Letter to editor: The big picture and Fox Hill

Posted:  Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 11:45am
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We have been reading the letters written both in favor of and in opposition to the proposed amendment that would change Camden's Coastal Residential zoning district to allow a substance abuse treatment center to operate on the Fox Hill property on Bay View Street.

The topic of substance abuse is heartbreaking. We are sympathetic to the people who battle addiction and their stories are certainly heartwrenching. But we need to be clear about the actual issue before us, which is the proposal to convert residential property into commercial property.

We have a particular interest in this issue because this property actually is IMBY. However, allowing a zoning amendment to convert a residential piece of property into a commercial property is something that each resident of Camden should think long and hard about: How would you feel if this were to happen IYBY? Because allowing this amendment will set a dangerous precedent for residential properties throughout our town.

Simply put, the town has a large amount of property specifically zoned for business operation. And that's where the proponents of this facility should be looking to invest. When one purchases a home in a residential neighborhood it is with a clear understanding of what is—and is not—allowed to exist in that zone. It is very clearly spelled out in our zoning ordinance. To make a change to that zone, with no compelling reason other than the property is unusual and difficult to sell, the town is breaking a trust made to its taxpaying residents.

And we have to question why the investors did not first secure this amendment before investing in Fox Hill. It seems a bold assumption to make. The Fox Hill property is lavishly built and not affordable for most home buyers. But since the original Borden Cottage was built in 1903 it has been a well-loved home, and could be once again. If the proponents of the project claim that the property languished on the market for too long and was unsalable, then do we extend the same courtesy to every other property owner in town—in every price range? Should everyone having trouble selling their home apply for a change from residential to business zoning status to make it more salable?

Some of the commentary in the press has referred to the resistance to this project as coming from "a couple of neighbors." Please visit www.responsiblezoning.com and look at the Coalition page. There are more than 100 names signed on so far in opposition, clearly reaching out beyond the immediate neighborhood. You may even find your own neighbors' names listed there.

Faith and David Hague live in Camden.