project could be considered spot zoning. Ms. Moredock stated that this project would not be considered spot zoning because it is taking place through the critical area regulations which are in place for intensification of use. She also added that the zoning for the property would remain the same, but the critical area classification would change.

Commissioner Crow open the floor for additional comments from the audience.

Additional Comments were received from the following:

Ray Lokay stated that he is concerned that once the critical area classification of the property has been changed to intensive development area it will suffer if Mr. Petro decides he is no longer interested in the project. He stated that there will be no way to change the property back to its original state to suit the neighborhood.

Foster Clark Johnson suggested that the Commissioners require the developer to obtain a bond for the proposed amount of the project to protect the county in the event the developer goes into bankruptcy. The Commissioners gave assurance that there would be bond requirements for this project.

Commissioner Fithian noted that bonds are required for every project that takes place in the County as part of the Land Use Ordinance.

Tony Redman commented that the jobs proposed by this project will not be consistent with the economic objective of the Comprehensive Plan. He also stated that there is no reference to conference centers being developed in the Comprehensive Plan.

Stuart Appell reiterated that there is still no understanding of whether the project will be a financial benefit to the county. He stated that the developer has yet to complete the impact studies that he promised three years ago. Mr. Appell suggested waiting until all homework has been completed and all impact studies have been conducted on the project and make a decision based on those factors.

Barbara Silverstein stated that a determination needs to be made as to whether the plan for the project is viable before the acres of land are lost to the developer.

Commissioner Pickrum stated that in terms of financial documents, the Board does not have to comply with items required by the EDAB, and can request any item it would like.

Michael Johnson stated concerns that while attending the EDAB meeting in which the application for growth allocation was approved, that there was no deductive reasoning used in the decision making process and the Comprehensive Plan was not referred to.

Closing remarks were provided by the attorneys.

Mr. DeSantis, representing the opposition, reiterated that the Kent County Growth Allocation policy does not warrant approval of the application. He stated that the project is not consistent with the surrounding community, it is his legal opinion that the proposed project is not consistent with the County Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Ordinance, or Critical Area Program, and does not reflect Smart Growth. He stated that the Critical Area Commission regulations require that Intense Development Areas are to be established in Limited Development Areas or adjacent to other Limited Development Areas. He also stated that the area should remain as a pristine area.

Mr. Saunders, representing the applicant, reiterated that the developer has no intentions of allowing any outdoor events. He stated that the Critical Area Commission does not prohibit freestanding Intense Development Area (IDA) Zones, however, they do prefer them to be in LDA’s or adjacent to other IDA’s. He stated that Kent County does have a place to put those zones and currently has 8 or 9 zones that were recently zoned IDA. He also stated that there are currently no LDA zones where this type of facility can be placed. Mr. Saunders stated that under state critical area policies it would be no stretch to change this property to an IDA. He expressed his feeling that the intent of the Comprehensive Plan is for the development of this type of industry. He added that the project has already been proven as a positive fiscal impact to the county thus far by having it placed on the property tax roll (Drayton Manor was a tax exempt entity) He does not feel this proposed project is unreasonable and that Kent County has had a need for this type of project for decades.

Mr. Saunders stated that the project has already complied with the County Growth Allocation policy and has meant 5 of the 12 requirements needed. These requirement include: clustered man made development, renovation and infill of existing structure, habitats for existing species, restoration of historic structures, and buildings that reflect the heritage of Kent County. He stated that in order to succeed the project has to be located on a breathtaking site with beautiful views.

Commissioner Crow thanked everyone for attending.

This meeting was taped for reference and adjourned at 1:43 p.m.


Janice F. Fletcher
Executive Assistant

Roy W. Crow