on the ballot

June 13 Camden Town Meeting: Pot shops, new street/sidewalk rules and candidates

Fri, 06/02/2023 - 3:00pm

    CAMDEN – Voters will decide June 13 on whether to allow or prohibit cannabis retail stores in downtown Camden, the most talked about issue on the ballot as evidenced by signs around town, attendance at public meetings and debates on social media. 

    Voters will elect two Select Board members, from a field of five candidates, for three-year terms, and two School Board members, from a field of three, for three-year terms.

    Among the important issues voters will decide are the 2023-24 town budget and an amendment to the Town Charter that would change the selection of budget committee members to appointment by the Select Board, instead of by local election, which is the current method. Voters will also decide on the transfer of a town-owned property along Rollins Road to Coastal Mountain Land Trust.

    Camden is one of a handful of area towns that has done away with in-person town meetings, which traditionally were held soon after the June elections. This means all municipal business – from electing town and school board officials to budgets and zoning changes – will now be decided by voting via paper ballot on Tuesday, June 13. The Town Meeting Warrant, along with the full text of each warrant article, can be viewed here.

    Select Board election

    Five citizens are vying for two open seats on the Camden Select Board.

    Each candidate has responded to questions posed by Penobscot Bay Pilot on issues important to the town and region, including adult use cannabis retail stores, the Megunticook River restoration project and future of the Montgomery Dam, protecting Camden taxpayers while governing a municipal budget and juggling various interests that request municipal funding throughout the year and the future of Tannery Park on Washington Street.

    The Select Board candidates are: Raymond Andresen, Alison S. McKellar, Christopher Nolan, Marc Ratner and Mary Beth Leone Thomas. The seats are currently occupied by McKellar, who is seeking a third term, and Bob Falciani who is not running for re-election.

    Cannabis shops

    Voters will decide on two articles on the retail sales of cannabis for adult use. Article 3 allows up to two cannabis shops in the town’s three downtown business districts, except in areas within 500 feet of schools, day care facilities and the Camden Public Library. Article 4 allows up to two cannabis shops in the town’s three downtown business districts, except in areas within 1,000 feet of public schools and pre-schools, day care facilities and the Camden Public Library. 

    If the majority of voters approve Article 3, or both articles, these stores would be allowed on both Main and Elm streets in the business districts. If voters reject both articles these stores would be prohibited from opening anywhere in Camden. If voters approve Article 4, and reject Article 3, up to two cannabis retail stores would be allowed only in the Transitional Business District, which   runs along Elm Street south of Camden’s downtown.

    A vote to transfer the Rollins Road town land (Article 5) to Coastal Mountains Land Trust seeks to use the land as a trailhead to a trail system on the Goose River Preserve. The land has been owned by the town since 1904 and used for recreation and conservation.

    A street opening license (Article 6) would amend the Streets and Sidewalk ordinance to allow regulation of the placement of structures, such as utilities, within the town’s streets and roads. It requires performance standards for how work within streets and roads is done and the condition the streets and roads are returned to when work is completed.

    Changes to business licensing ordinances (Article 7) would add special provisions for ‘entertainment districts’ and consolidate rules for amusement permits, public assemblies, flea markets, taxicabs, marijuana, alcoholic beverages and more into a new ‘Chapter 142 Licensing business and other.’

    Along with the Charter Amendment (Article 8) to select the town’s 11 Budget Committee members by Select Board appointment is another amendment to remove specific names of budget categories from the Charter. 

    Town budget Article 15 seeks to appropriate $4,904,451 from non-property tax revenues to be used in reducing the property tax commitment. 

    Article 16 seeks approval of the Select Board’s recommended $11,399,305 town budget, with some but not all of the amount to be raised by taxation. This budget represents a net increase in expenditures of 3.28 percent. The Budget Committee recommends a budget totaling $11,291,900.

    School Board election and budgets

    Three are competing for two seats on the School Administrative District 28 (Camden/Rockport K-8 schools) and Five Town CSD (Camden Hills Regional High School) boards. Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to education and the schools. 

    The candidates are: Marcus Mrowka, Jezabel (Sessa) Salas and Richard Thackeray.  Mrowka is currently serving on the boards.

    Voters will see two separate ballots to approve or reject the 2023-34 budgets for School Administrative District 28 (Camden/Rockport K-8 schools) and Five Town CSD (Camden Hills Regional High School).