Letters, Camden Herald
A gift to the community
As a long time summer resident of Camden who has suffered from anxiety and depression for more than 50 years, I applaud Alan Clukey for his willingness to have his story told on the front page of the Herald. At any given time in this country more than 20 million people are suffering from some form of mental illness. Most are afraid to tell their stories but those who do, like Mr. Clukey, are performing a great public service. I didn't dare to tell my story until my 50th high school reunion four years ago. The hugs and supportive letters are still coming as are letters and calls from classmates who have not shared their stories and who are therefore missing the opportunity to feel the love and good will of their friends and family. And also the release that comes from sharing.
I don't know Mr. Clukey personally, but his photograph indicates he is a warm and caring man who has the strong support of his family which is clearly not concerned with the supposed stigma of mental illness. Nor is the town of Camden. Right now in Camden, I am sure, people with mental problems are feeling more comfortable and less fearful because of Alan Clukey's strength. Congratulations and thank you to the Herald and to the community.
God bless you.
In the letter thanking all those who participated in the Camden Windjammer Festival, we omitted one important member of our organizing committee from the signature. Meg Sharp has been a valuable member of the committee for many years, always on hand to be helpful and always smiling.
Camden Windjammer Festival
Exhaust all other options
I read with interest the advertisement in the Camden Herald Sept. 5, 2013, from proponents for the Fox Hill Realty LLC request for a zoning change that would allow the establishment of a commercial drug and alcohol rehab facility in a residential area.
There is no difference of opinion regarding the quality of care that McLean Hospital would provide for patients suffering from drug and alcohol abuse by those of us who are opposed to this request.
This difference of opinion centers on the location for the commercial facility. The harmful alteration of the protection that the long standing zoning ordinance provides to the owners of the residential properties within the zone from the intrusion of commercial properties into the zone is the issue. Zoning ordinances are not to be changed to bail out owners of properties who experience difficulties and delays in selling their properties, nor to allow them to optimize selling prices via a zoning change.
While the proponents of the change attempt to rule out the sale of the property as a single family dwelling simply because it as been on the market for an extended period, it is possible that all of the options available to promote a sale have not been exhausted, such as further price reductions or an auction. Auctions are successfully used to sell expensive unique residential properties and it seems that this is a step that should be exhausted, as opposed to the planning board considering a change that would allow a commercial property within this residential area.
Furthermore, the proponents attempt to dismiss the idea of a high end home development on the property as something that would "forever change the beauty and serenity of our treasured neighborhood," which I find absurd. Perhaps it is easy for the proponents to say this when most of the proponents are not on or that near to Bay View Street and some not even residents of Camden. Those who live in this area would strongly desire this alternative and would argue that it would maintain the beauty and serenity of their treasured residential neighborhood, as compared to allowing the intrusion of a commercial property in the area.
The residential development alternative and auction process are reasons for the planning board to reject the zoning change proposal by Fox Hill Realty LLC and I strongly urge the board to act accordingly.
Robert P. Collins
In our backyard
Camden is wrestling with a proposal to host a high end drug and alcohol rehab center in a residentially zoned neighborhood off of Bay View Street. This 14-acre property forms most of the shared backyard property line with our house on Chestnut Street. Having raised and fledged four children there, my wife and I decided this spring to put our house on the market. When we first heard the news about a possible drug and alcohol treatment center being our next door neighbor, we were concerned that this might decrease the value of our property as well as pose a threat to our safety. With that concern in mind, we met with Tom Rodman, the new owner of the property, to discuss his plans and we have spent time since listening to both the pros and cons of this proposal.
We are now in full support of the submitted amendment to the town zoning ordinance. We believe that this project offers the town and the community at-large far more in the way of benefits and is the very reason that amendments to zoning should be well considered on a case-by-case basis. Here are our reasons. I think we can all agree now that safety for those of us in the neighborhood is no longer an issue. The patients at this facility would all be there of their own volition. They have not been found guilty in a court of law and sent there. They will be there because they will have come to a point in their life when they realize that they have to commit to rehabilitation in order to save their lives and not continue to hurt those around them who care for them. These patients will be paying up to $2,000 per day to receive treatment. They are there largely because they can afford to be, want to be and value the privacy that this location offers. They will not be climbing a neighbor’s fence to rob a TV set.
When we think about expensive addiction treatment facilities we tend to imagine the Hollywood version that seems to be more about garnering press for the arriving patient than wrestling with addiction.
It is significant to my wife and I that the proposed facility will be run by McLean Hospital. Their reputation in this field and their relationship with the Harvard Medical school give us confidence that this will be done properly. McLean currently operates a similar 10-bed facility in Princeton Massachusetts called Fernside that, by all accounts, is a model citizen with no attendant clamoring press or paparazzi. I have heard some say that Camden shouldn’t be in support of a treatment facility that only caters to the rich. Is that a suggestion that people of means don’t deserve to wrestle with their demons like anyone else?
Other elements of this proposal that we think deserve our support are the fact that the business plan calls for hiring 20 to 30 employees as medical and administrative staff. For those of us who live here throughout the year, we understand the value of full-time employment for Camden. We would like to see a town that thrives beyond the hectic summer months and is a place with an identity beyond T-shirts and lobster bibs.
Upper Fox Hill is an extraordinary property but one with limited uses. If this project is rejected by our town it’s hard to imagine any other use for that property other than a high end housing development for part time residents here to enjoy our summers and then shutter their homes for the remainder of the year.
The new owners of this property have committed to paying the full share of annual property taxes and they would likely develop strong community relationships with other medical care providers and affiliated partners. As a for instance, Pen Bay Medical Center would likely be the first detox stop for the patients before they begin their treatment at Fox Hill.
Some have complained that this project would cause a surge in traffic in the neighborhood. To me this just doesn’t pass the straight face test. The treatment facility would operate 24 hours a day with a 20 to 30 person staff and in-house patients that would travel very little from the facility. If there are a few cars more traveling Bay View Street or Chestnut Street every hour would anyone notice or care? Is there a downside to having 100-plus wealthy people get introduced to Camden each year and see what a lovely community this is? Is the fact that they have no prior connection to Camden really a negative? Don’t we want newcomers to experience Camden and the Midcoast?
To me the most significant complaint that I’ve heard with this project is the fact that it opens the door to further amendments to our town zoning in a “spot zoning” sort of free-for-all. A slippery slope of possible miniature golf and pig farms dotting our town. Isn’t that why we have elected planning boards and why, on a case by case basis, it’s worth considering a project that could add value to our town? If you don’t trust your planning board to act in the best interest of the town, replace them or join it yourself but to not consider opportunity when it comes before us seems limiting.
A friend said to me the other day that if she were asked to define Camden today her answer would be as a center for wellness. Talented care givers and businesses in the fields of chiropractic medicine, massage therapy, sophisticated extended care, sports medicine and more all in a setting of world class beauty. To add a top level alcohol and drug treatment facility to this mix only enhances this picture.
In many ways my wife and I have the most to lose if this proposed facility were to be a negative to this community and this neighborhood. Our property value would suffer. It would be more difficult to sell our house and we should be fighting this idea. We in fact believe that the project that Tom Rodman has proposed, in affiliation with McLean Hospital, is the highest and best use for this property. We are in support of it and we are in support of any effort to allow people, who value privacy and can pay for it, to heal themselves in a clinical setting.
'Encourage the most appropriate use'
Camden’s Comprehensive Plan and our zoning ordinances were adopted after countless hours of hard work: meetings, arguments, compromises and agreements by many dedicated residents. The most recent updated Comprehensive Plan approved in 2005 outlines the future direction we would like to take for the town as times change. Article II of the Zoning Ordinance, Purpose, states: “This ordinance ….is designed to encourage the most appropriate use of land throughout the Town; to promote the Town’s Comprehensive Plan; to foster a pattern of development that respects both village and the rural landscape while discouraging “sprawl”; to protect existing neighborhoods ….” The zoning structure strikes a balance of land use among all the elements of small town life: residential areas, rural areas, marine interests, churches and schools, recreational areas, retail shops, services and small business areas, commercial and larger business areas and access to the special areas of unique natural beauty for all to enjoy.
“There is no finer creation than the New England village. It is a testament to the livable community – a community of neighborhoods, churches, shops and town hall.” Angus King as governor. We think that Camden is one of the finest. In our New England village it seems that the zoning protection afforded to the residents of a neighborhood is clear and that whether many or just one of the residents requires protection, the planning board should respect the current zoning.
We are now in the process of updating our Comprehensive Plan. Again it is a process of considering and balancing priorities and enhancing the quality of life for our residents. Within this process of planning for the future we will again consider changes to the direction for the town’s development and then consider changes to zoning that might be needed within the context of the plan.
This is not the time to sacrifice the balance in our town and our quality of life for the sake of opportunistic commercial gain for a few, or to pre-empt the planning process by an exceptional decision to recommend consideration of spot zoning to the select board.