CAMDEN — Camden Town Manager Pat Finnigan and Select Board Chairman Martin Cates announced in an email Tuesday afternoon that North East Mobile Health Services has decided to stop negotiations with the town to purchase and redevelop the former Apollo Tannery property, which has stood vacant since before 2005, when taxpayers eventually footed nearly $1 million in demolition and ground contamination cleanup costs.
"North East Mobile Health Services has notified the Select Board that they have been presented with a possible alternate site to locate its operations that it wishes to consider," Cates said in a prepared statement Tuesday.
Cates said that NEMHS has not disclosed the location of the site, but that the fact that the site under consideration has a building "certainly makes it more attractive from both a cost and timing perspective."
In their letter to the town, NEMHS President Dennis Brockway said, “"North East Mobile Health is thankful to the Town of Camden for working with us on our site search, and we appreciate the warm response we have received since becoming the area's designated emergency medical services provider."
Brockway also said his company was “presented with an alternate location” that it wished to consider.
“The location includes sufficient space and a building on site that could meet North East's needs,” Brockway.
The Camden Select Board was tonight to take up the matter of authorizing a Purchase and Sale Agreement with the town, an agreement that would have provided 90 days for due diligence work.
The Select board was authorized by the voters at Town Meeting again this year to dispose of town-owned property, with the caveat that the tannery property be given special consideration when considering a buyer and their development plans.
Neighbors of the tannery site voiced concern about the potential sale and redevelopment for an ambulance service at a quasi-public meeting they called Aug. 21. Representatives of NEMHS attended the meeting and answered residents' questions, as well as provided a presentation about the company, how many people it employs and what it hoped to do at the tannery site.
Despite the town's announcement that it intended to enter into negotiations with NEMHS that included circulating a "potential" mockup of how the property could be utilized for such a business, NEMHS officials told community members it was too early in the process to have any firm idea of what the site would look like. That included building sizes and locations on the property, parking lots, and how many and where driveways in and out of the business would be located.
But all of that is "moot," as the town's press release said, because NEMHS has pulled out in favor of different location.
"We wish them the best as they seek a suitable site to meet its operational needs and continue to serve our four communities," said Cates in the statement.
The Select Board is now viewing this development as "an opportunity for the community to consider its future."
"Given the recent discussions about the Tannery site and differing views on how it should be used, I think it is time once again for the Select Board to ask all Camden residents to voice their opinion on what they think is the best of the tannery site for the entire community," said Cates. "Now that there is no active proposal to purchase the Tannery site, it's time for the entire community to weigh in on how we as a community want this public-owned parcel of land to be used. Do residents still want the site used for commercial uses to create jobs and stimulate economic activity, or do we as a community want it to be a public park?"
Cates said he would be asked the Select Board to support putting the questions to voters in November in a straw poll, to "take a pulse" on what direction the entire community wants Camden to go.
Editorial Director Holly S. Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-6655.