Somerset County Economic Development Commission
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County hears A&E district support
February 14, 2018
 County hears A&E district support

City takes it up again with April 1 deadline for final application

By Richard Crumbacker

Crisfield-Somerset County Times


PRINCESS ANNE — The County Commissioners heard nothing but support for Crisfield’s application to establish and arts and entertainment district, and are anticipated to vote favorably on it next week.


Through its real property tax credits, income tax subtraction for qualified artists, and an exemption from admissions and amusement taxes, it has the potential to revitalize both uptown and downtown commercial districts, and could spark improvements to residential properties as well.


Commissioner President Randy Laird said he remembers when stores were thriving

and houses were filled with families, “and I’d like to see it happen again.”


The commissioners along with members of the City Council held a joint public hearing on Feb. 6, and the city will revisit the topic at its meeting tonight (Wednesday) while the county will accept written comments through Friday, Feb. 16.


The city’s application deadline to the Maryland State Arts Council is April 1 and if approved implementation starts July 1.


Statewide, A& E districts — when compared against estimated tax revenue losses — again showed they were economic revitalization engines, resulting in property improvements, business activity and opportunities to attract new residents.


Crisfield’s district is nearly 100 acres, along West Main Street from the armory to the City Dock, then up to the library. The Crab Bowl section of Somers Cove Marina is also included. A district is in place 10 years and then subject to renewal.


“Crisfield is ripe for this,” said Michael Day, a former Salisbury City councilman who for several years has worked to build downtown districts through initiatives like this. He said the empty buildings in particular lend themselves to redevelopment which would bring new business.


Jay Tawes, who remodeled an uptown laundromat and established Java Jay’s in the building next door which was once a doctor’s office, said this “ will be a success like you’ve never seen.” He said buildings have been vacant “too long” and this could be “a major step” for their reuse.



As chair of the Crisfield Heritage Foundation, the district also provides opportunities for the museum, and the Custom’s House now being restored by the CHF. “This is a gigantic step forward,” Mr. Tawes said.

George Friedley, a Crisfield resident and vice- chair of the Crisfield Arts & Entertainment Project, said there is a lot of space suitable for living quarters, and marketing the opportunities will be key. CAEP is currently promoting the “Have a Seat in Crisfield” Adirondack chair fundraiser, and he’s gotten former NASCAR driver Richard Petty to be a chair sponsor.


He said something must be done or someone can hang a sign at the entrance to the city saying, “ Welcome to the future ghost town of the Eastern Shore.”


While Mayor Kim Lawson and City Manager Rick Pollitt were in Annapolis speaking on behalf of changes to Crisfield’s golf cart law which would benefit Somers Cove Marina (see related story), its executive director addressed the commissioners about the A& E district. Tom Schisler said it would be another tool to market the marina as the demographics overlap.


The St. Michael’s native said he remembers when there were not a lot of shops in his Talbot County hometown, but that changed when a focus was put on revitalization.


Likewise Phil Riggin, who was involved with economic development planning, said all past strategic plans call for an emphasis on the arts in one form or another.


“A lot of local organizations compliment the A& E district,” said City Councilwoman

Charlotte Scott, and this would be “one more thing to help Crisfield move forward.”


Josh Nordstrom, a Chamber of Commerce board member, said it is supported by the chamber.


Jennifer Merritt, Crisfield’s grant administrator would serve as the part-time director of the district, something which is required. Councilman Erik Emely said even when her grant-funded position goes away, the council is unanimous in supporting the district.


The CAEP is working on obtaining its non-profit status and is raising money for marketing and salary. Bill Brown, the groups treasurer, has already obtained a $1,000 donation and is behind the Adirondack chair fundraiser. For more about that visit


Commissioner President Laird, while he made no promises, suggested CAEP could also be considered for an annual stipend through the county’s community promotions budget in the next fiscal year.

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