Camden's storage wars
When it comes to rules for storage containers and trailers, Selectmen Leonard Lookner and John French correctly remembered this was supposed to be addressed under a zoning change approved last year.
Now the issue is back. The planning board has created a new proposal to address storage trailers, which will allow existing storage containers — which Lookner and French say are illegal — as grandfathered structures.
The new ordinance subsection dealing with storage trailers will likely go to voters for approval on the November ballot. Selectmen plan to talk about the issue again next week.
In addition to grandfathering certain structures, the new rules would put in place a permitting process and requirements for screening to limit visibility.
It is a good idea to send this issue to the voters, rather than continuing arguments at selectmen's meetings that tend to single out a few businesses with highly visible storage containers. Even with these new rules, those containers will likely be grandfathered.
The question voters need to ask in looking at this issue is whether these containers and trailers are consistent with the town's character. In this respect, the visibility of the containers is an important factor.
Part of what has made the issue of storage trailers so complicated is that they are not limited to business use. Many people use an old school bus, train car or box trailer as a storage unit on private property. These are often less visible and have a smaller impact on the community's character.
Planning and zoning have specific purposes — to regulate and control a town's growth, to designate areas for certain businesses and to determine the future character of the town.
Many towns have adopted ordinances banning stores larger than a certain square footage because they do not feel that type of establishment is in character with the town. Others have regulated where methadone clinics may be located. Most towns have height limits for structures.
And in many of those towns, there are exceptions to the rule. Such an exception is being sought for the Fox Hill property on Bay View Street in Camden, where new owners hope to establish a high-end alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility.
As with every situation, there are pros and cons to consider. Proponents push the pros, opponents cite the cons. In the case of Fox Hill, opponents point to protections offered by zoning — in this case Coastal-Residential — as the reason to not allow a special exception. Property owners near Fox Hill say the zoning was one of the reasons they chose Camden and Bay View or Chestnut streets.
Those property owners have a valid argument, but cannot plead ignorance to the possibility of a zoning change. Many have owned property in the area for decades while some are newcomers. None of them should expect the character of the neighborhood to be frozen in time.