The majority of Camden residents commenting during a two-hour meeting March 8 on proposals for the former tannery lot, support the Friends of Tannery Park proposal to develop a multi-use park.

The Friends proposal includes a permanent home for the Camden Farmers' Market and lots set-aside space for affordable homes built by Mid-Coast Habitat for Humanity.

Ten residents described strong support for the community park, highlighting need for an in-town park good for multiple activities, long-time community efforts to create the park and best environmental use of riverfront property.

Three residents who support the Cranesport eco-industrial village proposed by Michael Mullins see it as stimulating innovation and the local economy, supporting tradesmen and encouraging development of small businesses. These residents said new park features and affordable housing could be developed at other locations in Camden.

Of the four residents who spoke in support of developing affordable housing in Camden, and on the tannery lot, three favor Mid-Coast Habitat for Humanity's proposal to build several single family homes.

One person said she would consider the Northland/Dovetail proposal to build a multi-unit three-story apartment building, if the number of apartment units could be reduced. The proposal calls the apartments workforce housing, because rents are priced affordably for those in lower-wage employment,

Concerns raised about the Northland/Dovetail proposal include the property tax break asked for by the developers and the increase in school children the building would bring. Issues raised about the Friends of the Park proposal are lack of detail, implementation of the development plan and maintenance. Concerns about the Cranesport development focus on the workshop buildings lacking heat and water, being difficult to insulate and what would happen if the business plan fails.

Jeff Dec supports developing a park, calling the tannery lot " a centerpiece property. There’s nothing like this in town." Dec, who is a member of the Farmers' Market and co-owner of Brazen Baking, called the lot a great place for the market.

Dec and Sarah Holland see the lot as the only level park area in town. The two intown parks, Laite Beach and Shirttail Point, contain steep slopes, not conducive to tricycles and ice skating, Holland said.

Jane Babbit raised her children in Camden and now has grandchildren said there aren't enough places for children to play.

Two people said Camden's parks and green areas are the reason they moved to the town. One of those people, Christian Gerquest ,is willing to put resources into developing a bike pump trail, one of the recreational features proposed by Friends of the Park.

Geoff Scott, Babbit, Elinor Masin-Peters, Bob Gasset, Stephen Gold and Nancy Caudle-Johnson spoke about different aspects of community support for developing the park for over a decade.

Scott said, "It's from the ground up. There’s a lot of people who support it."

Gasset was involved in the volunteer effort to clear the way for the Riverwalk. He was shocked and perplexed that the community consensus for the park has "seemed to unravel and we were back to square one."

Caudle-Johnson explained that "the Camden Conservation Commission was the earliest organization to advocate for a park and walkway along the river." The Riverwalk was approved by public referendum, and protected and preserved by a second public referendum, she said.

Development of the lot contradicts town goals to clean up pollution in the river and harbor, she said, and called putting parking and more buildings on the lot short-sighted.

"We want to encourage fewer buildings on the waterfront," she said. "Throughout the United States and Maine, other places have been reclaiming riverfront and turning it into parks."

Cranesport supporter Patrick McCafferty likes the short-term affordable space for the trades, makers and doers, proposed by Mullins.

“It’s a tremendously growing segment in our community,” he said. He wants to see something that will stimulate innovation and excitement, and keep younger people in Maine.

Ben Ellison agreed with McCafferty’s points, adding the Mullins plan will expand on “the wonderful feeling in the neighborhood Saturday a.m. when the Market is open.” The single-story workshops for artists and craftsmen will attract tenants, bring people to the public spaces and raise revenue, he said.

Anita Brosius-Scott sees economic stimulation and support for growing small businesses in Mullins’ proposal. She and McCafferty talked about Mullins having a track record with other projects he has implemented.

Wyatt McConnell called Mullins proposal the most vibrant and compelling put forward. He favors it based on his experience working with incubator space at a university. However,  he would vote against it, unless there is a plan for what would happen if it does not succeed and the property has to be sold. His concern is the property could be sold for a use not compatible with what community members have envisioned.

Three who support the development of affordable housing spoke favorably about Mid-Coast Habitat for Humanity’s plan to build single-family homes.

Stephanie Smith and Pat Chen would support development of more affordable single-family homes than the three Mid-Coast Habitat proposes to build. Chen would also consider the Northland/Dovetail apartments if the number of apartments could be reduced. She also likes the idea of keeping the Farmers’ Market and creating a playground on the lot.

Vicki Doudera said one, two or three houses would make a difference. More concentrated housing can be built in another area of town, she said.

Brenda Squibb spoke in favor of developing affordable housing, and cited this as a goal of the town’s Comprehensive Plan and important for diversity, as did Smith.

To have a lively town means, “schools that are filled with kids, people who have a place to live year-round,” she said. “Whatever we do, it has to include affordable housing.”