EXCLUSIVE: Phyllis Kilby Venture on County Board Hot Seat

September 19, 2008

     Former Cecil County Commissioner Phyllis Kilby and her family business enterprises are on the hot seat before the county Board of Appeals this week.  

     The case involves “Kilby Cream,” which Mrs. Kilby bills as an ice cream parlor located on land owned by Kilbys, Inc., of which she is the long-term President.  The case relates to an enterprise established, and subject to county government review and decisions, while Mrs. Kilby was still a County Commissioner.

   The case (File #3423) involves an attempt by the Kilbys and their Kilby Cream facility in Rising Sun (at 129 Strohmaier Lane) to overturn a recent decision by county zoning administrators that, instead of just an ice cream parlor selling farm-churned ice cream made from milk produced on that farm, the Kilbys are in fact operating a full service restaurant and thus need a special exception under zoning rules for the NAR (Northern Agricultural) farm protection area. . (All zoning issues relate to the actual property owner– in this case, Kilbys, Inc.  Kilby Cream is a separate company that uses/leases –or whatever– the land. Phyllis Kilby is also an officer of Kilby Cream, according to state and federal records.)

(The case is slated to be heard Tuesday, Sept. 23 at a lengthy session beginning at 7 p.m. in the Senior Services Dining Room, 1st floor, County Administration Bldg, 200 Chesapeake Blvd., Elkton. The Kilby item is last on the agenda, which notes some items may be delayed until Thursday.  Cecil Times will update you on the schedule.)

   Ads placed in the Cecil Whig indicate Kilby Cream is offering sandwiches, wraps, salads and other foods apart from ice cream. (One might wonder if Mrs. Kilby is growing wheat, grinding flour, and baking the bread and wraps on the farm.)

   The review of the Kilby operation is better late than never. In fact, county agencies warned the Kilbys when they first planned their facility that they needed to address zoning issues. Documents obtained under the Maryland Public Records Act show the Kilbys were advised by the Cecil County Planning Department on 1/30/04 that the proposed facility would require “an application for rezoning.”  No such application was filed nor were public hearings held.

     Instead, a few months later– while Phyllis Kilby was still a Commissioner– a zoning certificate was suddenly marked as approved by Zoning Administrator Cliff Houston on 8/18/04, citing code provisions and assurances that the facility would be selling retail items derived “51 percent” from agricultural products produced on that farm. (Phyllis Kilby signed the zoning certificate on 10/26/04.)

      However, there was then no proof of a functional milking parlor to provide a direct linkage between milk and ice cream produced at that site. [Visitors to the Rising Sun site tell us that there are a few old cows wandering around and some baby calves for a petting zoo but no signs of actual milk production there.]

   Does it take a rocket scientist—or zoning guru—to wonder if the milk is being trucked in from another location? Why not use milk from New Jersey? That is not what the zoning code, and the commendable push for local ‘value added” agriculture, envisions. A full service restaurant might or might not be a good thing at this spot in the NAR zone. But the point is all about applying zoning rules fairly, even to then-current and now former Commissioners.




  This is not the first time the Kilbys have turned to the Board of Appeals to try to get their way around zoning laws that apply to others. Several years ago, while Mrs. Kilby was still a County Commissioner, the Kilbys tried to get permission to erect a large sign to advertise their venture. That application (File #3134) by Kilby’s, Inc. was for a variance to place a 42-square foot sign on Hopewell Road. That significantly exceeded signage rules in the NAR zone under the county code—which limited business signs to 12 square feet in such areas. (See Sec. 270-151, county code)

    The Kilby sign would have even exceeded the 40-square foot maximum allowed in the Business Local zone. And, in a stunning display of gall (or call it chutzpah), the Kilby sign would have exceeded the 32-square foot limits placed on signs for churches in all zones, under legislation approved by the Cecil County Board of Commissioners on 8/20/02.  While wearing her County Commissioner hat, Mrs. Kilby voted to limit church signs. (See minutes of commissioner’s meeting, 8/20/02)

   A brave soul, with whom we are well acquainted, testified at a Board of Appeals hearing and brought out these facts. Board members suddenly became nervous about treating the Kilbys as though they were more important than churches or even God. A few members suggested giving the Kilbys the same size sign as churches. But the board attorney noted they had to vote up or down on the application that was before them. So the Board rejected the Kilby sign, with the  implication from some members that if they just came back with an equal-to-God sign all would be well. (The Whig did NOT cover this Board of Appeals meeting.)

   Our friend the brave soul then wrote to The Whig and, after much hemming and hawing, editors published it and did a follow up article. The big sign was then dead.









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