Planning board discusses contract zone for Fox Hill
Camden — Planning board members were presented a new option for rezoning the Fox Hill property on Bay View Street Aug. 15 by town attorney William Kelly — a contract zone.
Several months ago, a proposal for an alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation facility was proposed and later withdrawn. Since that time, those behind the original proposal have purchased the property and are now seeking a special exception zoning amendment to allow such a facility in the Coastal-Residential district in which the property is located.
Kelly said Camden currently does not have any existing contract zones but he has experience with creating the language as he worked on the contract zone for Front Street Shipyard in Belfast.
Attorney for Fox Hill Real Estate LLC Paul Gibbons presented updated and expanded wording for the potential zoning amendment to the planning board Aug. 15, but the suggestion by Kelly for creation of a contract zone captured more discussion.
Contract zoning allows the town to place restrictions on use of the property that cannot be altered without town approval. A contract zone is an agreement between a municipality and a property owner focused on a specific use, Kelly said.
"It's not something you want to employ for typical, vanilla properties," he said. "It should be used sparingly, it should be used in unique circumstances, in my view."
Kelly noted the select board still has the final say on whether to put the question to town voters on any type of zoning change proposed for the property.
Several planning board members noted they were not familiar with contract zoning. Kelly explained some towns have a contract rezoning process but said he felt, if the planning board wishes to consider a contract zone for Fox Hill, the language could be inserted in the Coastal-Residential zone portion of the town ordinance.
Kelly cautioned contract zones should be used sparingly and for a specific property to more closely control development not normally allowed within that property's zone.
"[This] doesn't mean that it is or it isn't going toward contract zoning at all," Kelly said, later adding if the property owner is not interested in the contract zone option, it will be a moot point.
Gibbons said during the meeting it is his intention to move forward with the special exemption for the property, which is located in the Coastal-Residential zone.
"We worked hard at this to make it work and we hope that you'll approve it, the select board will approve it and voters will approve it," he said.
Gibbons presented additional wording for the special exception, defining outpatient services, conditions the rehabilitation facility would be required to meet, levels and licensing of staff members and noting patients must willingly sign a treatment contract. Gibbons noted the historic character of the existing structures at Fox Hill and open space would be preserved, per the special exception zoning change, should it be approved.
Public comment on the updated special exception language is expected to be allowed at the next planning board meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 29, at 5 p.m. in the Washington Street conference room.
Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Stephanie has served as editor of Camden Herald since its return in April 2012.
Previously, she was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has worked a number of years in the newspaper business from southern 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 two chickens.