CAMDEN — Three separate developers are interested in pursuing projects for Sagamore Farm, the 77-acre town-owned parcel that abuts Camden Hills State Park. At their Aug. 4 regularly scheduled meeting, Camden’s Select Board members heard from Jeremy Martin, Camden’s planning and development director, that the interest, if cultivated, may require zoning changes.
The board also heard about other enterprise initiatives, including a broadband study for Camden and Rockport, an update on the Tannery Park and circulation of requests for proposals for its redevelopment, and the interest of food trucks in serving Camden’s hungry diners.
There were no motions made and the board is waiting for more information on all that was discussed; but it all could require their future attention, as the Midcoast economy shifts and reshapes.
Three developers are interested in the land owned by the town, Martin told the Select Board.
He cited proprietary reasons for not disclosing who has been involved, or what had been discussed as potential Sagamore developments, but said the planned land survey of the 77-acre parcel is proceeding either this month or next month.
“Gartley and Dorsky gave us a very good price for surveying a large piece of property, so we are moving forward with that,” he said.
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, he said, adding that the town would establish public easements for the trails.
Select Board member Taylor Benzie asked for complete proposals when submissions were made.
Martin said they would be forthcoming.
“When you get into community economic development, there are things that are exempt from FOAA (Freedom of Access laws) and they are not privy to public information, yet,” he said.
He said all three have interest in submitting proposals.
The town has not issued any request for proposals for the property, he said.
“But I have reached out to certain folks and cultivated entities,” Martine said. “I am thrilled to start moving forward with something for this property.”
Two of the entities have cited zoning complications, and have proposed changes for the zone in which Sagamore Farm sits.
“Town government is not nimble enough sometimes to move quickly but we need to able to to try to facilitate some of these developments, if we are going to try to get some of... whether to get affordably priced housing, we need to move quickly and try to act in an appropriate way,” he said.
Falciani weighed in, saying the town was in preliminary stages to work out a strategy at Sagamore, adding that it is premature to get into discussions about it.
“We have a great site there,” he said. “It was never surveyed. We are taking one step at a time.”
“Regardless of what the town wants to do with the property, it is important for us to know where the boundaries lie,” said Town Manager Audra Caler.
Martin updated the board about Tannery Park, on Washington Street. Tannery Park is the former site of Apollo Tannery and has undergone extensive toxin clean-up and decontamination of soil; however, pockets of heavy metals, mostly lead and arsenic, need removal or mitigation.
Last year, the town obtained a Brownfield grant to continue cleaning soil so that the town could pursue development proposals.
As assessment crews moved around the park, concerns were raised about the riverbank, where pieces of old material (from when the site was home to a blanket manufacturer) were still peeking from the soil, as well as rusted lathes, barrels, metal and glass objects, woolen mill and leather tannery waste; and, old building materials.
While the federal Environmental Protection Agency was getting ready to sample the soil, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection questioned existing data. In March 2020, the final assessment summary and data was released, but the pandemic ensued and “things got pushed back,” Martin told the Select Board on Aug. 4.
Six weeks ago, the town decided to move forward with releasing an RFP, said Martin, and on July 24, a new report was issued (see packet attached as a PDF), which outlines isolating and covering any spots where lead and arsenic are concentrated in higher levels.
“Now we have some deeper understandings of how to move forward with an RFP,” he said.
Martin said he envisioned the RFP to circulate in two weeks.
The good news is that testing revealed no contaminants are seeping into the river, the report noted.
“That’s a good story,” said Bryan Sladky, a consultant with Silar Services, Inc., environmental consultants based in Pennsylvania, and who were working under the Brownfield grant in Camden.
But, he said, there remained high level of contaminants in various spots of the tannery.
“Those areas would have to covered, removed or otherwise mitigated,” he said.
The DEP does not want the lead to sit there, he said.
“In effect, you have two projects,” he said.
The board agreed to have more discussions about the tannery, said Falciani.
For almost a year, a working committee comprising citizens of Camden and Rockport, plus town staff, have been exploring how to improve broadband capabilities for residents.
A survey circulated to residents in March and early April indicated that there is, “inadequate internet service in all of our towns,” said Martin.
The mission of the Broadband Task Force is to explore the feasibility of a broadband infrastructure, and in doing so, has agreed to contract with Mission Broadband to develop a financial picture of different models. (See attached PDF for complete proposal)
Camden and Rockport are to each pay $9,000 toward the contract.
On Aug. 4, the Camden Select Board endorsed the expenditure, not to exceed $10,000, which will derive from a budget line such as profession services or planning and development, said Caler.
The Rockport Select Board will consider the same proposal at its Aug. 10 meeting.
Martin reported to the Select Board Aug. 4 that due to pandemic-related restrictions on restaurants and their reduced capacity, a number of visitors and locals are having a hard time finding places to eat, across the Midcoast, mostly on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
Proposals have been floated, including shutting down portions of streets and encouraging outdoor food vendors to sell food in these locations.
Conversations have continued, said Martin, about transforming some public spaces and reported that an ongoing challenge in Camden is the lack of restaurant seats for hungry diners.
Martin said food trucks are interested in serving food to those who are not able to find room at restaurants. With fairs and other events on hold this year, the food truck owners are looking for opportunities, he said.
Falciani and other board members asked Martin to return to the board with more information and data about the requests from food vendors.
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