Still a breakfast club, no other meals allowed
Camden — Windward House owner Kristi Bifulco spent years researching, preparing and honing an ordinance that would have allowed her to serve meals — to her guests — only to see a tie vote by the Planning Board render all her work for nothing.
"I've gotten a lot of support for this, that's why I keep going," she said May 21. "I honestly believe there is a really great feeling in the community toward reasonable business growth."
While Bifulco said she is unsure if she will continue to push for a zoning change allowing her business to serve meals beyond breakfast to guests, she feels like the opportunity would allow businesses like hers to maintain a historic property while running a viable business as well.
"The financial incentive is key to keeping our town charming," she said, adding the option of serving meals to guests wouldn't make her a lot of money but it could help offset the tremendous heating costs of her historic building. "I am optimistic about Camden's future and I truly believe it can grow modestly and maintain its charm."
In forming wording for her proposal — which would have only applied to three properties in Camden — Bifulco said she was very careful to listen to what neighbors had to say and incorporate as much feedback as she could, while still keeping the focus small. She said she would like to continue to follow up with neighborhood residents to address any future concerns.
"What can we do to make High Street better?" she asked. "I'm truly working to make Camden a better place, not to commercialize Route 1. ... As a business and a family, we want to make our community better."
Bifulco said she was not totally caught off guard by the tie vote by Planning Board members as there was still some confusion about her proposal as well as another presented nearly out of the blue by a Planning Board member. At a prior meeting, Planning Board member John Scholz introduced a more broad zone change aimed at all bed and breakfast establishments in town that would have also allowed service of meals to guests.
"I appreciate and respect [the Planning Board's] desire to take all business into consideration but it truly wasn't relevant to my proposal," Bifulco said. "My intention was always to keep it small. ... I think it's unfortunate this couldn't go through now but maybe it's not the right time."
Code Enforcement Officer Steve Wilson said Scholz has since withdrawn his proposal and it will not be addressed by the Planning Board. Selectmen will be presented a report by the Planning Board outlining its recent actions during an upcoming meeting, he noted.
"It was a little bit of a surprise," Wilson said of Bifulco's proposal being a tie vote, effectively rendering it dead.
The most recently defeated proposal was the latest incarnation of a proposal that's been trimmed and scaled down from prior versions, each of which also did not move past the Planning Board.
Wilson said there are three ways a proposal can be presented to voters: via Planning Board recommendation, a Select Board motion or a citizens' petition. He said he was unsure if selectmen would chose to take any action.
For her part, Bifulco praised the municipal process and selectmen. She said she would encourage anyone to bring forward a proposal for consideration.
"If somebody else wants to bring forth an idea, I encourage them to," she said. "I truly think our Select Board is willing to work with small business."
Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.