City leaders welcome new attorney, discuss solar project, reject food truck ordinance
CAMBRIDGE — The Cambridge City Council was offered plenty of food for thought Monday, May 8.
The council considered grant applications, welcomed a new city attorney, heard a report from the director of Public Works, talked food trucks, and introduced a number of ordinances during its Monday work session and regular meeting.
In the early work session, the council heard from City Manager Sandra Tripp-Jones and others about more than 20 grant opportunities that might be worth pursuing.
“Grants take time to write. We can’t pursue them all,” Ms. Tripp-Jones said during the work session. “We have a fairly good record of grant awards. A good rate of success is 25 percent on grants.”
Following the presentation, the city manager said that six of the grant opportunities should be prioritized, some because of deadlines that are fast approaching. Late in the regular session, the council voted 5-0 to go after those grants.
Following the vote, city staff is now tasked with grant submission for the Pine Street Area Low-Income Homeowner Housing Rehabilitation program, with potential to receive $250,000 from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development — Community Development Block Grant; A DHCD-CDBG grant of $275,000 for drainage repair; a DHCD Community Legacy grant of $100,000 for the Facade Improvement Project; a DHCD Community Legacy grant of $350,000 to build a sidewalk along one side of Leonard Lane; a $7,500 DHCD Community Legacy grant for retractable bollards for downtown street closures; and a $200,000 Maryland Highway Administration Safe Routes to Schools grant for Bayly Road safety improvements.
Before the grant vote, when the regular session began, Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley welcomed Chip MacLeod as the new city attorney.
“Before I continue with the meeting, I want to take the personal privilege to welcome our new City Attorney Mr. Chip MacLeod,” the mayor said. “Please give him a big round of applause.”
The small gathering of community members and city officials clapped for the new attorney.
Mr. MacLeod joked, “by attorney standards, that was overwhelming,” as those in attendance chuckled. Then the council got down to business.
The council voted to grant $6,000 to the Healthy Waters Round Table which is made up of Eastern Shore counties and some of its municipalities. The $6,000 will enable the city to maintain a seat with the round table and will help the group receive future grants to address clean water issues and the Chesapeake Bay.
Later in the meeting, the council introduced a number of ordinances that will be further discussed in public hearings during the May 22 meeting.
The council approved the introduction of Ordinance No. 1099 which amends Section 9.2 to clarify or define ground floor retail, kitchens, food trucks, duplex units and more. The council voted to introduce Ordinance No. 1101, a text amendment to allow a pub and associated micro-brewery and distillery as a permitted use in the Downtown Waterfront Development District.
The council then voted to approve the introduction of two ordinances, No. 1102 and No. 1103, related to a potential utility-scale solar project on Egypt Road. Ordinance No. 1102 would allow solar energy systems in the Resource Conservation District, amend permitted land use to allow small systems in the city, and add conditions for solar facilities. Ordinance No. 1103 would rezone two parcels of land on Egypt Road from residential to Resource Conservation to make up for a past oversight.
The city council voted 3-2 to reject introduction of Ordinance No. 1100, which defines how food trucks can be used in Cambridge. Currently, city code is silent on food trucks, though their use is allowed.
“Easton and Salisbury prohibit food trucks altogether,” Ms. Tripp-Jones said, “so we’re trying to get ahead of the curve and be pro-actively supporting them, so that they can come here and know under what circumstances they can be here. We did have concerns from some restaurant owners that they didn’t want to see food trucks parked on Poplar or on Race in front of their businesses.”
Commissioner La-Shon Foster raised concerns that the ordinance would affect ice cream trucks which are always on the move. The ordinance allows ice cream trucks to operate on the go. The code would not allow food trucks to park on city streets. Commissioner Donald Sydnor said that he knows of a food truck that parks on city streets. The ordinance would shut that food truck down.
The council also heard a budget presentation from Oden Wheeler, director of Public Works. Mr. Wheeler detailed the many services offered through Public Works, department structures, and related costs. The city council will hold another public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. Monday.