Following public outcry, Camden Select Board moved to help put two entrepreneurs back at Snow Bowl
CAMDEN — Following impassioned pleas from 19 citizens, who championed the need to support creative businesses and growth at the Snow Bowl, to honor agreements and to stop "micromanaging," the Camden Select Board voted 4 to 1 to ask the town manager to see if there was a way to bring Cold Toes Tacos and Sidecountry Sports back to the mountain post haste.
The Washington Street Conference Room was packed wall-to-wall Tuesday night, as scores of people wanted to speak about the decision Jan. 5 to disallow Brian Beggarly to open his taco pop-up tent and Andrew Dailey to open his ski and fat tire bike demo van at the Snow Bowl.
Dailey has been offering free demos of mountain bikes and skies at the Snow Bowl for three years. Leading up to the weekend of Jan. 7-8, he had the season's new line of skies in hand and had been promising customers where they could find him to try them out. In addition to putting 45 pounds of pork in his smoker before Thursday specifically for his taco stand, Begaerly had arranged for additional staff for his downtown restaurant so he could personally be at the Snow Bowl, building and serving tacos.
Being told to stand down so late in the game, after both businessmen had already been doing their thing at the mountain and with signed agreements from Snow Bowl Manager Landon Fake, to say they were in shock, and frustrated, is an understatement.
Tuesday night, Beggarly was the first to step up the podium and address the Select Board.
He said he brought with him a lot of prepared notes, a lot of signatures, and knew he had a lot of support in the community, but would ultimately abide by what the Select Board's decision was about the matter.
"We are all here because we love the Snow Bowl. I was trying to make the Snow Bowl a little more fun and I don't want to lose sight of that. I don't want to tear anyone down. I want to stay positive. I have only been here for a decade, but my wife has been here for a long time and I love it. It's a magical place and I only wanted to make it a little better. If you guys think that what we have done is the wrong thing, I will abide by that decision, but I also want to do the right thing and grow and succeed and make this place better," said Beggarly.
Beggarly's wife, Molly Eddy, also addressed the Select Board, and said that she has been a lifelong devotee of the Snow Bowl. She said she would be in support of anything interesting happening at the Snow Bowl.
"I think it's a great idea to have fat tire bikes and ski demos so people can try them out before they buy them. They don't know what the new skis can do. They want to explore fat tire biking. I had never hiked the mountain, until my husband got involved in fat tire biking. It's not that the slices of pie will get smaller by letting this happen, the pie will get bigger for everyone trying to raise their family in the town of Camden," said Eddy. "We'll do what we need to do what we need to do to cross the t-s and dot the i-s for this to work, but lets do more to bring more great things to the Snow Bowl."
Dailey said that he and his partner, Brian Kelly, have been supporting the Snow Bowl and the Redevelopment project for five years, since they started their business. For the past three, he had been doing the demos at the Snow Bowl "with no issue."
Never once, he said, did he think he needed Select Board approval.
Town Manager Pat Finnigan said last week that she took full responsibility for what happened, saying she erred in letting them be there on a temporary basis, until they had board approvals.
Procedurally, the Camden Select Board approves food licenses, and gives permission to ventures to use or be located on town property. While business arrangements had been made between the town manager, the Snow Bowl manager and the two businessmen, the Select Board had yet to weigh in.
Furthermore, the town attorney advised that the ventures are fast-food and retail, both of which require special exception approval from the Camden Zoning Board of Appeals because they are in the town's rural recreation district.
It was learned Tuesday night that it was not the Select Board's decision to stop Daily and Beggarly from continuing to be at the mountain, but rather under the advice of the town attorney, and conveyed to the businessmen by Fake.
Tuesday night Dailey said that based on the agreement he had made with the Snow Bowl manager and the town manager, he had invested $15,000 in bikes and skis, and had already lost one weekend that he was supposed to be at the mountain, per the agreement.
"Is there a way that we can work out a compromise to get us back on the hill this year?" said Dailey. "I ask that we make a simple solution, get us back out on the hill, get out there and make it a fun place, grow and support the Snow Bowl redevelopment for four season enjoyment."
Dailey's sentiment was echoed by many of the others who spoke Tuesday night. And for various reasons.
They told how both businesses are providing a different service than is already out there, how the food is unique in both what it is and where it is offered, and that they are both businesses being run by young people. Ultimately, many said the indirect benefit is in bringing more people to the Snow Bowl.
When John Anders, a member of the Snow Bowl Four Season Committee, questioned why his committee was not asked to weigh in or apprised of the issue and decision to tell Beggarly and Dailey to stand down.
"I have the Four Season Committee's duties in front of me.. and I heard about this issue on Facebook, and our committee didn't get to weigh in on it. I would ask that you include the committee you have charged with overseeing the Snow Bowl to weigh in on this kind of thing. Fat biking was great at the Snow Bowl last weekend, it was prime conditions, and it would have been great to see a lot more people out there."
In addition to the all of the positive comments in support of what Beggarly and Dailey are offering at the Snow Bowl, some of the citizens focused on the need to change the town's attitude about small businesses, and change.
Ben Ellison said he remembered how hard it was to get a terrain park at the Snow Bowl, and how not giving in to what people are seeking can have a negative impact.
"I used to be a part time instructor at the Snow Bowl and I enjoyed that. One thing I remembered distinctly, was that there was a silly game out there. Kids were trying to do jumps, but they weren't allowed to. Yet you go to any other place in the state and they had terrain parks and were allowed to do just that," said Ellison. "I went to the Snow Bowl manager and couldn't get anywhere. Not allowing that activity was driving people away, and it's the danger of a bureaucracy. This big crowd here to say something. And this board has had a tendency to micromanage and undercut, and I hope you take this opportunity to take a look at this and do something. I also think it is a great time for this angry crowd, you young people, to do something and get involved."
Jane Simon said that with such a short season, and with two business owners who would do their homework and get the proper approvals in place, putting them back on the mountain would bring more benefits to the Snow Bowl.
In asking about the process, and why now, after three years, it was affecting and stopping him, Dailey questioned whether other vendors at the Snow Bowl needed to adhere to the same rules he was being asked to.
"Did all vendors out there need to go before the Planning Board? Does Five Town Football have to do it for their concession stand? Does Toboggan Nationals have to do it?" said Dailey.
The final person to speak before the Select Board discussed the issue was Martin Cates, former Select Board member and member of the Snow Bowl Four Season Committee.
Cates told the board that when happened was "heartbreaking."
"I want to make this clear. It was wrong. Regardless of the process and procedure, a promise was made and I think you have it within your wherewithal to get these guys back on the mountain," said Cates.
Select Board member Don White started off by saying it was his position to find a way to immediately bring Cold Toes Tacos and Sidecountry Sports back to the mountain.
He said it was not a personal problem, but rather a zoning issue.
"In the case of tacos, they were issued a permit. Later it was determined by the town attorney that the applicant needed to go to ZBA. I would suggest we issue a revocable license. I didn't realize Sidecountry was just doing demos, and to buy you had to go to their other location. This recent action is negative and creates a situation of exclusivity not being inclusive."
White said that if the revocable license was not an option, then the code enforcement officer could issue a noncompliance ruling, giving both businesses 30-45 days to come into compliance.
"We are taking people who were told that they could do what they are doing, that it is now wrong, and they had to stop. I think the action taken is doing more harm than good," said White.
Select Board member Leonard Lookner said that it was easy to think that a taco stand and bike stand are fairly mundane. But if that same person on the mountain was Dunkin Donuts, would the feeling be the same?
"If the taco stand set up on library park, or the village green, would we feel the same way? It's zoning that protects this community from a lot of unpleasant things. I understand zoning sometimes works against our best interest. But the town should not be breaking its own ordinances," said Lookner.
Select Board member Marc Ratner was in line with White, adding that the Snow Bowl is a golden opportunity that doesn't exist anywhere else. He said that some entrepreneurs came up with a way to bring some exciting and new things to the Snow Bowl "and that's important."
He talked about the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law, and how the town needs to make changes.
How do we deal with pancake breakfasts? Five Town Football? Farmer's Market serving food? Toboggan Nationals? Maybe we need a streamlined zoning situation so we can move forward easily with these kinds of things. Not be stuck in the past," said Ratner.
Select Board chairman John French said that the board did not write the ordinances, but is charged with upholding them. He also said that Charlie Pearson in the rental shop appeared before the ZBA 26 years ago for approval for his shop at the Snow Bowl.
"There is noting sneaky. There is a process to change them if you want to. Either a citizen, the select board, the planning board can bring something forward for a change. We are not playing favorites to Ragged Mountain [Charlie Pearson] or French & Brawn [food service]. They have stayed there through thick and thin. Bad weather, they stay. They have lost their shirts and they come back," said French.
"We have talked about when we have a new lodge, we will look at this and go out to bid, or do something different than what we have now. I have been doing this job for 20 years, and I love this town. I would love young people to run for this job. There is more to the story than just what you are reading on FB. We are not doing this because we don't want to move forward, there are rules and the town attorney made the ruling," he said.
Ratner again said that what he wanted to do now, in the spirit of the law, was to let the tacos and the demos happen.
At the town Manager's suggestion, Ratner then made a motion to direct town staff to consult with the town attorney to see if there is a way to do it, either by special exemption or some other way to make it work.
"There is a process. What rule will you bend next?" said French.
"I understand the regulations. We can't make it happen, but if there is a way that the town manager and town attorney can let it happen," said Ratner.
Planning Board member John Scholz asked the Select Board if they could direct the ZBA to meet this week and "get it over with."
French said a meeting before the ZBA requires 10 days public notice for a public hearing.
"We can't get around it [public notice], and you can't get around it," said French.
Lookner added that in order to go before the ZBA, one had to have standing. And you need a lease, so you have standing.
"Then, they need to come back before us for a victualer's license," said Lookner.
"I do understand that we are where we are, unfortunately, for lack of a better expression, administration went at-it-backwards," said Scholz. "But that's beside the point right now."
Ratner again asked that the board consider letting the town attorney look it over and see if there is a legal way to do it.
"Direct town manager to consult with town attorney to see if there is a way to allow them to be on the mountain this season. I am not asking for a change in law, it's not our role," said Ratner.
Lookner asked that Ratner's motion be amended to include that Ratner work with the town manager and the town attorney to see if it's possible to get both businesses back at the mountain this season.
"Absolutely, and if John Scholz will work with me, sure," said Ratner.
White, Lookner, Ratner and Jim Heard voted in favor of the motion, with French opposed.
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