Planning Board sends B&B proposal forward

By Stephanie Grinnell | Jul 03, 2014

Camden — With a 4-1 vote, the Planning Board July 2 approved sending to the Select Board a zoning request to allow High Street bed and breakfasts to serve dinner.

The proposal was brought forth by Kristi Bifulco, co-owner of Windward House Bed and Breakfast on High Street. She requested a special exception be added to the town zoning ordinance to allow service of dinner to bed and breakfast guests, which is currently prohibited in the Traditional Village zone where Windward House is located. Bifulco has worked for several years on variations of the proposal, making changes and adjustment suggested by both the public and Planning Board.

The Washington Street conference room was filled to capacity and beyond for the majority of the public hearing, which lasted nearly four hours. The public hearing was a second chance for the proposal, which was defeated by a tie vote in May. That hearing and vote were pushed aside when it was belatedly discovered either Bifulco or a Planning Board member could have requested a delayed vote on the matter because the full board was not present.

Residents on both sides of the issue addressed Planning Board members in three-minute time allotments. For those in favor of the proposal, the common theme seemed to be supporting local business and local families. Those opposed cited "the slippery slope" of allowing a small change that could lead to larger and more far-reaching consequences for the town as a whole, with some calling the proposal spot zoning.

In support

"All we're trying to do here is support people already here," Conway Road resident James Cook said, describing his years-long job search and 90-minute commute.

Peter Kalajian of Ferncliff Drive concurred and said the area is not residential in nature.

"We need to provide more opportunity for people to spend money, not less," he said.

Limerock Street resident Jenny Dow said she supports the change as well and has long been a supporter of zoning. She said allowing B&Bs to serve dinner is "the very definition of low impact." Colleen Dugan said she appreciated the idea behind Bifulco's plans to create a vegan establishment and further her environmentally-friendly image.

"No one will be disturbed by the boisterous vegan diners," she said. "This is the type of clean business I'd like to see grow in Camden."

Marie Collins, a resident of High Street, said she supported the change. She said it is important to consider a variety of options.

Nancy Hughes recalled a number of businesses that have been turned into residential uses.

"Things can change and change is OK," she said. "If there's not a balance of commercial use ...  the community is going to die."

Referring to the slippery slope argument, proposal supporter Janice Kay said, "So what? It's slippery. Just take your time."

In opposition

High Street resident Neale Sweet said he appreciated the proposal presented by Bifulco, but said the larger issue was about commercial activity in a residential zone.

"This is a request to increase business activity," he said.

Maine Stay Inn owner Claudio Latanza urged the Planning Board to think well on the proposal. He said the change would allow him also to serve dinners and he would feel obligated to do so to remain competitive.

Long-time restaurant owner Eleanor Masin-Peters said it was unfair to approve a change.

"When she bought it, she knew it was a bed and breakfast — not a bed and breakfast and dinner," she said.

Hartstone Inn owner Mary Jo Brink said she is in favor of entrepreneurs seeking creating solutions but concerned about monitoring and enforcing zoning. Code Enforcement Officer Steve Wilson said he relies on neighbors, police and fire department members to be aware of any unusual activity.

"We have to be reactive with enforcement," Wilson said. "We do not chase them."

The Inns at BlackBerry Commons owner Jim Ostrowski said the decision to purchase his properties were based on what he hoped to do in the future, as he is a trained chef. Changing the rules would create an uneven playing field, he said.

"Once you say 'yes' to Windward House, how do you say 'no' to someone else?" Ostrowski asked.

Camden Harbour Inn owner Oscar Verest also shared his opposition, citing concerns about the impact on other restaurants in town.

Next steps

The proposal will now be sent to the Select Board for consideration and additional public hearings, if deemed a valid proposal. Should the special exception be approved by the Select Board, residents would make the final decision with the issue included on a town-wide ballot.

Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at sgrinnell@villagesoup.com.

Comments (4)
Posted by: SWAN HOUSE | Jul 04, 2014 22:36

Ben, leave me repeat again...We we not the ones who filed any complaints with the Town of Camden or the State of Maine that were responsible for their temporary closure.

If the Cuban takeout is back in legal operation as you state, good for them and I'm sure their followers are also very happy.



Posted by: Ben Ellison | Jul 04, 2014 21:20

Hey Swan House, your argument about how it couldn't have been you who complained out the Cuban takeout is quite unconvincing.

 

But no matter, it's back in business at another location. And, FYI, I've enjoyed their food almost every week they've been open and have never suffered bad after effects. It's delicious! But then again maybe I'm "ticky-tacky" and shouldn't have been living in Camden all these years.

 

PS The fonts in VillageSoup comments can be screwy but it has nothing to do with who writes the articles.



Posted by: SWAN HOUSE | Jul 04, 2014 15:58

Ms. Grinnell - Was it intentional to print Mr. Lookner's comments in the smallest font possible so no one could read them?

Also, it would be nice to know how many rooms the Windward House are legally licensed to rent on a nightly basis.

They claim 8 rooms when it comes to serving dinners (for a total of only 16 dinners per night), and in the past they have claimed 9 rooms when questioned why they list a total 9 rooms on their website and availability calendar.  It is a changing number depending upon what sounds better at the time.

Maybe, the Town's Code Enforcement Officer could verify this for once and for all and let us know, and enforce compliance if they are not in compliance.  Is that asking too much?

It is unfortunate what some people say and do to get their way.  I never would have thought a fellow Camden Bed an Breakfast Association (CBBA) member (Windward House - K. Bifulco) would intentionally smear, defame, and blame my Bed and Breakfast and that of two other B&B's in the press as the cause of their friend's illegal Cuban food carryout being closed down after being in operation for over a year.  (Where was Code Enforcement during that period of time?) This issue is completely unrelated to the Bifulco's wanting to serve dinners to their overnight guests.

Unlike the Sapphire House's current illegal activity of renting rooms on a less than (7) day weekly interval, the Cuban carryout at the same location has no impact on on my business and I could care less where the public wants to eat and pickup their Thursday carryout meals whether it be from a licensed commercial kitchen, a back porch, or a dumpster.  Keep in mind that one can get extremely sick if the food is not stored/prepared under sanitary conditions, and not maintained at required temperature levels while awaiting pickup.  The State of Maine has strict regulations and requirements when it comes to food preparation and to be licensed by the State one is required to attend an all day course held by an independent instructor, and pass a test prior to receiving a Certificate of a qualified ServSafe food handler.  When it comes to serving the public, one is not just able to go to one's kitchen and throw some food together to sell it to anyone who comes along.

Lastly, I want to extend my most sincere appreciation and thanks to those Board (Planning and Select) members who understand the importance of preserving Camden's Zoning Ordinances now and into the future.  For those Board members who who are not committed to the Town's Ordinances as they are today, and would to see the future impact on the Town if changes like the one being requested by the Windward House, you don't have to look far at some of the ticky-tacky towns to the South or North of Camden to see Camden's future destiny.  Is this what you want to see happen?  I hope not...



Posted by: leonard lookner | Jul 03, 2014 16:30

There is a constant theme that by giving greater uses in zoning ordinance   that we are opening the door to greater density and the Planning Board failed to recognize that last night.

In fact, the Windwood House is a perfect example of that.

Originally approved as a Bed and Breakfast which by former definition was 5 rooms or less, it is now a 9 room  non conforming Inn and is only that definition because our previous code enforcer, Jeff Nimms, did not know how to deal with the violations of the room count on High Street by the former code enforcer and by , in some cases, former owners.  Why penalize a person who bought a property anticipating the cash flow from a 9 room Inn when really all they had were 5 by law. This is an almost 100% increase in the commercial use of a property that the zoning ordinance intended to only have as an incidental use to help homeowners subsidize the costs of maintaining their homes.

But there were complaints by the residents of High Street about excessive traffic in and out of the B and B’s,that what was once a supplemental home use was becoming commercial businesses.   So Nimms decided to ask the Planning Board and the Town to change definitions so that what happened was accepted, but in the future, enforcement would be tougher and there could be no further escalation because these new “Inns” were non conforming uses unless they had over 2 acres.  From now on no more B & B’s only 2 room homestays.  It was approved by the Town as a reasonable solution.

So what was thought of as “The final solution” only might become a stepping stone to a further escalation as the potential for now serving meals and does that become the model for the next non conforming  Inn up the street to ask, “Why can’t I serve?” and then for The Windwood house to ask, Why can’t I open to the public?”

Folks, Hang on, we are on the slippery slope.



If you wish to comment, please login.

Staff Profile

Stephanie Grinnell
(207) 236-8511 ext. 302
Email Me

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.

Recent Stories by Stephanie Grinnell