Camden’s Nov. 2 Municipal ballot: parking and zoning ordinances, proposal to change town meeting format

Sun, 10/31/2021 - 4:00pm

    CAMDEN — Nov. 2 is voting day in Maine, and while across the state voters will be preoccupied with voting a several controversial issues, in Camden the focus will also include five municipal warrant articles that have been discussed roundly in meetings since last year.

    Two concern zoning amendments, one involves proposed changes to the Camden Charter, the fourth concerns sewer easements, and the last is a nonbinding question that asks voters if they want to change their town meeting format.

    The latter would do away with the traditional gathering of townspeople at annual town meeting in June, and have voters cast their opinions behind the curtain via secret ballot on voting day.

    Not everyone on the planning and select boards were in favor of the amendments, and their comments are articulated below.

    Click here to review all the changes to the zoning ordinance and the charter.

    Polls will be open in Camden, Nov. 2., from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

    The warrant articles are:

    ARTICLE 1: To elect a Moderator to preside at said meeting.

    ARTICLE 2 addresses municipal attempts to ease parking requirements downtown.

    Shall the Town amend Camden Zoning Ordinance, Article X Performance Standards, Part II, Section 4: Off Street Parking and Loading Standards to exempt certain uses from parking requirements in the Downtown Business District (B-1) and the Transitional Harbor Business District (B-TH) and update parking requirements?

    Click here to read the proposed amendment changes in detail.

    The town wrote in its explanation of Article 2:

    “Note: The proposed amendments would exempt certain uses in the Downtown Business District (B- 1) and the Transitional Harbor Business District (B-TH) from the off-street parking standards outlined in Article X of the Town’s Zoning Ordinance. The proposed amendments will address outdated off-street parking requirements, which can negatively impact economic activity and development opportunities in the downtown core, where ample parking currently exists on-street and in existing public and private parking lots.”

    Planning Board Recommends: 3-1-0

    Select Board Recommends: 5-0-0

    One Planning Board member, Mark Siegenthaler voted not to send the article to the Select Board and the voters, and rather to address the issue in a broader way, across the town. 

    “I don’t feel this has been well thought out,” said Siegenthaler, in July.

    Watch the July 15 video here, when the Planning Board debated the amendment.

    ARTICLE 3 proposes easing rural zoning so as to encourage more types of workforce, affordable and congregate housing. It does away with frontage requirements and allows for common ownership structures, including houses, barns and equipment storage.

    Shall the Town amend Camden Zoning Ordinance, Article IX Open Space Zoning, Section 2 Applicability; Section 3 General Standards (1) within the Rural-1 District; (2) within the Rural-2 District; and (3) within the Coastal Residential Zone so as to revise existing standards and provide for more flexible and affordable open space development.

    Click here to read the specific proposed changes to the town’s zoning ordinance.

    Planning Board Recommends: 4-0-0

    Select Board Recommends: 4-1-0

    Select Board Alison McKellar voted not to send the warrant article on to the voters, saying:

    The RU-1, RU-2, and Coastal Residential districts include Hosmer Pond, Sherman’s Point, Megunticook Lake, and many acres of historic family farms and forest. I worry that there is a high likelihood that new development in these areas would be far from affordable and that we haven’t fully vetted the implications for certain areas of town that may need more natural resource protection and not less. 

    ARTICLE 4 asks Camden voters to consider proposed changes to the Charter.

    Shall the Town approve the Charter revision dated September 13, 2021, as recommended by the Charter Commission?

    The town wrote in its explanatory note: Town charter is a document that defines the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of the town government. The structure and main body of the current Charter was adopted over 40 years ago. While some specific amendments have been adopted since that time, there is a belief that a comprehensive Charter revision was necessary to eliminate inconsistencies with State Law and current practices, and to best reflect current times and methods of conducting the citizens’ business.

    Select Board Recommends: 5-0-0

    For more information about the charter changes, read: What are the proposed changes to Camden’s Charter?

    ARTICLE 5 asks voters their opinion on certain sewer easements along Atlantic Avenue.

    Shall the Town vote to authorize the Town Manager to execute and receive certain easements to and from land owners abutting the sewer line running from southerly side of Atlantic Avenue to an existing Town sewer pump station at the northerly end of the Lyman Morse property (Camden Properties, LLC, Tax Map, 124, Lot 4) so as to clarify the location of the new forced main, allow for temporary construction rights, and release areas of prior sewer easements from the Town back to abutting owners that are no longer needed or necessary, all as depicted on a survey entitled “Sewer Easement Plan”, the Town of Camden by Gartley & Dorsky, dated January 13, 2021

    In its explanatory note, the town wrote: Securing these easement agreements will allow the Town to proceed with replacing the sewer force main that currently runs under the Camden Harbor from the Sea Street pump station to Bay View Street pump station. The new sewer force main will run overland from the Sea Street pump station across the back of the properties on Sea Street, down Atlantic Avenue to connect the portion of the force main that was installed on Main Street and Commercial Street to the Bay View Street pump station on the Public Landing.

    ARTICLE 6 is the result of a debate that the Charter Commission had with the Select Board concerning how to ask voters if they want to do away with the current, and age-old method of holding town meeting.

    Do you favor changing the method of voting on the Annual Town Budget to paper ballot (referendum) instead of the current method of voting in person by show of hands at the open Town Meetings?

    The town wrote in its explanatory note: Due to the state of emergency caused by the pandemic, the town’s citizens have voted on the annual budget appropriations and borrowing by paper ballot, either by absentee or at the Camden Public Safety Building, for two consecutive years. This non-binding article is to gauge voters’ interest in having the Town continue that method of voting on the budget. Any recommendation for a change to the Charter to vote by referendum (paper ballot) will require public hearings and approval by the voters of the Town.