Zoning change denied, P/T City Manager Approved

By Debra Messick
Posted 4/11/24

City Council’s April 8 agenda covered a wide range, from youth opportunities, to the City Manager search, the High/Washington Sts. corner rezoning, crucial sewer overflow work, street paving, committee volunteer openings, and kudos for cost cutting lighting measures and other staff initiatives.

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Zoning change denied, P/T City Manager Approved


CAMBRIDGE - City Council’s April 8 agenda covered a wide range, from youth opportunities to the City Manager search, the High/Washington Sts. corner rezoning, crucial sewer overflow work, street paving, committee volunteer openings, and kudos for cost cutting lighting measures and other staff initiatives.

The Council Chamber’s community chairs were filled with youngsters from New Beginnings Youth and Family Service program, who were asked by Mayor Stephen Rideout to lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Invited presenter Goldie Cooper, the group's new director, then offered a brief request to Council for financial support for New Beginnings Summer Program.

Council Attorney Charles MacLeod gave the second reading for Ordinance 1233, seeking to adopt a uniform zoning measure for three properties at the key High and Washington Street intersection in the Pine Street Revitalization Area, followed by a required public hearing.

Two of the sites had been zoned as General Commercial, while one had been designated Downtown Waterfront Development District.

Current owners Quality Housing of Cambridge LLC have requested that the two GC lots be rezoned DDWD-G.

Attorney for QHC, Jesse Hammock, offered a detailed summation of the property’s zoning history, noting the views and recommendations of former Cambridge Planning Director Pat Escher, concerning the corner’s importance as a gateway to the community and downtown.

But several commissioners voiced ongoing concerns.

Ward Five’s Brian Roche expressed lingering doubt about what might be developed on the property, recalling the relatively recent proposal to build a Dollar General Store there, which was voted down.

In his reply, Hammock pointed out that DWDD zoning is more restrictive than GC, which would help safeguard much an outcome. But Roche noted that while that was the plan, the reality was sometimes different.

Ward One’s Laurel Atkiss noted the importance of considering pedestrian safety in the area, especially with the area’s strong residential makeup.

President Lajan Cephas of Ward Two raised the question of whether the zoning of the three parcels in question, originally owned by an African American family who had long used it as a school bus lot for their transportation business, had resulted from a mistake or intentionally set up to make development more difficult.

Cephas recommended delaying a vote on the rezoning, waiting instead until after the city’s upcoming Comprehensive Plan review, adding that the matter should be investigated.

Hammock replied that though such racially motivated discriminatory practices may have taken place at times, in this instance there was no factual evidence to support such a conclusion.

Ward Four representative Sputty Cephas supported looking into whether there might be zoning designations preferable to DWDD-G or CG.

While Council voted 3-2 against the rezoning request, it approved the recommendation from departing City Manager Tom Carroll to hire new manager search director David Deutsch as acting part-time city manager until a full time replacement is found.

President Cephas then asked Carroll about the possibility of his donating some DNA to guarantee a successor as well qualified.

Carroll also offered an update from Project Engineer George Hyde on the West End area sewer replacement project made possible by a $500,000 EPA grant.

Intended to reduce or eliminate routine sanitary sewer overflows violating the Clean Water Act, the project “will have significant environmental benefits to residents and the mighty Choptank River,” the written Hyde update concluded.

Contractor David A. Bramble, Inc. expects to have materials in place to begin construction on the nine-month long project by April 29. Work will start at the Choptank/Hambrooks Ave. intersection and proceed westerly along Hambrooks Avenue.

Notices will be mailed to residents along the work route explaining what to expect during construction and providing contact information to answer questions or concerns, Hyde’s update advised.

The Bramble company was also on tap for the street repaving of 17 road surfaces, tentatively scheduled from April 8-16, according to City Engineer Carl “Bucky” Jackson.

Director of Administrative Services Ina Holden reported on the upcoming second year for the city’s Portia Johnson Ennels Youth Internship Program, expanded from eight to 10 weeks, from June 17 to Aug. 23.

The internship pays $15 per hour, offers a range of work-related experience opportunities, and is totally funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) through 2027 at $75,000 annually.

Applications for the program, open primarily to Cambridge residents between 16 and 23 years old, are available at 410 Academy Street, Cambridge or choosecambridge.com, and will be accepted until 4 p.m. April 19.

According to Tynesia Johnson, executive assistant to Carroll, the city still seeks volunteers to serve on committees including the Board of Appeals, Ethics Commission, and Police Advisory Board.

Agenda packet notes also included statements from Carroll commending Public Works Superintendent Jason Segar, who saved the city an estimated $128, 617 by obtaining grants to convert interior lighting in seven buildings to LED.

The city is also investing “where practical” in hybrid and electric vehicles, Carroll said.

He also praised the work of Special Projects Coordinator Lynne Widli and other staffers who worked to have Cambridge receive certification as a Sustainable Community, allowing the city to remain eligible for several streams of revitalization funding.

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