I’m writing to recommend a YES vote on Article 2 on the Town of Camden. Passage will enable Camden to move forward to build a half-mile-long new sidewalk along Washington Street that will provide safe pedestrian access to the town’s Shirttail Point public park. To reach this swimming area, walkers have had to navigate along the shoulder around parked cars, trees and culverts as passing cars veer into the opposite lane on a blind rise and corner to steer clear.
Improving the safety of pedestrians and drivers along this stretch has been a high priority. Camden has been working for 10 years to get this project done: the town was awarded a Maine DOT grant in 2010 for the project.
After that award there have been many hurdles; among them was the discovery that the paved road wanders in its right-of-way, leaving not-quite-enough shoulder room for the needed sidewalk in one section, impacting four landowners. Agreements were reached with three of them. But the non-resident owner at 225 Washington Street, a one-acre waterfront property abutting the park, objects to the compensation package offered, and is concerned about loss of the shoulder for renters’ parking.
The 120 square feet referred to in the ballot question consists of a wedge of land ranging from about three feet at its widest point (at the park entrance), narrowing to a point at the far end. At the part of the shoulder where their car is usually parked, the “taking” is a strip ranging from 2 feet to 1.5 feet wide along its length.
The town arrived at the compensation value by following the Maine State-mandated, peer-reviewed method and is constrained by that required methodology for valuation. It also offered additional compensation, including relocating a fence and plants, creating a 20-foot parking space and providing permission for additional access to that lot from town land. The landowner thinks the offer package unfair.
Since the town cannot legally increase the financial compensation offer, it cannot remedy that further. Since negotiations have broken down, the town must now ask the voters to choose between the wishes of the property owner and the safety needs of the public (in ballot legalese, voters would be approving an “Order of Condemnation,” with “just compensation,” for 120 square feet at 225 Washington Street, for the purposes of sidewalk improvements).
A YES vote on Article 2 will enable the town to proceed with bidding out this project. Please vote YES on Article 2 – we need that sidewalk!
Anita Brosius-Scott lives in Camden