B&Bs hungry for a zoning changeMore than just breakfast
Camden — Planning Board members on Feb. 20 heard arguments from a local bed and breakfast owner who is requesting a special exception to allow her and two other inn owners to serve food to guests.
"Things in Camden have changed and you have to compete," said Kristi Bifulco, owner of Windward House.
The bed and breakfasts are allowed only to serve breakfast and an afternoon snack to guests, according to town rules. Within Camden zoning rules, there is no definition for bed and breakfast establishments. Currently, the three businesses are located in the Traditional Village zone and defined as inns.
Bifulco said the special exception would allow her business, Windward House, as well as Abigail's Inn and Hawthorne Inn, to serve food to guests at any time in an effort to remain a viable year-round business. She said she was not speaking on behalf of the other two inns.
"Just because this goes through, it doesn't mean they will apply," she said.
Being granted the special exception would bring more money to her business, Bifulco said, as well as create three or four jobs.
"It's nice, when people come here in the winter. ... People want to stay closer," she said. "It's a natural progression."
Windward House has been owned by Bifulco and her husband since 2005, she said.
"I was quite young with stars in my eyes, I saw opportunities all over the place," Bifulco said.
Planning Board members informally supported hosting a public hearing on the issue but one has not yet been scheduled due to legal notice publication requirements and an approaching deadline for inclusion on the June ballot, according to Code Enforcement Officer Steve Wilson.
Windward House already has a liquor license and a victualer's license, Bifulco said. Wilson said only minor modifications to the kitchen would be needed, since only a small number of inn guests would be served, and an annual inspection would be required. Seating is limited by the number of rooms at the inn; in Windward House's case, there could be 16 seats for dining.
"It's not a lot of people," Bifulco said, adding deliveries also would not see much of an increase because there is a lot of cold storage available on site.
Planning Board members questioned how the guests-only rule would be enforced, leading Wilson to note he has a number of "snitches" who report code violations to him.
Planning Board members accepted informal public comment as well. Camden resident Deb Dodge suggested adding "overnight" guests to the wording describing who may be served. Dennis McGuirk expressed concerns that jobs would not be added as a result of the change, only shifted away from another business.
"It's important to understand the intention of the codes," he said. "The jobs she takes, creates, may come from somewhere else."
Joanne Ball, owner of A Little Dream Bed and Breakfast on High Street, speculated approval of a special exception for the three inns could lead to a larger change in the future.
"What we're seeing is the tail but I'm afraid we'll get the whole dog," she said.
Ball also said she wished Bifulco had presented the idea to other inn owners prior to appearing before the Planning Board. After a few words were exchanged between the two, Planning Board Acting Chairman Lowrie Sargent stepped in to explain the process of special exceptions to zoning.
He said all zoning changes must be approved by voters. There is not enough time for public hearings to take place before the March 18 deadline for the June ballot, Sargent said. Bifulco said she "is not in a rush" since approval in June is already part way through the busiest season.
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Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.
Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.
Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.
Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.