A report on the review of four development proposals for the former tannery property is being prepared for the Select Board, which may discuss the report Jan. 5.

The Community Economic Development Advisory Committee's report focuses on whether or not proposals address and meet a wide array of criteria, laid out in five town documents.

The report will summarize information in the proposals, related to criteria in the Request for Proposals (former Apollo Tannery Redevelopment) and relevant areas within the Comprehensive Plan and Select Board goals.

In addition, 'guiding principles' from a 2009 Tannery Redevelopment Group report and objectives from a 2017 Tannery Work Group report were used to review the four proposals.

Committee members also compiled a matrix with notes on their views of how proposals measure up to the many criteria.

The committee is not planning another meeting, and members agreed Dec. 21 to submit their final comments by Dec. 28.

After that, Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin will finalize the report by Dec. 31, in preparation for the Jan. 5 Select Board meeting. He anticipates the board will discuss the report Jan. 5, and afterwards schedule workshops to further review the proposals.

The town is on a schedule to do something with the former tannery property, driven by a a 2021 deadline to use a federal Brownfields grant obtained two years ago for environmental work on the site.

Proposals

Three of the four proposals specify that space will be provided for the Camden Farmers' Market: Northland/Dovetail, Cranesport, and Friends of Tannery Park. The Midcoast Habitat for Humanity proposal offers to build three affordable houses along Washington Street, on the Rawson Avenue side of the lot, and does not use the remainder of the lot. The Riverwalk is not part of the Tannery lot, and is protected by a conservation easement.

Northland/Dovetail proposes to build a three-story affordable housing complex with 30 to 50 units. It offers $85,000 for the entire property, with a nominal annual lease for the Farmers' Market. Financing depends on a mix of federal and state funding and local tax incentives. The developers are asking for a 75% discount on property taxes for 30 years.

Friends of Tannery Park proposes to develop a multi-use recreational park and home for the Farmers' Market, with part of the property set aside for the three homes proposed by Midcoast Habitat or another type of building. Development of a playground and other recreational features is paid for through fundraising and grants. The town is asked to retain ownership of the property. The Friends of the Park and Habitat proposals are not an official partnership and the two proposals were reviewed separately.

Cranesport/Michael Mullins proposes to create an affordable industrial park to foster entrepreneurship, with workshop spaces at below market rents and flexible leases. The development includes a 4,850-square-foot barn, 7,500-square-foot open plaza, for a year-round farmers' market and 19 workshop buildings. The $250,000 purchase offer comes with the caveat that the town use the money for a matching grant for a river restoration grant.

Midcoast Habitat for Humanity proposes building three single-family homes along Washington Street, near an existing home on the corner of Rawson Avenue. It asks the town to donate the lots, which total about 27,000 square feet. The houses are affordable in perpetuity.

Review

CEDAC split their task into four weekly meetings that began Nov. 30.

Over the course of the review, it became clear that affordable housing development and/or economic development and job creation are emphasized in the Request for Proposals, Select Board goals and 2009 workgroup report. The Comprehensive Plan also emphasizes these objectives, while also including goals for park and open space. The 2017 work group report uniquely puts forth a vision of developing the property into a park with a playground, home for the Farmers' Market and a small community or commercial building on the lot.

The Request for Proposals also places significant weight on the description of the entities submitting the proposals, development teams, key personnel, development and environmental experience and past projects.

It gives preference for skills and experience of the developers, technical and financial capacity to complete the project, contributions to the town's economy through job creation or revenues generated from the purchase price or property taxes, and/or the creation of permanent affordably-priced housing.

Northland/Dovetail and Cranesport proposals met significantly more of the above criteria, though significant questions were raised about each proposal. The big questions raised about Northland are about the financing, schedule and requested property tax break. The main question about Cranesport is whether it is a year-round facility, as the workshops are built on posts, and do not seem to have plumbing or heating.

As part of its report, CEDAC has prepared questions it suggests the Select Board ask each of the entities offering proposals.

There was some discussion about combining either the Cranesport or the Friends of the Park proposals with the Midcoast Habitat proposal.

CEDAC Chairman Leamon Scott said committee member attendance was nearly 100%  over the four lengthy meetings. This shows the interest the committee has in weighing in on this and providing information to the town, he said.

The committee meetings are recorded on the town of Camden's YouTube channel, and can be viewed at any time. The four proposals and five documents used to review them can be found on the town of Camden website at camdenmaine.gov.