Recently, St. Michaels received a mailing from St. Michaels Action Committee LLC indicating voters will be approached to sign a “petition referendum” directing the town’s commissioners to conduct “a proper study” of the sewage pumping station lot on Mill Street, which SMAC contends is worth $1 million. SMAC wants the town office there, along with the police station. SMAC is pursuing a harassment suit against the town because commissioners chose Fremont Street. Thus far, the legal fees have cost taxpayers more than $50,000, and the invoice for the court hearing hasn’t yet arrived.
SMAC claims to be the beacon of transparency in St. Michaels, yet its letter is not signed with anyone’s name, just a generic email address.
The letter is entitled “The Lantern,” a reference to St. Michaels fooling the British during the War of 1812 by hanging lanterns in trees. A heartwarming story, it’s a myth as most know. The local militia put up a vigorous defense, and the attackers retreated to their barges. The lantern, however, is an appropriate metaphor for the mythical facts SMAC propounds.
If the value of the Mill Street property is what SMAC asserts, it would be the most expensive undeveloped lot per square foot in Talbot County. However, basic common sense would say that raw land with a sewage pumping station on it, multiple sewer lines coming to an apex underneath and an entrance blocked by king tides is neither appropriate for the town’s government hub nor worth $1 million.
The town’s comprehensive plan designates Fremont Street for development. The library and police station are there, as are two municipal parking lots. The town office is the logical addition. The Mill Street lot, in contrast, is in the tourist district, which is where additional tourist activity should go. And what if the town were to sell the lot to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, one of the economic anchors of St. Michaels, at a discounted price so that CBMM at no taxpayer expense can make it a parking lot for use by anyone? We’re a tourist town and a small one at that. Everything and everyone should be mutually supportive of one another and that objective, from the Motor Museum to the Maritime Museum to the town’s businesses and citizens, a concept SMAC can’t seem to comprehend.