CAMDEN — The 77-acre municipally-owned Sagamore Farm property on the northern edge of Camden has been surveyed, and the town is now ready to invite expressions of interest from developers. While the goal is to invite ideas, the Camden Select Board has maintained that the town will go slowly in reviewing and considering any proposal.
So far, and even before the official request for expressions of interest is circulated, there have been three or four inquiries from private parties about the land; most recently, Rockland resident Michael Mullins sent a letter to Camden’s Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin, proposing to move the former Hedges Hall (Ginley Hall) at the former Northport Point Lookout conference center, rebuild it at Sagamore Farm, and use it as an event facility.
But the ideas are just that, and Martin is now circulating Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) following Select Board approval Oct. 20 at at regularly scheduled meeting. The invitation reads:
Town of Camden Sagamore Farm Property Request for Interest
The Town of Camden, Maine is accepting expressions of interest for the acquisition and development of what is known locally as Sagamore Farm. The subject property is a town-owned 77 +/- acre parcel, located on Route 1 just over one mile north of downtown Camden. The property is adjacent to Camden Hills State Park and the Mount Battie Auto Road. The property is currently undeveloped with the exception of a .5-acre municipal 122.85 kW solar array, as well as nearly 2.5 miles of primitive single-track trails suitable for hiking, mountain-biking and cross-country skiing.
The parcel (Map 221 Lot 005-000) is zoned Rural 1 District (RU1), which allows for single-family dwellings and open space residential developments, while generally limiting other more intensive uses. However, if a developer or interested party proposes and designs a development that is not consistent with the current zoning of the property, but one that is deemed to be a benefit to the Town and is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, the Town would be willing to entertain zoning ordinance and/or zoning map amendments to facilitate such a development. The Town in no way desires to limit professional and creative input, and is eager to entertain a variety of uses.
As mentioned above, the property is developed with primitive trails, and any development proposed should provide for and accommodate the continued use of the existing trails. Where necessary a developer may propose to reroute certain trails to facilitate development of the project. Continued public access to these existing or rerouted trails via a public access easement will be required. The site is served by public water and high-speed internet. Access to the site is provided for via Sagamore Farm Road. The Town does have an access easement over an abutting property to install, service and maintain the solar farm.
Letters or expressions of interest should be submitted digitally to Jeremy P. Martin, Planning and Development Director at email@example.com. and received by __________ 2020. Questions can be directed to Mr. Martin at the above email or by phone at 207-236-5535 ext. 7103. Supporting documentation (survey, traffic study etc.) that may assist developers or interested parties can be found on the town’s websit
Sagamore Farm interest
In August, Martin told the Select Board that three developers had approached the town about developing the land. He said then that all three entities are aware of existing bike and recreational trails there, and all three would take full advantage of those trails in any development,, adding that the town would establish public easements for the trails.
At that point, the board directed Martin to complete a land survey of the parcel, which abuts Camden Hills State Park, before proceeding with an REOI.
Since then, Gartley and Dorksy Engineering and Surveying, in Rockport, finished the survey, noting boundaries of the Sagamore Farm Road that accesses the property from Route 1, and the proximity of the Mt. Battie access road, as owned by the State of Maine in the Camden Hills State Park.
The town had already commissioned a traffic study, completed in 2019, which indicated that evening peak hours of traffic occurs between 3:30 and 4:30 on Route 1, with a combined volume of 558 vehicles traveling that section of road near the Camden Hills State Park entrance.
The property survey also noted municipal lease areas marked for Verizon Wireless (written in 2008), which wanted to erect a tower there more than a decade ago, and the area where a municipal solar array currently sits.
But to Select Board member Alison McKellar, more assessment of the land is necessary to better delineate where vernal pools and wetlands exist.
She anticipated concerns about vernal pools and wetlands.
Martin responded that the survey as conducted answers questions about the “meets and bounds” of the property.
McKellar said: “I was expecting a more extensive survey about delineation of wetlands.”
She suggested getting a price for an additional wetlands map, to be requisitioned by the town.
“My gut reaction is to do it as a town and not leave it up to later squabbling,” McKellar said.
“Good questions,” said Martin. “I will reach out to Gartley and Dorksy and see what the cost will be.”
He said that filling wetlands is common in Maine, but the environmental significance of vernal pools elevates any wetlands alteration plans.
After some discussion, the board agreed to issue the REOI and to pursue a wetlands study.
Town Manager Audra Caler pointed out that REIOs are “higher level conceptual idea presentations,” that provide the conversation starters.
“I’m fine with putting it out there and starting to accept expressions of interest,” said McKellar. “Maybe there are things that people want to do that doesn’t really matter [tp the wetlands].”
But, she added, “It is important to me that we aren’t just looking to something that meets minimum environmental standards.”
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