Letters to the editor — The Camden Herald
Important point missing
Regarding the proposal to change Camden's Zoning Ordinance to accommodate a group of investors who now own Fox Hill, an important point seems to be missing from the discussion and is our primary concern: if the residential zoning becomes commercial zoning for the proposed Fox Hill Rehab Center or any other use, it is unlikely to ever return to residential zoning, forever changing the nature of the property.
This action would set a precedent for properties anywhere and everywhere within Camden. We understand that the potential rehab center would be a tenant of the current group who owns the property. Who is to say if, when and how often that property's tenants could change hands?
The "goodness" of the proposed rehab facility is totally irrelevant to the discussion. If/when the potential developers of the rehab facility sell/close/rent/sublet/default or abandon the property, Camden will have no control over what happens to this property next, except to insure that another commercial development of unknown consequences may move in and further weaken the residential character of Camden.
We stand opposed to changing Camden's zoning to accommodate the current request by the Fox Hill property owners for commercial development of any kind.
Thanks for your interest.
Fox Hill — to be or not to be
I am in support of the application to permit a Special Exemption to the Zoning. My wife has taught at CHRHS for several years and we are taxpaying residents of Camden.
I have summarized the discussion points — and I have taken liberty, borrowing topics and comments from others who have spoken out on this debate.
Pros and cons of a private residential treatment facility building and grounds:
Pro: Puts the estate as it exists today, back to its highest and best use, rebuilding and preserving the historic buildings for years to come.
Con: It should remain a “Private Residence”
Pro: Will house between eight and 14 patients (without use of a car), staff of up to 30 to be a mix of live-in — along with laundry and food service vehicles — which would logically use Chestnut Street.
Con: Bay View Street was not built for that type of traffic.
Pro: Owners are “for profit” and not “nonprofit,” which means town property tax is paid by the owners ($100,000 per year) and the entire positive economic impact to local businesses throughout Maine estimated to be approximately $3.5 million.
Con: Business plans to be profitable and investors hope to receive a dividend.
Pro: Potential of being the best residential treatment center in the country, to be run by McLean Hospital, the largest psychiatry affiliate of Harvard Medical School, ranked No. 1 in America in its field.
Con: Do you want a drug and alcohol rehab center in your neighborhood?
Pro: Projected 20 to 30 full-time, year-round new jobs highlighted and slated to be a world renowned team of professionals.
Cons: Guess you could again say — employees will use Chestnut and Bay View streets commuting
Pro: This project offers the town and the community far more in the way of benefits and is the very reason that amendments to zoning should be considered on a case-by-case basis. The Camden Zoning Ordinance states as part of its purpose”to foster a pattern of development that respects both villages and the rural landscape while discouraging "sprawl".
Con: Planning Board is helping the “Secret Investors” shape and re-word the proposal to make it more favorable for submittal to a town vote.
Pro: McLean Hospital plans to jointly developed outreach programs and partnerships with local health care agencies. Present plans are already in the works to include a Harvard expert on Teen Suicide Prevention to speak at The Strom.
Con: Drug pushers and paparazzi will swarm in, following their former clients.
My wife and I raised our three children in Camden, I have been following this debate from away via online postings and news articles. I have viewed the related Planning Committee Meetings videos. I am away due to the lack of work — and hope to return soon to a changed economy in the Midcoast. I would like my children to be able to live and raise their families in a thriving economic rebound in Camden.
It's time to turn all the positive “Planning” into a simple action. How can you do one thing to start Camden back toward a “thriving” economic community? Please, come make yourself heard at the opera house.
I have been reading with dismay all of the misinformation that has been circulated about Charlie and Julie Cawley and their use of the Fox Hill. People are now beginning to compare the Cawleys' activities to that of operating a convention center. Paul Gibbons has outright accused them of using the site for corporate activity, claiming that they "held business meetings, seminars and social events" there. This information is just plain wrong, and this letter is an attempt to set the record straight.
For more than 13 years, I worked directly with the Cawleys, first as the caretaker for Fox Hill, and later as an employee of MBNA. My duties included helping to organize the events that took place at Fox Hill. At no time, to my knowledge, did any business activity take place there. MBNA established Point Lookout for commercial purposes, and that is where business meetings and lectures were held. While in town, the Cawleys entertained these dignitaries at their home at Fox Hill, often inviting Camden area residents to join them. In addition, the Cawleys hosted social events for local non-profits such as the Millay Society of the Camden Public Library and the Penobscot Bay Medical Center at Fox Hill.
The "bowling alley" and "beauty salon" that Mr. Gibbons claims were commercial never had one paying customer. All of these things were built solely for the enjoyment of the Cawleys and their guests.
I estimate that the number of these large social gatherings at Fox Hill occurred about 3 times per summer; I do not recall any of these events as "business" or "commercial." Fox Hill was consistently used as a private residence.
These types of events occur in other large homes in Camden too. In my former role for many years as Fire Chief of Camden, I was often asked to help ensure that large social events at other private residences in Camden took place with safety in mind and minimal impact on neighbors. I have observed events at other homes that have transported guests to the home for lack of parking space and provided portable toilets.
Hosting large social events a few times a year at a Camden residence does not create an excuse to turn the property into a year-round commercial use facility.
'We need this'
I love Camden, and though I recently moved to Hope, I have a business in Camden and it has been my year-round residence for most of my life. One of my biggest fears is that Camden is increasingly becoming a seasonal town much like Boothbay and Bar Harbor, depending more and more on tourists and summer residents.
The proposed plan for the property known as Fox Hill offers an opportunity for year-round employment for approximately 30 people, and increased business for local restaurants, hotels and all downtown businesses. The McLean organization will be hiring professional individuals who will be contributing to our community year-round! We need this.
I know many are worried about the zoning, but the wording is so carefully and specifically done, that this does not open the door for everyone to start a rehab business. The other concerns are the noise and privacy. I am sure that this will be much quieter, and create less traffic than if the property is developed into 10-plus lots — and odds are those lots will end up owned by more seasonal residents.
I also know that Tom Rodman intends to promote his STRIVE organization here in Camden. Between STRIVE and the programs McLean can put into the local schools and the community at large, they will be promoting more healthy options for teens. I see all of this as very positive for Camden and the surrounding communities.
Wealth bashing needs to end
I'll be glad when the fashion of bashing the wealthy minority of our society is widely recognized as the discrimination that it is. For some reason those that bully this group are not openly and publicly chastised as they would be for bias against any other segment of our population.
When a person or group is courageous enough to speak publicly about a political issue, they should expect debate, differing opinions and controversy but not character assassination.
Apparently Ms. Richard and Mr. Doherty aren't aware that generations of summer people have employed generations of local people of this entire region to create and maintain their properties. Construction, repairs, maintenance, housekeeping, landscaping and security continue long after the seasonal residents leave in the fall and begin long before they return in the spring. If you had researched the property tax commitments of owners of homes surrounding Fox Hill, you would likely be absolutely blown away at the prices these people pay to help provide the local services that you so much enjoy all year round. If the tax revenues from these properties were to dry up, you'd be deprived of more than the winter vacations that you said you can't afford.
Your letter suggested that the owners of seasonal homes are no more than free-loaders who come for the best, then leave when the seasons turn. Many of these people work at jobs for a living or own businesses that provide jobs for others. During their stays here, summer people support our businesses, purchase local art and donate to charities, just at we do. Their contributions to the area throughout the ages to everything from architectural treasures to parks and opera houses have helped create a special place for us to live, a destination for visitors from all around the world and jobs that tourism generates.
The issue coming up before voters is about a zoning change in a residential neighborhood. Seasonal residents of Camden may not have the right to vote here but they do have the right to express their opinions.
A return to the 19th century
I was delighted to read "Solutions Through Common Sense" by publisher Reade Brower in the Oct. 17 edition of Camden Herald.
The most effective section, aside from the excellent point Mr. Brower made about a school's "special" classes for those in need of extra help (why help those who need it — it's expensive and all you need do is reward those who succeed) is the "Workfare" idea.
This is a truly marvelous resurrection of a sterling 19th century concept. Al one needs to do is read the 19th century British novelist Charles Dickens to see how such a plan would work wonders. Take all the unemployed in a community, or a city, including children, and put them into supervised housing and make them work. Our Maine communities are ready and waiting for such a return to common sense. Work-farms in Maine should never have been closed.
The closed mill buildings would make excellent dormitories for all these fraudsters who are poor, claim disability, or are too lazy to get jobs. Dress them in green (for Maine) canvas uniforms. Bedding should be straw.
The communities and the state can devise a menu of activities for men, such as lawn-mowing of public parks (using non-motorized mowers), wood-cutting using axes and hand saws, street-sweeping and the like. Women will be expected to run the wood-fires in the winter and garden in the summer, as well as wash the uniforms and cook the meals. Wood stoves and galvanized washing stations can be provided in the mill dormitories for these purposes. After these basics, the community can rent the available labor to those who require it and who are able to pay. For instance, blueberry farmers and orchard growers could rely on local labor instead of immigrant labor. The wealthy could, for a nominal fee, have their long driveways shoveled, rather than plowed. Supervisors will be armed with clubs, whips and Tasers, which will encourage hard work and reward those who are compliant.
I look forward to Mr. Brower's involvement in this exciting regression to the 19th century.
Regarding Article 3
Five articles will be considered at the upcoming Camden Town Meeting. Article 3 describes a change in building requirements in the River-Business zone, a small area of land more than a mile away from the downtown district, bordering the Megunticook River below Seabright dam in Millville (upper Washington Street). This is a business/residential zone. Construction is currently restricted to buildings with businesses at street level with a minimum of three family housing on the floors above street level.
Article 3, approved unanimously by the planning and select board, adds the possibility of constructing businesses with single or double family housing on upper floors or detached.
I urge a yes vote on this article. This will amend what was perhaps an unintentionally restrictive requirement and help make this small zone into what what was intended: a mixed business and residential zone.
The recent partial government shutdown revealed a very curious situation that I ask you to consider. As you recall, approximately 8 to 10 hours after the shut-down began all of a sudden 3-by-4-foot signs appeared, like magic, all over the country by the thousands at parks, national monument, and many other government facilities.
You should keep in mind that there has not been a government shutdown for 17 years.
Having served as an auditor in the service I assure you proper protocol in purchasing of this type is normally practiced. However, these signs had to be designed, have bids posted for them and government contracts awarded. All of this takes time particularly when the government is involved.
In addition, consider the logistics of having these in place so quickly the following day everywhere in so many place all across the United States. What an amazing happening!
It appears, when you look deeper into this occurrence that this could only have happened if someone (?) had planned months ago to plan to have a shutdown. I ask that you lift the "veil of transparency" and determine, who really wanted the shutdown to occur. Who do you think it possibly could be? Is it possible an occupant of Pennsylvania Avenue could be the one? I wonder, how about you?
Support science standards
We represent a group of public school science and math teachers that have been teaching in a variety of schools and contexts for a combined 186 years. We are in strong support of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and would like to share with the public our perspective on how NGSS will benefit our students, our schools, and our communities.
NGSS are a blueprint to bring science education into the 21st century. These standards are based on vetted research of how students learn. They are different than the current standards documents in that they emphasize practices in science and engineering that teach students to use evidence and reasoning to make sense of the world around them.
NGSS are not federal standards but the work of experts from 26 states, including Maine, working together. The standards were written by accomplished K-16 educators and researchers through a state-lead process. Citizens across our state and country, including us, provided feedback and leadership for every draft. The advantage of working as a broad coalition of states is that we will have access to free, quality resources that previously didnít exist and assessments that will save the state money. For more information on how the standards were developed and what they say, please access: nextgenscience.org.
Our mid-coast school districts, CSD 19 and MSAD 28, already have begun studying, collaborating on, and implementing NGSS. We are uniformly excited about the positive effect these standards will have on the face of science education K-12. The structure of NGSS allows teachers and districts significant local control and creativity while offering them guidance on the scope and sequence of topics that should be taught in K-12 science classrooms.
Though this letter outlines our views on NGSS, we feel similarly optimistic and excited about the Common Core. We hope that our legislators, with the support of citizens, will join many other states in adopting the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core. These standards will help guide our school programs to prepare students with complex skills and knowledge that will allow them to engage in a future full of possibility.
Katie Bauer, Camden Rockport Middle School science/math teacher, Presidential Award in Science 1995, Milliken Educator Award 1996;
Lisa Damian-Marvin, Camden Hills Regional High School physics teacher, National Board Certified Teacher, Presidential Award in Science 2000, National Pasco STEM Educator of the Year 2013;
Susan Klemmer, Camden Hills Regional High School chemistry teacher, Governors Academy Fellow;
Brad LaRoche, Camden Rockport Middle School science/math teacher, Maine Microcosmos Teacher Trainer 1998-2002, Jackson Lab Sabbatical Research Award 2009;
Margo Murphy, Camden Hills Regional High School Global Science teacher, National Board Certified Teacher, Presidential Award in Science 1994, Presidential Innovation Award 2013, member - National Academy of Science Teacher Advisory Council;
Bill OBrien, Camden Hills Regional High School math teacher, National Board Certified Teacher, Presidential Award finalist in Math 2013;
Lynette Owen, Camden Rockport Middle School math teacher;
Ken Vencile, Camden Hills Regional High School biology teacher, National Board Certified Teacher, Presidential Award in Science 2012; and
Sam Zwecker, Camden Rockport Middle School math teacher