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Mid-Shore Reader

Originally airing on WHCP-FM 91.7 on Thursday April 11, 2024
by News Director Jim Brady

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Jim Brady: For nearly three years, Cambridge Waterfront Development Incorporated, or CWDI, has failed to comply with an agreement with the city of Cambridge to select a master developer for the Cambridge Harbor project and to make part of that selection process open to the public.

The 34 acre property along the Choptank River was a grant by Maryland and by Cambridge, and is considered one of the most valuable parcels in Dorchester County.

The property transfer agreement between the city and CWDI, signed in 2021, turned up in an ongoing review of public records by WHCP. The contract specifies that CWDI was to have put out a request for proposals or RFP to major site developers and disclose in public postings a summary of each respondent’s proposal for the project.

The agreement further stipulates that a master developer must be selected before CWDI can transfer any of the property conveyed by the city, approximately 12 acres.

Currently CWDI in what would be its first sale is moving to sell 2.6 acres of that property to Yacht Maintenance Company, Inc., which is owned by George Robinson, the brother-in-law of longtime CWDI board member Jeff Powell. Powell is currently interim Dorchester County manager.

Matt Leonard, executive director of CWDI and some members of its board have stated that CWDI has decided not to contract with a master developer and instead have resolved to act as the project’s master developer themselves.

There is no provision in the property transfer agreement for CWDI to do that.

This week Leonard declined a request from WHCP for a list of the developers CWDI has considered, or a summary of their project proposals. Leonard said in an email that that information is “confidential.” He referred me instead to a general news release that did not identify respondents or describe any proposals.

CWDI did not put out an RFP as called for in 2021. It did put out what CWDI called a request for expressions of interest in 2022, not only to developers, but to builders, investment firms, management companies, media and others.

Leonard told his board members that the mass email reached 4,000 inboxes. At the end of the submission, though, CWDI considered only 27 proposals to be viable. Only three of those were from major developers.

According to Leonard, none of those were chosen.

Leonard and CWDI board members maintained major developers have uniformly failed to present any plans acceptable to CWDI. But CWDI has not disclosed any plan from any developer, nor has it identified any developer who expressed interest or made a proposal.

Cambridge city manager, Tom Carroll, said he would review the matter.

Richard Zeidman, who was president of CWDI at the time of the property transfer agreement, did not respond to requests for an interview. CWD’s current president, Angie Hengst, said she was not familiar with contractual requirements in place before she joined the board last year. But she said she did talk with CWGI board members who had considered the developers.

Angie Hengst: I know we did get some interest from people that wanted to develop different parcels, and I know we got interest from people that wanted to do kind of a master developer type thing, but that did not quite fit with our community first approach.

I know Matt’s going to touch on that at our public profession next week, so he'll have some more details and information about that and why we kind of didn’t want to go with a master developer, at least right off the bat, because a lot of them weren’t looking to include as much public spaces as we knew the public wanted. Some didn’t want to have the boat ramp, which obviously is kind of a non-starter. There's lots of things that they wanted to do that didn’t jive with what we knew the community wanted.

Brady: That CWDI meeting, billed as a community update, is scheduled for 6:00 PM Thursday, April 18th at the Chesapeake Grove Intergenerational Center, 108 Chesapeake Street in Cambridge. Leonard said CWDI will answer selected questions, emailed to and received by April 15 th . CWDI is not allowing public comment at the meeting.

This is Mid-Shore Midday.

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