CAMDEN – Voters will face a variety of proposed changes to town ordinances that govern zoning, storage containers and harbor mooring waiting lists when they cast ballots Nov. 5. They will also consider a request that the town float a $2 million bond to help overhaul the Camden Snow Bowl, and they may, pending engineering information, see a proposal to purchase half an acre on John Street to repurpose a problematic intersection.
At their Sept. 3 meeting, Camden Select Board members debated, joked and at times got testy with each other as they discussed the various proposals and whether or not to place them on the ballot. In particular, a debate over accessory storage containers ordinance language resulted in a split vote after Select Board members John French and Leonard Lookner agreed that not enough is being done to rectify the appearance of existing storage containers.
At issue are several instances in town where businesses are apparently using containers, like box cars, for storage.
The proposed zoning amendment defines those structures as Accessory Storage Containers. Such structures are roofed containers “placed outdoors and used for the storage of goods, materials or merchandise, which are utilized in connection with a lawful principal or accessory use of the lot.”
The term includes, but is not limited to, box cars, semi-trailers, roll-off containers, slide-off containers, railroad cars and piggy-back containers. The term does not include a garage or barn accessory to a dwelling.
“An accessory storage container is considered a structure and must meet any required setbacks from the property lines,” the proposed amendment said.
The proposed zoning amendment says that containers placed on a lot for a period of 60 days prior to November ??? [sic] 2013 may remain until replaced, moved or upgraded, unless they become unsafe or a hazard.
The proposed amendment then outlines how temporary storage containers such as those can be used. See the attached PDF above for those rules.
But both Lookner and French disagreed with their Select Board colleagues on the effectiveness of the amendment.
“There is no vendetta against any business, but we were told last year [the June zoning amendment] would give businesses the opportunity to get rid of storage containers,” said Lookner. “Now we being told those containers are legitimate, that they are structures.”
French agreed with Lookner, and said that when a zoning amendment was approved last year, the resulting expansion would help to do away with the storage units.
The proposed zoning amendment, “doesn’t do anything for trailers in place now,” he said.
In November 2012, the town voted to amend the zoning ordinance, loosening rules in some parts of Camden to allow property owners the option of going before the Zoning Board of Appeals, and possibly the Planning Board (if a site plan review is required for larger expansions) for permission to expand a building or parking footprint on lot.
It was billed as a venue to allow business owners, approximately 11 of them, to improve business.
French made a motion not to include the proposed accessory container amendment on the November ballot. That was defeated 3-2, with Select Board members Don White, Martin Cates and Jim Heard opposing the measure. Another motion was made to include the amendment on the ballot, with a flip vote.
The three in favor believe that the proposed amendment “puts teeth in the ordinance” governing such structures, and provides the code enforcement officer with more clout to regulate accessory containers.
Harbor ordinance amendments
The proposed amendments to the harbor and waterways ordinance also resulted in a divided vote, this time 4 to 1, with John French opposing the motion to include them on the Nov. 5 ballot. French specifically disagreed with a proposed mooring and float waiting list process.
The amendment asks voters to approve expanding the waiting list to include a section for “volunteers”, those who have had a mooring or float permit, but for one reason or another, no longer have a boat in the water, or other such circumstances.
The amendment says that the name of the permittee, referred to as “volunteer”, will “be entitled to priority ranking on that waiting list. As permits become available they shall be first offered to those volunteers who shall have been so ranked in reverse order of listing such that the names of the volunteers who have remained continuously on the list for the longest period of time as measured from the dated added to the list shall have right of first refusal with respect to applying for any such available permit.”
French disagrees with altering the current mooring list methodology, which is organized chronologically, according to when an individual adds his or her name to the waiting list.
Harbor committee member Sandy Welte explained to the Select Board Sept. 3 that the: “goal is to have impact on what is now a stagnated list, yo open up the use of the harbor to more folks.”
The amendments include 17 other changes, many of them housekeeping and refining definitions, which “makes our job a lot easier as an appeals board,” said Harbor Committee Chairman Gene McKeever. “We would not want Superior Court to look at a document that is flawed.”
The problem with the existing waiting list is that “it has tendency to drag on and on and on,” he said. “The working group has come up with logical way to deal with people who are hanging on in order to just hang on.”
French suggested monitoring the moorings more, “and moving people along.”
“This is a good way to move people along,” said McKeever.
French suggested distributing permit stickers.
“If there’s not a sticker, why is the boat there?” he said.
“That’s playing cop,” said McKeever. “We are trying to make it work. No matter which way you go, it’s a plus. We are just trying to make a to move it a little faster.”
French said he agreed with the other amendments contained in the harbor ordinance, just opposed the expansion of the waiting list practice.
$2 million Ragged Mountain bond
In other November ballot business, the board unanimously approved placing a $2 million bond to help fund lift and trail improvements, as well as new lodge construction, at the Camden Snow Bowl. Read about the project in depth: Snow Bowl ready to put $2 million bond before voters.
If approved, the $2 million would combine with $4.5 million in private donations and be spent at the year-round, town-owned Snow Bowl, with work beginning in 2014. The project has been in planning and fundraising phases since 2008, and proponents are now ready to advance it.
The language of the question reads as follows.
“Shall the Town:
(1) Approve a Capital Improvement Project to redevelop the facilities at Ragged Mountain, including all expenses reasonably related thereto;
(2) Accept donations in the approximate amount of Four Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($4,500,000) from the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Foundation and other sources, which donations are to be applied to the costs of the Project;
(3) Appropriate the sum of Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000) to meet the Town's share of the costs of the Project; and
(4) fund this appropriation by authorizing the Treasurer and Chair of the Select Board to issue general obligation securities of the Town of Camden, Maine, in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000), including the discretion to fix the date(s), maturity(ies), interest rates, call(s) for redemption, denomination(s), form(s) and other details of said securities, and including execution and delivery of said securities on behalf of the Town, and to provide for the sale thereof?
NOTE: The estimated total cost of the project is Six Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($6,500,000). The Town's share of the cost will be limited to the lesser of 30 percent of the actual cost of the Project or Two Million Dollars ($2,000,000). Town funds will be distributed by the Select Board in a manner which ensures that a minimum of seventy percent (70 percent) of the actual cost of the Project is funded by donations.”
“This is the final piece,” said Redevelopment Committee co-chairman Rick Knowlton, speaking to the Select Board.
So far, private fundraising has received $4.1 million in pledges. There will be another fundraiser Sept. 25 at the Waterfront Restaurant in Camden that Redevelopment Committee cochairman Robert Gordon has invited the public to attend.
Ski patroller Duncan Matlack spoke on behalf of the 30-plus ski patrol volunteers who dedicate time at the mountain, and have endorsed the project. They collectively raised $10,000 to fund one chair of the new triple chairlift, one of the major fundraising efforts for the project.
“Folks on patrol are not specifically Camden residents but they are invested,” he said. “We use it, we enjoy it. We dedicate a lot of our volunteer time there.”
Camden resident Marty Rogers said: “At one time I was known as the Mayor of the Camden Snow Bowl, boosting activity and involvement. Our kids are long gone from Snow Bowl. They are not in the area, but they still go skiing. They grew up learning how to ski, how to race, loving everything the Snow Bowl has to offer. What I saw back in the 1980s has only continued to get better.”
Camden resident Peter Gross thanked especially Gordon and Knowlton for carrying the project effort through for seven years.
“My hat is off to them,” said Gross.
Lookner said some Snow Bowl neighbors are concerned about increased summer activity at the mountain, and associated noise.
“It’s a town property and you will control it,” said Knowlton. “There is nothing in program that suggests you are giving up that right and responsibility. You have your parks and recreation committee and staff to guide you, but the rules ultimately start here.”
There will be a new place to sit 200 people, he said. But there is nothing in budget to force that to happen, and its rental is not required revenue. Opportunities exist for the new lodge to be an event center, but that’s up to the town, said Knowlton.
French commended the project and fundraising effort, but pointed out that operational costs at the mountain will continue, in addition to capital costs.
Currently, Camden has $3 million in outstanding bond debt for several projects, including Harbor Park improvements, Apollo Tannery (on Washington Street) cleanup and sewage treatment upgrades.
Knowlton said the Snow Bowl budget projects 34,000 to 35,000 skier visits a year, resulting in a $35,000 to $50,000 in surplus per year.
“The Snow Bowl is about families, about kids, about getting kids outside year-round and not discouraging that for lack of money,” he said. “That is the Snow Bowl. It is the Snow Bowl’s mission.”
“It is with a great sense of pride I bring this to a motion,” said Board Chairman Martin Cates.
The unanimous vote to place the bond on the ballot earned a loud round of applause from citizens attending the meeting.
Changes to River Business District
The last amendment to be approved for the November ballot concerns loosening zoning regulations in the River Business District to encourage multi-use of space to accommodate residential and business enterprise. The amendment proposal calls for expanding use to include “single family, two-family and multi-family dwellings, except that no residential use shall occur on a floor at street level without an equivalent area of allowed commercial, professional services, industrial, or utility uses as defined below, in a building at street level on the same lot of record.”
The Select Board unanimously approved placing the proposed amendment on the November ballot.
John Street property and fixing Conway Street intersection
The Select Board tabled making a decision of whether to put the purchase of a parcel on John Street before voters until they have reviewed preliminary engineering work.
For 30 years, the town has grappled with how to better design the intersection of Route 1, John Street, Conway Road and Camden Street. In August, two lots went on the market, and the Select Board discussed the possible use of the land in helping to resolve the intersection problems.
The land comprises one half acre and has a mobile home on it. It sits between John Street and Conway Road and the asking price is $105,000.
According to a memo to Camden Select Board from Town Manager Pat Finnigan, the town obtained a 21-day option on the John Street property due to its strategic location. The option provides time to perform due diligence and determine if the property is useful in redesigning the intersection for cars and pedestrians.
"This parcel may be useful in designing improvements to this heavily-traveled Route 1 intersection," she wrote. "As you know, Camden and Rockport received a grant to construct a sidewalk on Route 1, which will run from Quarry Hill (Camden) to Leonard's (Rockport). Before constructing the sidewalk, it is important to explore improvements to this section of Route 1."
Already, the town has instructed Town Attorney Bill Kelly to conduct title work, and hired Gorrill and Palmer traffic engineers to analyze traffic and produce preliminary design concepts, which, wrote Finnigan: “will be helpful as the Select Board and the Planning Board consider land use and traffic patterns in this area of the community. If the Select Board determines the property will be useful to acquire, you can schedule the vote for the November Town Meeting, or you can hold a Special Town Meeting before November.”
Town Manager Patricia Finnigan said the reports from Gorrill and Palmer should be on her desk by the end of next week.
Camden resident Geoff Scott asked for clarification as to how the proposal developed.
“ I am tryng to figure this out,” he said. “This doesn’t actually abut Route 1. Aren’t they a couple of house up? I don’t see the big picture. Are they coming to us or are we coming to them.”
Finnigan said the property had been listed, and the Select Board discussed it at its last August meeting.
John French said: “ We have been talking about the Conway intersection for 30 years. Maybe we have a year and a half to build the sidewalk. It would make sense to do it all together.”
The discussions are preliminary, he said.
“We took an advantage of an opportunity,” said board member Don White.” It just happened to come up for sale.”
French said he sees many young families walking along John Street, and advocated for better pedestrian safety. He suggested the design could tie into potential pathways and sewer connection designs along John Street.
“It gives the town another option,” said White. “This is an option that may make everything work in the future.”
Anita Brosius-Scott asked where the money derives from to hire the engineers and attorney.
Finnigan said there is money in the legal fund, and general fund.
Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 706-6657.