Camden, Rockland entrepreneurs told not to set up shop at Snow Bowl this weekend
CAMDEN — Since snow began to cover Camden Snow Bowl slopes, Andrew Dailey, co-owner of Sidecountry Sports in Rockland, has been gearing up for the weekends when he moves his fat bike and ski demo tent to the base of the hill. This was to be the first Saturday for him at the mountain. Brian Beggarly, co-owner of the Camden restaurant Boynton-McKay, likewise was readying for this weekend at the Snow Bowl: He put 45 pounds of pork in the smoker specifically for his Cold Toes Taco stand, which he, too, sets up on the mountain, making tacos for skiers and boarders underneath a pop-up tent somewhere up on the hill.
Both men were looking forward to a busy few days at the Snow Bowl, until they received calls Thursday afternoon from Snow Bowl General Manager Landon Fake, who asked them to stand down.
It was a jolt, because Beggarly had requisitioned additional staff for his downtown restaurant so he could be at the Snow bowl. Dailey had been promising customers that new skis would be available at the mountain to test out on the trails.
They both question why a town that has been intent on energizing economic activity, and attracting more people to the municipally-owned ski mountain, suddenly shut them down.
Camden Town Manager Patricia Finnigan said Friday evening, Jan. 6, that she takes full responsibility for what happened.
“This was my fault for giving them permission on a temporary basis until they had board approvals,” said Finnegan.
Procedurally, the Camden Select Board approves food licenses, and gives permission to ventures to use or be located on town property. While business arrangements had been made between the town manager, Snow Bowl manager and the two businessmen, the Select Board had yet to weigh in.
Finnigan said the town attorney advises that the ventures are fast-food and retail, both of which require special exception approval from the Camden Zoning Board of Appeals because they are in the town’s rural recreation district. (See attached PDFs for applicable town ordinance)
She said Friday that she hoped for a swift resolution to the situation, which has resulted in numerous conversations between Camden Select Board members and Dailey and Beggarly, as well as reactions of disbelief in the community.
The ZBA could convene soon, said Finnigan, to address the matter, pending the 10-day public notice requirement for such a meeting.
The two men operate independently, but they share a similar approach in recognizing opportunities to expand their own ventures while being at the Snow Bowl, with which they both have long associations. Dailey has worked at the Snow Bowl, and has also volunteered for years there.
Beggarly, who is a snowboarder, likes to be outside as much as he likes making food, and gets a kick out of taking his kitchen on the road. At the invitation of Fake, he set up his taco stand on Saturdays during the fall at the mountain for mountain biking and trail runner events. When the mountain opened for skiers, he moved the Cold Toes Taco tent onto the hill for a few days in December.
Beggarly said earlier this season (Cold Toes Tacos opens hilltop at Camden Snow Bowl): “I learned how to snowboard in Vermont and all of the bigger mountains have these food stands and mini pubs mid-mountain where you can grab a burger and a beer so you don’t have to go all the way down the mountain when you’re hungry. In trying to think of things I could do in the wintertime, I came up with the idea of applying the food stand concept to the Snow Bowl on a smaller scale. Tacos fill you up, but aren’t too heavy, so you can keep on skiing or snowboarding. My goal is to have people get through the line in five minutes.”
The arrangement was made with Fake and Finnigan, said Beggarly, and they all agreed to be flexible in their approach.
He agreed to remit 10 percent of all his profits made at the mountain back to the Camden Snow Bowl.
Dailey does not formally exchange money with customers at his demo tent while at the mountain, and Finnigan admitted Friday that when she learned that, the situation got even grayer.
“Regarding the mobile van, which has ski equipment and bikes for the public to try out at the Snow Bowl: Even though there was no charge to try out the equipment, the use seemed to fall in a gray area of how it would be defined,” she said. “I erred on the side of caution until they could get official approval.”
Dailey said Sidecountry Sports has been offering free bike and ski demos at the mountain for three years. His Rockland-based company, which he owns with Brian Kelly, has helped build bike trails at the mountain on their own penny, and has sent one of their employees to the Snow Bowl last spring and fall to clear trails help the mountain’s effort to increase its mountain biking capacity.
Dailey said he gives $500 back to the Snow Bowl every year as a donation.
At first, Beggarly and Dailey were astounded and aggravated by the town’s order.
“Why don’t the Snow Bowl manager and town manager have the ability to make decisions in day-to-day operations,” asked Beggarly.
Dailey articulated the same thought, and questioned the sequence of events that led to the shut-out of their weekend plans.
How did the Select Board — Chairman John French, Don White, Leonard Lookner, Jim Heard and Marc Ratner — get involved with this most recent decision, they wanted to know.
Because it is a small town, several of those Select Board members are regulars at Beggarly’s restaurant. Dailey has been contacting the board members himself, and strong conversations were underway at various businesses and at the mountain since Thursday.
Dailey and Beggarly firmly agree that the matter deserves a public discussion and both plan to be at the Camden Select Board meeting Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, in the Washington Street Conference Room.
Dailey said he originally was heading to Rhode Island that day for a ski buying trip but has since changed his mind.
“I will be at that meeting,” he said, Friday afternoon.
The town’s position
The Snow Bowl is owned by the town of Camden, and although it operates under its own enterprise budget, the business of running it remains under the purview of the Select Board, and ultimately, the taxpayer.
The Snow Bowl sits within Camden’s rural recreation district, and there, fast food and retail operations must acquire special exception approval from the ZBA.
“After seeing the publicity about Cold Toes Tacos, the Select Board started getting questions about whether Cold Toes Tacos had gone through the proper approval process,” said Finnigan. “The town attorney was asked what approvals were necessary. Cold Toes Tacos was in the process of getting their food license from the town. Although the food license wasn’t approved and in place, it was moving along to be on the Select Board agenda.”
She continued: “The town attorney’s opinion was that to operate at the Snow Bowl, Cold Toes Tacos needed a food license, which they were in the process of getting, permission of the Select Board to use town property, which staff was in the process of bringing to the Select Board, and the town attorney said they needed approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals because Cold Toes Tacos is considered a fast food restaurant in the Town’s Zoning Ordinance.”
The Snow Bowl does grant concession contracts to privately-owned food and ski rental businesses annually, but the town has not considered pop-up ventures at the Snow Bowl, and with the redevelopment of the facility, encouraging new energy and ideas have been the theme there. A new committee, the Snow Bowl Four Season Advisory Committee, was formed to advance new revenue generating proposals for a taxpayer-owned facility that was $300,000 in the red last year.
But the threads of new entrepreneurial energy, municipal code and town leadership have yet to smoothly weave together.
“Some time ago, the Select Board discussed the issue of mobile or temporary vendors such as these, as well as food trucks,” said Finnigan. “At the time, it wasn’t a topic that was ripe. With these recent developments it may be time to consider a policy and possible ordinance amendments. I’m sure the Select Board will appreciate hearing from the public about this topic.”
The Select Board is community-minded, said Finnigan, and generally works with businesses and individuals to expedite approvals, “especially when it is positive for the community,” she said.
“Although the license and agreement weren’t totally in place, they were in process,” she said. “The Select Board is the decision-maker on the food license and they are the decision-maker to give permission to use town property (the Snow Bowl). However, once the town had a legal opinion that this pop-up tent vendor required approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and they would be in violation of the land use law, we couldn’t allow that. I had to tell them to cease operations until they could apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Select Board can’t override an ordinance.”
Beggarly and Dailey are accepting the decision and both are not at the mountain this weekend, but they are not dropping the initiative.
“We are playing by their rules, and we will figure out a compromise that is good for all involved,” said Dailey.
• Homage to Camden’s Big T (March 15, 2014)
• By wide margin, Camden voters approve Snow Bowl improvement bond (Nov. 5, 2013)
• Camden committee selects new parks and recreation director (Sept. 6, 2013)
• Camden considers $2 million Snow Bowl bond, ordinance amendments Nov. 5 (Sept. 4, 2014)
• Camden ready to put $2 million bond before voters (Aug. 21, 2013)
• Camden pursues federal money to help with Snow Bowl upgrade (July 10, 2013)
• Camden learns about refurbished chairlifts, woven grips and haul ropes (April 10, 2013)
• Last run for Jeff (Jan. 21, 2013)
• Stellar start to season at Camden Snow Bowl (Jan. 9, 2013)
• Camden’s Ragged Mountain loses a good friend (Nov. 7, 2012)
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