After hearing is closed, then board discussion, and then... a decision?

Camden Planning Board wraps up Fox Hill public hearings tonight

Thu, 12/12/2013 - 2:15am

    CAMDEN — Barring more hours of public opinion and new information, the Camden Planning Board will deliberate this evening the merits of a proposed zoning amendment that would, if approved by voters, enable the application for an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility on Bay View Street. On Dec. 5, the Camden Planning Board spent an hour discussing the process by which it would follow at tonight’s meeting, and their own conduct as members of a quasi-judicial board. At that same Dec. 5 they also debated who has standing to talk for and against the issue, and in the end, agreed anyone who wanted to make a comment could — as long as the information or opinion delivered was not rehashing statements already made.

    The property includes the 60,000-plus square-foot historic Borden Cottage, which has been expanded and developed over the past decades into what is now the Fox Hill estate.

    While those close to the project’s brief and contentious history informally wager on whether the Planning Board will vote to send the amendment to the Select Board, the Planning Board members are being judicious in their comments. Even during a five minute break at their Nov. 20 four-hour public hearing, members did not mingle with the public; instead, they slipped away behind stage. They will do that again tonight, they all agreed.

    Watch the Oct. 17 informational meeting.

    Watch the Nov. 20 public hearing

    The proposed amendment adjusts the town’s Coastal Residential zone parameters to allow special exceptions for “residential treatment facilities for comprehensive alcohol and related substance abuse disorders providing concurrent treatment for addiction and/or other associated psychiatric disorders.”

    It is an amendment proposed by Fox Hill Real Estate LLC, working in conjunction with McLean Hospital, of Massachusetts, to establish a high-end rehabilitation center that would serve 8 to 12 clients over a given period.

    The Planning Board’s current task is to evaluate the language of the proposed ordinance amendment, determine if it is in conflict with the town’s comprehensive plan, and decide whether to move it forward to the Select Board. Board members have the option of voting against sending it forward, if they determine it is not a special exception appropriate for the town’s Coastal Residential zones.

    If they do send it to the Select Board, they are supporting that the voters should have a say in whether the amendment fits the zones.

    In either case, Planning Board members will each spell out their reasoning for their votes, said Wilson.

    If the amendment eventually does appear before Camden voters, and the town approves, the doors are then open for the Fox Hill project proponents to apply for a special exception from the Camden Zoning Board of Appeals. If the ZBA says yes, then proponents are then able to submit a site plan review application to the Planning Board. It is only the result of that second process that determines whether Fox Hill is allowed to become a treatment center.

    And then, even if the Planning Board approves the project, it may not be over. Opponents may appeal the ZBA’s decision to Knox County Superior Court. And if the ZBA upholds the Planning Board decision, opponents could take the issue to the Knox County Superior Court, and possibly on to the state’s highest court, the Law Court. The same process holds for the project proponents, if their site plan application is denied.

    The Dec. 12 agenda has been set, and the Planning Board will allow time at that public hearing for more presentations from proponents or opponents if there is new information to be added to the public record. If not, they will shut down the public portion of the public hearing, and commence their own deliberations. The Planning Board met Dec. 5 to continue its discussion of a proposed Camden Harbor pier. At that meeting, the board will talked about meeting procedure for Dec. 12, Wilson said.

    At the Dec. 12 meeting, the board will hear:

    • Comments and questions from the Planning Board (held over from Nov. 20)
    • Comments by the applicant's attorneys
    • Comments by the opposition's attorneys
    • First round of public comment
    • Video comment (if scheduled per policy)
    • Planning Board questions
    • Second round of public comment – new comments only
    • Closing remarks by opposition's attorney
    • Closing remarks by applicant's attorney
    • Final Planning Board questions, discussion and vote (time allowing)

     “Public comment is encouraged and welcomed, but please confine all comments to the language of the ordinance change and how those changes are supported or not supported by the Comprehensive Plan and the Camden Zoning Ordinance,” the agenda said. “Public comments shall be limited to ‘new’ comments and facts only.  Comments, facts, and opinions offered at the Nov. 20 meeting need not be made again.”

    Wilson said the board also has the option of continuing discussions to another date.

    “If they come to a point in the discussions and they don’t feel like voting, they can resume later,” he said.

    At the Dec. 5 meeting, the board spent considerable time discussing the merits of allowing people to speak at the hearings who are not from Camden. Members John Scholz and Richard Bernhard questioned protocol for allowing taxpaying voters and residents as opposed to non-residents to deliver their comments for the record. Other members and Wilson said anyone who wants to weigh in, should be allowed to.


    Nov. 20 Public Hearing

    At the Nov. 20 meeting, and at prior meetings, citizens have urged the Planning Board to move the issue along to voters. Likewise, there has equal urging board members to kill the proposal while it is in their hands. The division between opponents and proponents were even more pronounced at the most recent public hearing, where they tended to sit together on either side of the Camden Opera House. Those strongly opposed attached “No Spot Zoning” buttons to their lapels.

    Opponents have said the Fox Hill center would be nothing more than an scheme from which the 24 investors of Fox Hill Real Estate would gain profit. They have told Planning Board members that there are the first line of defense against the scheme and that it is their responsibility to protect the town. They argue that the amendment is spot zoning, and cite the integrity of the town’s comprehensive plan.

    Wilson said Dec. 2 that technically, the special exception request does not constitute “spot” or contract zoning because conceivably two properties in the Coastal Residential zones have the possibility of being affected by the amendment: Fox Hill and a parcel on the Belfast Road, north of Camden Village.

    Proponents say such a rehab center, along with its association with the highly-regarded McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, will only benefit the local economy with the creation of jobs, and spin-off business. They also say that the focus on wellness and opportunities derived from McLean’s presence in the community will help the region’s addiction, drug and alcohol problems.

    As citizens from both camps spoke almost equally in favor or opposed to the project at the Nov. 20 hearing, Planning Board Chairman Sargent worked to keep them on track and sticking their commentary to the ordinance language itself, or the amendment’s association with the comprehensive plan.

    When they strayed into the business or merits of drug and alcohol treatment, or the financials of Fox Hill Real Estate, they were set back on course. On occasion, Attorney Rendle Jones, who represents opponents Leonard and Madlyn Abramson, raised objections to the focus of the comments.

    Also speaking at the meeting in support of the project was a Princeton, Mass., planning board member. That town is home to Fernside, McLean Hospital’s treatment facility that resembles what is proposed for Camden.

    By the end of the meeting, themes were clarified even more. Those opposed either did not want any such project in the Bay View neighborhood, or the Coastal Residential zone, or they simply were not in favor amending the zoning ordinance for anything. Those in favor highlighted the project’s potential for boosting the local economy and creating jobs, and creating a ripple effect of wellness opportunities throughout the larger community.

    Fox Hill project

    Project proponents want to turn the 13.8-acre Fox Hill estate at 235 Bay View Street into a high-end residential alcohol and substance abuse treatment facility for up to 12 clients at a time, each paying approximately $60,000 for four to five weeks of treatment.

    Owners of the estate, Fox Hill Real Estate LLC (24 investors, including Lincolnville summer resident Tom Rodman and Rockport summer resident Merril Halpern), hope to team up with the Massachusetts-based McLean Hospital to establish the facility in the former Borden Cottage that sits on a hill overlooking Penobscot Bay.

    Rodman has said the other 22 investors are family and friends; “no Wall Street sharks,” he said.

    Other investors who have been named include Bob Campbell, of Rockport; Betty and Scott Harris, of N.H.; and George Rodman, of Maryland.

    Philip Levendusky, associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and senior vice president for business development and marketing, as well as director of the psychology department at McLean Hospital, is representing the nonprofit that would operate the facility.

    The business deal between the for-profit Fox Hill Real Estate LLC and the nonprofit McLean Hospital, which would lease the property, is contingent on local zoning and site plan approval, as well as state regulatory approval.

    The first step is for the planning board to vote to send the proposed amendment on to the Camden Select Board for its consideration. The Select Board is the body that ultimately decides whether to put the amendment on the ballot.

    The amendment would adjust the town’s coastal residential parameters to allow special exceptions for “residential treatment facilities for comprehensive alcohol and related substance abuse disorders providing concurrent treatment for addiction and/or other associated psychiatric disorders.”

    If approved by voters, the project proponents would then need to submit an application for a site plan review by the planning board. It is only the result of that second process that determines whether Fox Hill is allowed to become a treatment center.

    And then there is an appeals process, as well, which could send any application approval to the town’s zoning board of appeals.

    Occupying the middle front seats sat Fox Hill Real Estate LLC members, their attorneys, and the attorneys for neighbors who oppose the project.

    The town, meanwhile, remains focused on its own due diligence as the planning board gets closer to voting whether or not to recommend that the amendment be sent onto the Camden Select Board. The Planning Board has been reviewing and making suggestions on language in the proposed amendment since Fox Hill Real Estate LLC approached the town at the end of July.

    Wilson has set up a public dropbox where all the letters, memos, legal documents and opinions are collected and available for review.

    Read the proposed amendment here with its most recent language changes, Oct. 30.

    Camden Attorney Paul Gibbons, who represents project proponents Fox Hill Real Estate LLC, spoke soon after 5 p.m., standing at the podium and telling the public: “This is not a zone change. We are not trying to change the entire zone.”

    The proposal is to add, “a special exception to the list of special exceptions in this zone,” he said.

    The bones of contention between project proponents and opponents rest on the debate of whether such an alcohol treatment center is a hospital or a residential treatment facility; whether it fits with the zoning intentions and community vision laid out in the 2005 Camden Comprehensive Plan; and whether it will disrupt the neighborhood and nearby streets of Bay View and Chestnut with too much traffic, commercial activity and paparazzi.

    According to Gibbons, the needs of a Fox Hill rehab facility patients and the immediate neighborhood are common: that the area remain private, quiet, safe and serene, and the setting be elegant.

    “They need a place that is serene,” he said. “The needs are the same. That tells the story of whether it will fit in or not.”

    The options for the neighborhood under current zoning include real estate development, day cares and golf courses. The minimum stay for clients, 8 to 14 of them at any one time, would be 21 days, said Gibbons. The facility would not provide out-patient services. Clients would have no cars.

    “Once they are there, they are there for the duration,” said Gibbons.

    Vehicular traffic would be generated by staff and deliveries to the facility.

     Traffic would be less than that generated by real estate development, day care centers or golf courses, he said.

     The facility would preserve open space, historic buildings and the beauty of neighborhood, he said. It would help keep Camden alive financially, culturally and intellectually, especially during the winter months in a neighborhood where most of the houses are seasonal.

    “It will keep people employed,” said Gibbons, and be a consistent contribution to the local economy.

    “We are doing something that the future growth of Camden needs,” he said. “We are contributing to the economy, provding high quality jobs. That is not ot easy to do in a town of 3,000 to 4,000 people.”

    In that sense, the project is consistent with the comprehensive plan, he said.

     There will be no further buildings, no change in outward appearance,” Gibbons said.

    He added that with any other type of development, especially real estate, there would be such change.

    Speaking for the opponents, Camden Attorney Rendle Jones spoke about the Camden Comprehensive Plan, the zoning ordinance and the planning board’s role. Jones said he had been chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Committee in 1988 and had worked on crafting the plan in the 1980s.

    “The issue this evening is upholding that plan,” he said. “The heart and soul of Camden is the downtown area, stores and restaurants, and its harbor. Camden has a reputation for being a nice place to visit and live. People have been attracted to town for 100 years for the small village character.”

    The comprehensive plan, he said, advised that the town grow modestly and retain its character. The town was adamant then that the residential feel of Elm and High streets should not be impaired with strip developments, and stressed adaptive reuse.

    The overall goal, he said, was to retain residential character and minimize nonconforming use. The Coastal Residential zone is especially in need of protection, where the most expensive homes are and which is most susceptible to unwanted development.

    He said the term transitional was used in the comprehensive plan because the districts were situated between rural and business districts.

    This reference was made to rebut the argument by Fox Hill proponent attorney Clifford Goodall, who had said at an Oct. 17 informational meeting that the comprehensive plan labeled the Coastal Residential zone as transitional, meaning it had possibilities for business development.

    At the Nov. 20 meeting, Jones refuted that interpretation.

    “It was simply a connecter,” Jones said.  “It was not intended that more businesses be established in Coastal Residential district unless they served the neighborhood. Fox Hill does not support the existing neighborhood.”

    Jones said that with the proposed Fox Hill project, “neighbors will see lower property values and town will see less in taxes as a result.”

    Furthermore, he said, the applicants: “are trying to shoehorn a hospital into a residential neighborhood and not calling it what it is. Other areas of town are more suitable.”

    He said the issue is not about recovery, or McLean.

    “It is about protecting Camden itself,” said Jones. “Your role is protect public interest and character of town as expressed in the comp plan. The applicant is asking the board to participate in a charade with the illusion that the neighbors will be protected.”

    The project, he said, is really to: “assist wealthy investors to make money at the expense of the neighborhood. If you permit this charade to succeed you are not fulfilling your responsibility as members of the planning board.”

    After the two attorneys spoke, residents took to the podium, saying:

    “The amendment constitutes spot zoning, a very bad zoning policy,” said Parker Laite. “It will change the character of town forever. Think long and hard on impact this would have on all of our neighborhoods.”

    The comprehensive plan encourages professional occupations, said Phil Montgomery, speaking in favor.

    “I wasn't born here but got here as fast as I could,” said Rob Merrill. “I have lived on Chestnut Street since 1990. I'm in opposition to proposed change in plan. It smacks of spot zoning.  I don't think that is the aproporiate siting of rehab center, especially on that corner. The traffic around the corner is brisk at times and a little dangerous. It is a little facetious to say no change in traffic when residential is changed to commercial. This is trading Camden's good name, not only in the country but in world, its sense of serenity, elegance, quiet. Trading on that for commercial enterprise will help enterprise and hurt the town.”

    Merrill said it would be hard to close Pandora’s Box once opened.

    Speaking in favor of Fox Hill, George Stevens said Bay View Street has: “quite a few empty storefronts. I guess people aren't rolling in to gobble up expensive homes.”

    Speaking against the proposal, Julie Cawley said she lives across from the property on Bay View Street and described the additions that were made at Fox Hill while she and her husband, Charles, owned the estate.

    “Yes we even hosted occasional social gatherings for the people of MBNA, who were like family for us,” she said.

    But, she said, the property was not used commercially while under their ownership.

    “It was purposely enlarged for family, friends and guests,” Cawley said.

    “We are astonished that a group of 24 investors would purchase Fox Hill,” she said. “How or where did they get expectation for spot zoning?”

    She asked how Fox Hill Real Estate would manage private water and sewer to handle 30 people a day.

    Joe Cooper, of Camden, said he supported the proposal.

    “By changing zoning, we should welcome them and provide jobs,” he said. “It's an opportunity to extend our economic base.”

     Michael Cawley, an Atlanta, Ga., physician and son of Julie Cawley, said he objected to the inference that there was commercial use when his family owned Fox Hill.

     “It should remain a single family home,” he said. If transformed to a rehab center, it would benefit “people all around the world, [but] not the people of Camden.”

     Neighbor David Hague, of Camden, said he opposed the amendment, which would result in “severe negative effects on an economy that depends on tourism and retirees.”

    The project would make the natural beauty and character of Camden less attractive, he said, appealing to the board to “uphold intent of comp plan of this town we cherish.”

    A summer resident from Texas, who owns property on Bay View Street, said she traveled from that state to speak.

    “I love this town,” she said, adding that Fox Hill would be “a commercial enterprise in the middle of a residential zone.”

    Camden resident Deb Dodge, advocating for residential use of Fox Hill and possible residential there, said the comprehensive plan stresses open space zoning and clustering of homes to prevent suburban sprawl. An open space subdivision on the property, with a few homes and preservation of the Borden Cottage, is the appropriate future, she said.

    Camden resident Dana Strout said the project constituted “spot zoning to bail out investors.”

    Camden resident Dennis McGuirk said the economic proposal behind the project was flawed, and submitted his reasons for thinking so.

    “I was shocked to find it was one of worst misuses of economic modeling I have seen,” adding that the assumptions do not fit Camden. “The benefit is four times smaller than what they claim. In short, they cooked the books.”

    Charles Lawton, an economist with Planning Decisions, Inc., of Portland, wrote the economic impact study that was commissioned by Fox Hill Real Estate LLC. He defended his work later in the meeting, saying: “The thrust of this report was less the specific economic impact of this facility but more the planning challenge that community faces, the seasonality and tax problems. Those are problems Camden is going to need to face. The planning challenge that faces you, the Select Board and Camden is demographic sustainability in the state of Maine, and the sort of opportunity that something like McLean can provide to create high-paying, quality jobs.”

    Dorie Klein, a Camden citizen, said: “Do not let the tail wag the dog. Protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens of Camden. Do not change laws to accommodate needs of investors. Where is the wisdom in changing carefully written zoning laws to accommodate a renter, a tenant?”

    At that point, Sargent emphasized the municipal process, saying it would be up to the Select Board to put the amendment before voters. The Planning Board’s function is not to change the ordinance.

    Camden resident Des Fitzgerald, who shares the Fox Hill property line, said the consideration of amendment completely appropriate, and that it is “our obligation to see and vote on this as a town.”

    The notion that Fox Hill will open Pandora’s Box to other treatment facilities in the Coastal Residential zone is a “slippery slope” and that there will be “pig farms at our border does not pass the straight-face test. The most compelling issue is the quality of what this business project is all about. It is exactly what you want in a residential zone, quiet. It has fallen in our lap. It would be a mistake for town to allow it to lapse. Very few of us want a tourist town that is a seasonal town. A year-round town means jobs. We are talking 20-40 jobs. That is meaningful.”

    He described a community of mowed lawns and good meals.

    “I want more than that from a town I live in,” Fitzgerald said.

    He also referenced the statements made by opponents of the project, whose lawyers have alluded to legal suits the town might face if the amendment, or subsequent rehabilitation center developments, proceed.

    “Those veiled and not-so-veiled lawsuits, I would hope you resist those threats,” he told the Planning Board.

     Camden resident and former fire chief Bob Oxton said misinformation had circulated at previous meetings about the Cawley’s alleged use of home as a convention center.

    “For 13 years I was with Fox Hill,” he said. “At no time to my knowledge did business activity take place there.”

    Craig Mudge, who is building a home on Bay View Street, said the social fabric of the residential neighborhood needed protecting.

    “Those who wrote the comp plan worked hard to protect town's special charms for future generations,” he said. “The proposal would not belong to the neighborhood. This is not what we look for in neighbors.”

    Anita Brosius-Scott said she had lived in Camden for 20 years and witnessed much economic activity that came and went. The economic outlook in 2005 was upbeat, she said.

    “One of the problems we have is precious little room for commercial use, and limited room for commercial use or expansion,” she said. “We are between the mountains and the sea. We need to be more imaginative than other towns. When opportunity arises we need to look seriously at it. This adjustment in zoning benefits the town as a whole. It is rather limiting to look at benefiting just the investors. It is benefiting the community with taxes and income, and addresses issues of substance abuse and education.”

    Business owner Judy Emery said she lived in Camden for 30-plus years.

    “Camden just keeps getting quieter and quieter,” she said. “I understand concerns about spot zoning but to not have McLean come to this town would be a shame. We have a high degree of substance abuse. We could really benefit from more year-round activity.”

    Dan Domench said he was a licensed substance abuse worker, and also said Camden has gotten quieter over the last three to four years.

    “One friends calls Camden the assisted living town,” he said. The presence of Fox Hill and McLean with be a “positive addition to the commercial viability of Camden so people who are born and raised here can live here. Pass it onto town vote.”

    Brenda Gowesky said she was a physician.

    “McLean has been a successful hospital,” she said. “We will benefit. I don't see a lot of building going on in this area.”

    Lucinda Zeising, an abutting neighbor of Fox Hill, said: “We want this town to thrive and ask you to pass it on to the town to have people vote on it. It is the best use of the space, and will maintain the privacy of what we want in the neighborhood.

    Carla Ferguson said Camden and Malibu are not the same. Once Malibu allowed high-end rehabilitation facilities in, it set a precedent.

    “Fifteen years later they have 32 facilities for rich addicts,” she said. “So wealthy addicts are OK? Let's be careful not to let Fox Hill real Estate lead us down a path of destruction.”

    Phillip Levendusky, who has been representing McLean Hospital throughout the process, said: “I have been in a lot of meetings like this. I am extraordinarily impressed by the process going on in this town. Achilles Heel is the NIMBY but I have not seen that in this discussion. People are authentic in their concerns.”

    He said the attempt to associate the definition of hospital with the Fox Hill facility was flawed.

    “A hospital is an institution with clear regulatory considerations,” he said. “This is not a hospital,n or would it meet any criteria. It is a residential treatment program in a residential area.”

    He said its success: “depends heavily on privacy, and people going out to walk around. The Princeton facility is on 10 acres. Optimally, 10 acres is the right deal.”

    As for the the project reducing property values in the neighborhood, Levendusky said that in Princeton, Mass., a number of new houses went on the market in 2008 and sold.

    “The longstnading notion that if you have a mental health institution going into neighborhood you have diminished propeorty values is not true,” he said. “We are extremely good neighbors.”

     Tom Rodman, one of the 24 investors of Fox Hill Real Estate and the visionary behind the project, explained how he got interested in the property.

    “The property was mentioned to me by friends who thought it would make an excellent high-end rhabbilitation facility and thought for some reason I would be a good one to operate the facility,” he said. “I knew I would not operate it. I have always been a great fan of Charlie Cawley. I wanted to see the property he developed. I was amazed. They were right, this would be make great high-end facility. I am not the one to operate it, but I do have a motive, and that is personal to me. My family is not left untouched by alcoholism and prescription drug abuse. I did my research, became acquainted with the industry and enlisted the aid of a professional interventionist.”

    Felicity Ferrell said there is a “huge number of philanthropists who live on Bay View.” To allow an ordinance change would be: “like kicking them in the teeth, when they have given us so much here. This is a very, very special nieghborhood.”

    Charles Autschul said he owns property several hundred feet from Fox Hill.

    “It takes courage to say yes and reverse a trend that I find disturbing,” he said. Pass it on to voters.”

    Harold Amsel said that when he drives north past the Camden Public Library he sees for-sale signs: “on all those beautiful homes. We need an injection of enthusiasm, or jobs in the neighborhood. Alcoholism and drug addiction eroding Camden. We have a need, both economically and for public health, for a program like Fox Hill.”

    Mark Dierkes said: “It is is a well known fact that Matt Simmons had a commercial interest in that property. The market has spoken. This is a commercial place. Joe's meth clinic is not coming.”

    James Lachance, a member of the Princeton, Mass., Planning Board, said Camden and Princeton were similar in population and natural beauty. Fernside uses local landscapers and contractors.

    “It is a boon to the economy, and has meshed with residential neighborhood,” he said. “There is no increase in traffic, nor stress on our very small local police department. They have proven themselves to be a very good neighbor.

    Bob Perkins said he moved to Camden 35 years ago, “When Jack and Rendle were young men. When the tannery was a tannery, the mill was a mill. The bottom line: there is a constant process of evolution in the town. I still don't have specific opinion [on the project]. It seems clear to me that you have a unique residence. The possibility of the McLean proposal is also unique.”

    He referenced Kodak’s arrival in town in the late 1980s.

    “Talk about change,” he said. “We don't have film anymore. I’m not sure if we have Kodak anymore. There are certain things that are big deals. You are addressing this in the context of the comprehensive plan, but you are making policy judgments here. I would feel that this is the type of question that the voters ought to be deciding. It is a big deal. Voters should decide.”

    Leslie Simon, the real estate agent for Sothebys who sold Fox Hill to the investors, said the property originally was on the market for $6.95 million, where it sat initially for three years. In 2012, it dropped to $4.95 million. It was marketed locally, regionally and globally with mailings, as well as on the web and in print.

    In 2013 there was only one other offer on it, she said. It was an inquiry to use the property as a corporate retreat for a company.

    Joan Phaup, who said she has lived in Camden for 19 years, urged the board to put the amendment before the voters.

    “It merits a longer conversation than we have had,” she said. “It is a terrific idea, and we need to keep talking about it.”

     Wendalanne Augunis said the proposal was a: “acomplex and sensitive issue. The positive components far outweigh the negative. I'm just a different voice here. This is an invitation to look beyond our fears and look at opportunities.”

    It would offer solid year-round employment, revenue to local business, and enable professionals to work shoulder to shoulder with Harvard professionals, she said.

    “Bring it to a vote so we can bring our voices to a vote,” she said.

    Phil Fowler said his family has been taxpayers since the 1940s.

    He said the issue was not about support or not supporting the proposal, the integrity of the company, its benefits or the jobs it could bring. It was about spot zoning, he said.

    “This is a zoning issue,” said Fowler. “We are in favor of the economic development, but put in the parameters and zoning that is in effect.”

    He also said the Planning Board has the responsibility of protecting against the opening of Pandora’s Box.

    “We would not be able to deny another facility,” he said.

    Don Abbott said, “don't recommend to the Select Board.”

    Dave Walck said: “In reality, the population of Camden has shrunk, with steep drops in ages under 18 and a steep rise in the 65 year-old age group. Jobs fell by 35 percent in 2008. There is a severe lack of year-round well paying jobs and the tax base is declining.”

    He also cited the stretch of Route 1 north of Camden Village where he said 17 high-priced properties are for sale, “and they are not selling.”

    He said, “maybe the comprehensive plan is not working.”

    Attorney Jones then delivered his final thoughts, saying the amendment proposal requires that the burden of proof be placed on the proponent. 

    “If things are working satisfactorily in district, there should be no change,” he said. “In the absence of beneficial change, I don't think you should go forward.”

    Attorney Gibbons said: “This is an issue that should go before the voters. We are confident that it constitutes good planning.”


    Related stories:

    Two Fox Hill neighbors say Camden's Bay View Street not appropriate for alcohol treatment center

    Renewed effort to make Camden’s Fox Hill estate an alcohol and substance abuse rehab center begins

    Camden’s Fox Hill changes hands, its future under consideration

    McLean Hospital looks to Camden's Fox Hill for alcohol, drug rehab center

     Camden's Fox Hill rehab deal nixed by landowner, buyer mystified

    No more phone polling of Camden residents about Fox Hill

    Camden Planning Board walks Fox Hill estate; citizens, lawyers tag along

    Fox Hill rehab center and the Camden Comprehensive Plan: In compliance or not?





    Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at; 706-6657.