A final plat for a Chick-fil-A at the corner of Route 22 and Beards Hill Road, where a gas station sits, was approved 4-1 Monday night by the Aberdeen City Council. The council also enacted the city's budget for the 2014 fiscal year.
Dudley Campbell from Bay State Land Services and Joseph Uciferro with Bohler Engineering each spoke about the final revisions to the Chick-fil-A plat, which includes necessary changes addressing concerns by both the Aberdeen Fire Department and Aberdeen Police Department, as well as the Maryland State Highway Administration.
The Aberdeen Fire Department had earlier asked about the location of the nearest fire hydrant to the restaurant as well as the fire department connection that would be on the Chick-fil-A building, Uciferro said. In response, a PDF file was prepared showing the locations of the fire equipment, which he gave to Planning Director Phyllis Grover on a CD.
The police department asked how cars would line up at the restaurant's drive-through, expressing concern the line could end up extending on to Beards Hill Road. Uciferro said a traffic study had been completed, in addition to supporting plans, and have been submitted to the Maryland State Highway Administration since Route 22 is a state road.
SHA "is in a position to grant the access permit for the project," Uciferro said. The permit would involve one access point for the current gas station to be closed off in the new Chick-fil-A, Uciferro said. He gave a copy of the traffic study and a copy of a comment letter, dealing with highway and traffic concerns from the SHA dated May 28, to Grover.
The lone dissenting vote against the plan was Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young, who said she was disappointed that the traffic study was not presented to the council ahead of the meeting. Young said she remains unconvinced traffic issues won't be a problem, having voiced similar concerns in November at a preliminary presentation to the council.
"This certainly has nothing against your product or the quality of your product or whatever," Young said to Uciferro. "I just have extreme difficulty understanding how this is going to fit in there and how people are going to get in and out safely."
Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck was more reassured.
"I was the one who made the original motion that this be approved pending [state] highway approval, and they have given us that," Landbeck said. "You have met our conditions. They have met our conditions."
"They are better engineers than I. If they are ready to say it's OK, then I believe we need to accept that it's OK," Landbeck added. "I can tell you there will be problems there, but most people are smart enough to realize they could use another exit."
The council voted unanimously to approve the 2014 fiscal year budget, which will take effect July 1.
The new $15.8 million budget is significantly higher than the 2013 budget of $12.5 million, with much of the increase reflecting the $3.6 million settlement the city is receiving from the manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE that caused contamination in the city's water supply wells.
There will be no change in the real property tax rate of 68 cents per $100 of assessed value or the personal property tax rate of $1.70 per $100 of assessed value.
The council also voted unanimously to amend the fiscal year 2013 budget, with a $18,722 addition to the general fund. A grant from the state of Maryland will provide $2,076 to purchase body armor for the police department, and the state will also grant $10,000 for the city to prepare development code amendments. Contributions from other nearby municipalities will pay $6,646 for firing range maintenance.
Also part of the fiscal year 2013 budget amendment is a net increase of $76,979 to the city's Capital Projects Fund. This includes a $100,000 grant provided by the state to add a splash pad for children to play on at Festival Park and an additional state grant of $61,700 to fund school sidewalk improvements. The previous $84,721 allotted for BRAC Zone Improvement projects will be transferred to the sewer fund to pay for a sewer project on Rigdon Road.
Grover announced that the city had been awarded a $93,000 grant from the Maryland Smart Energy Communities Program. Of that amount, $35,000 will help low and moderate income families with upgrades to improve energy efficiency in their homes, Grover said.
The remaining grant money, about $57,000, will be used by the city to audit the energy usage of the city's facilities and make any necessary improvements.
Sign regulations, cameras
The council also voted unanimously to amend the city's sign regulations. The new ordinance repeals the section for signs in the Aberdeen City Code and moves it to within the city's development code.
The amendment also includes definitions and interpretations of different types of signs, terminology concerning the locations where signs can be placed, and how a sign's size is calculated according to its shape. In addition, sign permits and fees, as well as penalties for violating the regulations, are established in addition to sign maintenance procedures.
The council also voted to repeal a requirement for surveillance cameras in new developments. City Manager Douglas Miller told The Record in March that this was partially because "we never set up a central facility at the police station to view those monitors." The repeal will be effective June 23.
Recognized for receiving Miss Utility Locator Achievement Awards were Wayne Sargent and Luther Hahn, who were among 40 award winners in Maryland and the District of Columbia. The two won the awards for "having zero at-fault damages and exemplify outstanding safety practices for an entire calendar year."
Officer Ryan Clark, day shift supervisor for the APD, presented a Runner-Up Award for the Maryland Law Enforcement Challenge 2012 to Chief Henry Traber and Mayor Mike Bennett. The award was based off the number of traffic citations as well as efforts in community education, particularly in how to prevent traffic deaths.
The council also recognized Samara Miller, a graduating senior at Aberdeen High School attending the University of South Florida to study engineering this summer. Miller, the Science and Math Academy mentee of Director of Public Works Matthew Lapinsky, gave a short presentation on a project to improve water flow near an Aberdeen wellfield.
After her presentation, Miller shook hands with the mayor and council members, who praised her work. Council members also praised Lapinsky for his work with Miller, who thanked council members for the opportunity and called the experience deeply humbling.
The council will next have a business meeting/work session on Monday, June 10 at 4 p.m.; a meeting scheduled for June 17 is canceled. A planning commission work session will take place on Wednesday, June 12 at a new time of 3 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.