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COMMUNITY VOICES

Re: June 11, 2024 Camden Town Vote

Support public access and working waterfront in Camden 

By Matt Graham 

  

I am the Chief Operating Officer of Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding, a second-generation Maine business that runs a full-service boatyard on the east side of Camden harbor. I feel compelled to write this letter in response to the opposition to Lyman-Morse’s float expansion project, as well as the proposed changes to Articles 8, 9 and 10 of the Town of Camden’s Zoning Ordinance, all of which represent a threat to Maine’s disappearing working waterfront. This opposition and the proposed articles are not in line with the town of Camden’s Comprehensive Plan and are not in the best interests of Camden residents, visitors and the boating public at large. 

Marine enterprises have existed at Lyman-Morse’s Camden location for over 200 years. The float expansion project is a modest 120-linear-foot seasonal expansion of Lyman-Morse’s existing floating dock system. It will serve the public by providing additional dockage for small vessels and dinghies, solving a problem that the Comprehensive Plan rightfully identifies as a pressing need. It will also provide additional opportunities for the public to visit the east side of Camden harbor and the stores, restaurants and cafés located there. The project fits in perfectly with town of Camden’s Comprehensive Plan’s goals “To provide an efficiently managed harbor that balances commercial and recreational uses and maximizes the variety of boating opportunities available to the public” and to “increase resident and transient boat facilities.” 

 

Projects like the float expansion that allow Camden’s working waterfront to thrive also fit with the Comprehensive Plan’s goal of creating “well-paying, quality year-round jobs to encourage young people to move to town and raise their families.” The median age of a Lyman-Morse employee is 15 years lower than the median age of Knox County. The median income of our employees is twice the county’s median income. Our employees move here with their families. They serve on volunteer fire departments. Their spouses work in the area’s schools and hospitals. They are very engaged in our community. They take Camden’s stance on working waterfront into account when determining whether they should raise their families here. 

 

Lyman-Morse has always had an excellent relationship with the communities we work in. To the maximum extent possible, we open our properties to the public and encourage people to enjoy them. Unlike a yacht club, our docks are open to anyone who wishes to use them. Our connection to this community has made the opposition to our business’s growth even more painful to hear. One anonymous comment said that the float project creates a “negative visual effect”, which is a sentiment that hundreds of Maine artists would disagree with. Another claimed that it is not the “intended use” of the harbor, a sentiment in direct opposition to the town’s Comprehensive Plan and the 200-plus years of working waterfront history at the site where we make a living. 

 

However, maybe most painfully, we have been told that this project could have “a negative impact on boater’s use of the harbor”. What a claim! Such an impact would be directly against our entire reason for existing as a business. We also don’t feel that these opinions are indicative of the opinion of the majority of the public but are instead the opinions of a select few people. We can only hope that the Harbor Committee, the Select Board and the Planning Board continue to comply with the public’s wishes as laid out in the Comprehensive Plan. We hope that they, and all Camden residents, are not swayed by a small but vocal minority who oppose positive changes that help our community and its working waterfront grow and allow more public access to Maine’s waters. 

Disappointed with Camden Select Board public hearing process

By Alex Cohen

 

In early April, the Camden Select Board, held a much anticipated public hearing on proposed short term rental regulations (STRs).  That evening, the French Conference Room was packed with citizens, business owners, and townspeople from all walks—it was standing room only with folks even streaming outside onto the sidewalk and on Zoom.  This should have been a Select Board’s dream come true with an opportunity to dialogue with an interested and engaged group of townsfolk, regarding an issue important to them, in an open and transparent way.  Isn’t this is why you’re on the Select Board?!

 

Unfortunately, this was less of a public hearing and more of an exercise in patience and frustration with a meager 3-minute allotted opportunity for the public to speak (timed) and without a secondary public hearing option during the meeting for clarification or further discussion (which is common practice in the public hearing process).  After the public spoke for approximately 1-hour, the Planning Board Chair and Planning & Development Director took to the mic and podium and proceeded to advocate for their position and interests for an additional 3.5 hours along with the Select Board members chiming in without any further public input—none.  By 10:30PM, at the conclusion of the public hearing, the conference room had already emptied with just a handful of diehard townsfolk enduring.  So much for a public hearing… if there is no “public“ in attendance.

 

I think the Select Board missed an opportunity that night. They missed an opportunity to engage and dialogue with their town about an issue that was important to those in attendance.  After following this issue for many months, the opportunity for a public hearing is the public’s first (and only in this case) mechanism to really engage in open discourse and communication with their elected officials about the issue before them.   Unfortunately, as I watched the meeting unfold, it was clear there was a firm desire to push forward the agenda of the Planning Board’s proposed zoning ordinance restrictions regarding Short Term Rentals (STRs) at all costs and without an earnest desire to be open to public input and really listen.  And with the June Ballot vote looming in the not-too-distant future, this was the last opportunity to conduct a public hearing and get the ballot articles finalized and off to the printer.  Literally, there were no more dates available on the schedule—time had run out.  No chance for an additional, follow-up public hearing process to be scheduled as is commonplace when there are complex or controversial issues before the Board.  Why was this so rushed after the Planning Board had apparently been working on this for over a year?

 

Although perhaps this meeting “checked the box” in terms of satisfying the governmental process to allow for a Public Hearing to have the Select Board “approve” ballot articles recommended by the Planning Board, certainly the spirit of the public hearing process was neither followed nor achieved.  And that’s a shame. 

 

As we look forward to June 11 and voting on the various ballot articles before us, I encourage all townspeople to be very skeptical of the process by which these warrant articles were approved for the town ballot and not just regarding STRs (articles 5, 6, & 7).  I urge you to be informed and thoughtfully consider articles 3 through 10 and consider whether our town has been adequately informed via a fair and open public hearing process to thoroughly weigh the merits and / or potential consequences of all these significant new zoning ordinance regulations and zoning changes.  

 

I am voting NO. 

Very Alarmed & Disappointed by 'Misguided' Articles 5, 6, and 7

By Rolanda Klapatch

I grew up and live in Camden. I am realizing now that I am one of those “elders and a local” that have seen many changes in town over my lifetime. But I am not writing to reminisce but rather writing as I am very alarmed and disappointed by the well-intentioned but misguided Camden Planning Board’s Articles 5, 6 and 7. Reading them makes me think and feel like I am living in Florida in a gated community run by an HOA Board. These Articles are so convoluted and unnecessarily controlling. They were written to supposedly promote a movement towards affordable housing for renters, or protection of the Bed and Breakfasts and Inns, and fight against the trend of people wanting to rent a house for a week on their vacation in a family environment at a reasonable price. But Articles 5, 6 and 7 attack the homeowners of Camden who are trying to be able to pay for their house and taxes by short-term rentals during the limited summer season… of which I am one. I believe that towns need reasonable limits set by public boards that manage safety and create certain standards that govern the community’s quality of life. But these new rules will not help with what they purport they will do. When I go to vote I always look to see if an article has been supported by the Board, but I can tell you having been at the public hearing and watched how the confusion was managed and pushed through late into the night that endorsements this time will not influence me at all. Your support is needed when you go to vote remember Articles 5, 6 and 7 and please vote NO.

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