St. Michaels needs a change.
We need to bring people together as a Town and work as one for the betterment of the Town and its residents.
As chairman of the Town Planning Commission I helped steward the Zoning Code rewrite- a great undertaking that was long overdue. It took the better part of a year and a half with usually two work sessions a month but it was well worth the time invested. In the process, I learned a lot about how the Town runs and received great feedback from residents on issues we addressed. Things like the housing shortage we have- we adapted the Code to better fit the existing conditions in Town and made it possible for homeowners to create accessory dwelling units so we can add more housing both for working folks in town and possibly augment retirement/fixed incomes for homeowners. We addressed the short-term rental issues by limiting their presence to commercial zones and some historic watermen’s cottages. We added a new section in the Code to address design issues for new construction & additions – a lesson we learned from the Gas Station application. I recently started a parking committee staffed by two Planning Commission members and members of the community to investigate and hopefully help resolve the parking problem we have. These and many others are what I heard from town residents throughout our work.
One of the many reasons I am running for commissioner is there is a proper process for planning in the Town which was not followed by the current commissioners in buying properties that were not feasibly usable for the intended purpose. The process should have started with the professionals on the Planning Commission whose mandate is to PLAN for growth in the Town and investigate options for things like a new Town Office, Police Station, parks, etc. Unfortunately, this process was bypassed and we now have properties unsuited for what was thought to be their intended use. With my 50+ years in the design/build arena, I have learned a lot about what construction should cost and why and when something should be done. There are many things that go into the development of new properties and the town office certainly will have many. Some things, like video conferencing for example, should be addressed in the preliminary concept of any building process.
Given the current state that the pandemic has created, we must be cautious in how we move ahead in the short term as we don’t really know what the next few months or so will bring. Large capital expenditures should be put on hold for the time being until we can sort out the short-term revenue streams and look toward existing infrastructure(s) in need of repairs.
They want to spend another $200K on extending the brick sidewalks along Talbot Street this year. I love the new brick walks as much as anyone, but now is not the time to be spending that kind of money on something that does not have an immediate need – we should be looking at repairing the existing sidewalks in town that have been neglected for too long.
I want to see our commissioners work together, not against one another. I want to bring the residents of this great town into the fold and get them more involved in the process. I think we should have town hall meetings for the people in town to be able to ask questions (and get answers) and give input to the commissioners as to what they believe the town should be doing and going. We should also have some Saturday commissioner meetings so that more may attend. One thing the Zoom virtual meetings have demonstrated is that broadcasting meetings allows more to attend – many times more viewed the past few meetings than were physically attending before all of this.
I have lived in St. Michaels for 16 years and in town for 5. I have donated a great amount of my and my company’s time for projects in the town such as the installation of the flower baskets on the Honeymoon Bridge; planting hundreds of daffodil bulbs all over town; hundreds of man hours on revitalizing the Boy Scouts building that the town owns. Besides being the Chairman of the Planning Commission, I am also part of the ad hoc committee working with local restaurants & businesses to help them through this trying time. My wife, Melissa, is part of the town Parks & Recs committee and together we both love this town and are committed to helping out in any way we can. Last year, we obtained and put up the tree on the Boundary Lane property, Christmas decorations on the parks & covered bridge. I think all commissioners should be out doing more than just showing up for monthly meetings – there is a lot to be done and I want to be a big part of it.
The long-term outlook is bright for our town, we shall prevail!
Jefferson C. Knapp