At Camden Town Meeting, June 15, voters will be asked to rescind their Nov. 4, 2008 approval (1,745 yes, 997 no) of a measure requiring that “any sale of the former Apollo tannery property” go before voters at a secret ballot referendum preceded by a public hearing.

At their May 3 meeting,the  Select Board voted unanimously to place Articles 6A and 6B on the warrant, which would give them full control over the sale of the Tannery property without, from the point of view of some, the annoying involvement of Camden citizens.

Article 6A is the same warrant item that has appeared on previous warrants, but with embellishments:

“Shall the town vote to authorize the Select Board to dispose of tax-acquired property in any manner which the Select Board deems in the best interest of the town of Camden, provided however that the Apollo Tannery property as described in Book 3158 Pages 278 amd 280, excluding the fee interest in the land burdened by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust declaration recorded in Book 4093 Page 81 shall be disposed of subject to the requirements of Article 10 of the Town Warrant from the annual town meeting held on June 10, 2008?

“Note: Approval of this article shall serve to negate and override Article 12 of the Nov. 4, 2008 special town meeting, which previously required that any sale of the Apollo Tannery property must be approved by Camden voters by a referendum at a town meeting.”

Article 6A makes clear that a yes vote will abolish the referendum requirement. The Select Board is hoping voters will give up their right to decide and place their confidence instead in the town’s elected and hired officials. This response seems ill advised, considering that the town did not do a stellar job of evaluating the last candidate for the Tannery property, while Camden citizens counseled caution.

Please vote no on 6A. Don’t give up the hard-won right to a public hearing on a proposed sale, the right to evaluate prospective buyers and offer opinions at a public hearing, and the right to a secret ballot vote on the sale.

Article 6B asks voters to allow the Select Board to sell all tax-acquired property, except the Tannery property. This may seem straightforward, and one might draw the conclusion that a yes vote on this article will preserve the Nov. 4, 2008 requirement that citizens can vote on the sale of the Tannery property.

Not so, according to one attorney; the problem being that Article 6B does not include specific language guaranteeing that Article 12 of the Nov. 4, 2008 special town meeting will remain in effect. Attorney John Bannon, of Murray, Plumb and Murray in Portland, reviewed the articles and concluded that if Article 6B is enacted “it will likewise, as with 6A, abolish the requirement of a public hearing and referendum pursuant to Article 12.”

Article 6B, said Bannon, provides no standards limiting how the Select Board may sell the Apollo Tannery property [and] does not expressly reference any earlier vote as remaining in effect. [It] will negate and override both Articles 10 and 12, and grant the Select Board unbridled discretion to sell the property however it sees fit.

At the May 17 Select Board meeting, Camden attorney Bill Kelley insisted that Article 6B would preserve the Nov. 4, 2008 referendum requirement. However, given that another attorney has a different analysis, the only safe vote is a no vote. Please vote no on Article 6B.

Article 6B needs to be amended

There is a way to amend Article 6B that will guarantee the referendum process is preserved, and thus allow citizens to safely vote yes and the town to continue marketing the property. To accomplish this, Article 6B must be amended by way of adding an explanatory note as follows: Approval of this article shall serve to keep in place Article 12 of the Nov. 4, 2008 special town meeting requiring that any sale of the Apollo Tannery property be approved by Camden voters at a referendum vote.

If Article 6B is amended as outlined above, then the 1,745 citizens who voted on Nov. 4, 2008 to support the referendum requirement on any sale of the Tannery property will be able to confidently vote yes.

If Article 6B is not amended as outlined above, then we please vote no, as that is the only way to guarantee that we retain the right to a referendum vote on the Tannery property.


Nancy Caudle-Johnson lives in Camden.