Sultana Offers to Buy Excess Property from Town

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Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino (L)  listens as Town Manager Bill Ingersoll describes an offer to purchase excess town property

The town of Chestertown has received an offer to purchase a vacant plot of land near the old railroad station, Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said at the June 18 meeting of the Mayor and Council.

The 1.16-acre property, which the town acquired from the Penn Central railroad when it ceased its local train service around 1980, is basically an upland wetland, Ingersoll said. The town offered it to a neighboring property owner for $5,000 at the time, but there was no interest. The town listed the lot as excess property in 2006, and now it has found a prospective buyer in Sultana Educational Foundation.

Sultana’s plan is to combine it with an adjoining 5-acre parcel owned by Washington College, for use as an educational wetland preserve for Sultana’s environmental programs for K-12 students. Architect Miles Barnard has submitted a detailed plan for the project, which will be presented to the town’s planning commission. Sultana has offered $15,000 for the lot.

Ingersoll said the property is not on the tax rolls, and that its location won’t affect the potential development of the college-owned Stepney property. “It looks pretty exciting to me,” he said. He asked the council to authorize him to go ahead with negotiations for the sale. The council voted its approval, conditional on the planning commission’s approval of the proposed use. Mayor Chris Cerino, who is employed by Sultana, recused himself.

Chestertown Recreation Commission Chair Amy Meeks

The council also heard a report from Amy Meeks, chair of the town’s Recreation Commission. Meeks gave a summary of the commission’s recent activities, including a summer film program, participation in festivals, and plans for upgrading Washington Park, for which the commission has received a Community Parks and Playgrounds grant from the state of Maryland. Also, Meeks requested permission to install a swing set in Margo Bailey Park, near the dog park enclosure. The council approved the site and the expenditure of $2,700 for the equipment. Accompanying Meeks to the meeting were new commission member James Bogden and Harold Somerville, whom Meeks asked the council to appoint to the commission.

Also at the meeting, the council approved a resolution to raise the town’s fees for building permits. Ingersoll said the current fees have been in effect since 2008, and he described the increase as “modest.” The fee rate is essentially $0.50 per square foot for new residential projects and $ 0.40 for substantial rehabilitation of an existing property. For properties larger than 3,000 square feet, the per-square-foot rate is reduced to half the usual rate for the additional area. Thus, a 3,000-square-foot new property would cost $1,500 for the permit while refurbishing a similar property would be $1,200. Smaller projects such as fences, roofs siding, or sheds come in at $75.

The complete rate list is available from town hall.

In his Mayor’s report, Cerino gave an update on work at the marina, including the installation of the first floating pier. Next step is to add the finger piers, Cerino said. Work to extend the Cannon Street pier will commence next week, with schooner Sultana out of town on its summer cruise.

Chestertown Police Chief Adrian Baker

Also at the meeting, Police Chief Adrian Baker delivered the departmental report for May, and Main Street Manager Kay MacIntosh gave a brief report on the facade improvement grants to several downtown businesses.

At the end of the meeting, Councilman David Foster reported on his research into a tax differential arrangement between the town and the county, which has been in abeyance for several years following the 2008 recession. Tax differentials, which most Maryland counties provide to their associated municipalities, are meant to compensate the towns for providing services such as police protection and street repair which the county consequently doesn’t need to pay for. The Spy will publish a full account of the discussion in an upcoming story.

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