Crowd takes on removal of taco stand, ski demo business from Snow Bowl
CAMDEN — Supporters of Cold Toes Taco and Sidecountry Sports filled the Camden Select Board meeting Jan. 10, after approvals to run a mid-mountain taco stand and ski and fat bike demonstrations were revoked based on an opinion sought from the town attorney regarding a lack of licensing and permitting procedures required by the town.
The approvals for both businesses to operate at the Snow Bowl were given by the ski mountains and Park and Recreation Director Landon Fake and Town Manager Pat Finnigan, according to several speakers at the meeting.
A half hour into the meeting, Board member Don White diverted from the agenda, saying he wanted to address the issue people crowded into the room were there to talk about.
Brian Beggarly, owner of Cold Toes Taco, said, "We're all here because we all love the Snow Bowl. I was trying to make the Snow Bowl a lot more fun, and I don't want to lose sight of that." Beggarly said he moved to Camden from "a place that didn't care about what time of year it was, what season it was" after his roommates took him to the Snow Bow, and he had a blast.
He said his wife learned how to ski at the Snow Bowl, and they just took their son there to learn how to ski this weekend.
"It's a magical place, and all I wanted to do was make it a little better," he said. "The rest can be said by all of these people right here, because we all love this place, too. If you guys think that what we've done is the wrong thing, I will abide by that decision. l would also like to do the right thing and continue to grow and expand my small business in this place and continue to make the Snow Bowl better in whatever capacity I can."
Andrew Dailey, co-owner of Sidecountry Sports in Belfast and Rockland, said he and his business partner Brian Kelly have been supporting the redevelopment efforts and the Snow Bowl the past five years they have been in business. The past three years they have run free ski and bike demonstrations without any issue, in all four seasons. He explained that each season the company checked in with Snow Bowl General Manager Landon Fake, who in turn checked in with Town Manager Pat Finnigan, and were approved to offer the free demos, Dailey said.
Dailey said that this year, "based on that agreement that I made with Landon and Pat, we invested $15,000 in bikes and skis. We've already missed one Saturday, because of the decision to pull us from the mountain."
Dailey asked if a compromise can be worked out "to get us back on the hill this year." He questioned whether all of the other vendors at the Snow Bowl, Five Town Football or the Toboggan Championships have to go through the same process.
"Let us do and make the Snow Bowl a fun place offering new things," he said. "We want to continue to grow and continue to support the redevelopment efforts in a four-season way. Biking is a big part of it, and that's what we have to offer."
Mountain bike and four season Snow Bowl supporters Morgan Laidlaw and John Anders spoke in support of the two businesses. Anders said as president of a local chapter of a mountain biking organization, his members have put in thousands of hours putting in mountain bike trails on the mountain. Brian Robinson spoke about how Beggarly donated the proceeds from his taco stand this fall to the ski patrol and how Dailey supported "lids for kids," a program that discounts ski helmets for children, along with Ragged Mountain Sports and Maine Sport. Jeff Charland, another member of the Snow Bowl four season committee spoke in support of continued operations for the two businesses, as did former selectman Martin Cates, Ben Ellison and numerous others.
Selectman Leonard Lookner pointed out that the town's ordinances have protected Camden, and made it the town people love, and have wanted to move to. Lookner warned that circumventing the town's rules would bring unintended consequences, and asked if those at the meeting would be as eager to defend a Dunkin' Donuts stand half-way up the mountain.
Select Board Chairman John French insisted that Cold Toe Tacos and Side Country Sports have to follow the same permitting procedures as any other business to operate at the Snow Bowl, while saying he is not against the businesses having that opportunity. He explained the Select Board has to abide by the rules voted into place by residents.
"We have to be mindful of the citizen's land, the citizen's ordinances," he said.
French disagreed with White's request to find a legal means to allow the two businesses to operate through the winter season at the Snow Bowl.
Selectman Marc Ratner asked the board to support further discussion between Finnigan, Fake and the town attorney to determine if there is a way to allow the businesses to operate at the Snow Bowl through the winter. Lookner asked Ratner to serve as the Select Board's liaison for this discussion.
By a 4 to 1 vote, the selectmen voted to support Ratner's idea, with French voting against the effort.
Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.