Listen to 91.7 FM Live
Mid-Shore Reader

State officials are holding talks between Cambridge city officials and members of the Cambridge Waterfront Development Inc., trying to head off lawsuits over the disputed Cambridge Harbor project.

Originally airing on WHCP 91.7fm on Wednesday 5/1/2024 during Mid-Shore Mid-Day
By News Director Jim Brady

Listen to the Mid-Shore Mid-Day Report:

Read the transcript:

As tensions over control of the Cambridge Harbor development have intensified in the last two weeks, state officials are pressing Cambridge City leaders and members of Cambridge Waterfront Development Inc. to resolve their conflicts.

State representative Tom Hutchison said he was on a cruise in the Caribbean when his phone heated up with text messages about the simmering dispute. When he returned, he organized a meeting last week with Mayor Steve Rideout, Ward 1 Commissioner Laurel Atkiss, and CWDI president Angie Hengst and board member Frank Narr.

“So I asked if the city and CWDI respectively would mind getting together to talk, and both sides thought that would be a good thing. So we just scheduled an informal meeting and we sat down with the mayor and Laurel and Angie and Frank and myself, and it gave us a great opportunity to open some dialogue and figure out how we’re going to move forward with this.

Hutchison said Jake Day, secretary of Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development, was particularly concerned about the growing conflict over Cambridge Harbor, which the state has invested with millions of dollars in grants. Hutchison said Day was pleased the sides had at least come together.

This is a big project for the state, and I had talked to Secretary Day about all of this as well, and he was concerned. So it was a good start. And probably within the next 30 days you’ll be hearing more great things coming out about the project.

Hengst said she left the meeting with a positive feeling. She said details of the talks were confidential, but she did acknowledge that CWDI has agreed to put out a request for proposals to master site developers.

That was a requirement of the 2022 property transfer agreement with the city. That agreement also states that CWDI must publicly post for 30 days summaries of all developers’ proposals, and must select a master site developer before any of the city’s donated land can be sold or transferred.

CWDI has yet to comply with those covenants, but is preparing to sell city-donated land to Yacht Maintenance Company and to a still-unannounced hotel company.

Atkiss said it remains to be seen if CWDI will address those covenants.

One thing the mayor agreed to, she said, was to wait before enacting his corporate amendments to CWDI. He originally allowed 10 days for public comment after his April 16 th announcement. But Atkiss said he has agreed to allow CWDI to consider accepting them at their May 22 meeting before he enacts them in his role as the corporate member of CWDI.

There’s a real push by the state to make sure that we come back into alignment and start working together to really make sure that everyone knows what’s going on the state and the city included, and just clear up a lot of the disagreements and lacks of clarity. So I can’t say a whole lot about what to expect next because there’s some kind of things that we both have to do in moving forward. But it was a positive meeting. A lot of discussion was had about expectations and what’s considered reasonable moving forward, and I think we’ve started a dialogue that’s going to be very healthy and very productive, which is something I know we haven’t really seen before.

There is a requirement from the state that a true RFP be issued for the second phase of this, where outside of yacht maintenance and the hotel, that’s the first phase that they’re still looking at. So for this second phase coming up, there is going to have to be a specific RFP process, and they are going to have to share that information going forward. So that’s something that I know everybody’s going to feel good about, and we should have a sigh of relief that there’s been some clarification there of what is expected there and it’s very defined, and that should give us all some insight that we haven’t had before.

Participants in the meeting said they are hopeful – but not certain – the ongoing meetings will prevent a court battle between Cambridge and CWDI. Cambridge has set aside $500,000 for the potential court case.

Tom Hutchison

I can’t predict anything in the future, but that is my objective that we can work together as partners as we all are. It’s a four-way partnership between CWDI, the city, the county, and the state, and that I believe it’s best that the parties speak to each other and we don’t do it through an expensive legal process.

In the most recent exchange, lawyers for CWDI threatened to take the city to court even before Mayor Steve Rideout announced on April 16 th his proposed changes to CWDI’s charter. His changes would make CWDI give the city access to its documents, assert the city’s right to remove appointees to the board, and make CWDI responsive to city leaders’ directions.

Responding to CWDI’s attorneys, the city’s special counsel stated that CWDI is already out of compliance with covenants of the city’s 2022 property transfer agreement when it created a holding company and transferred city property to it. Attorney Timothy Maloney gave CWDI until Friday to produce proof that it had put out a request for proposals, make their summaries public, and selected a

Rideout and Narr did not respond to requests for interviews.

This is midshore midday.