There has been a lot of discussion about the two items on the ballot for June 14 that would give the Select Board the power to negotiate a deal with Mike Mullins concerning the former tannery property.

The deal would mean selling the property to Mullins to create “maker” spaces there while allowing the Farmers Market to continue in that location.

The Select Board perspective seems to be that this would be a quick fix for the ongoing tannery issue. Mullins could create business development, but not too much, and would then be on the hook for dealing with the contamination issue. Town government folks could wash their hands of it.

As things stand, the plan is pretty vague and there is no guarantee of an agreement being reached even if these items are approved.

Perhaps there is a better long-term solution.

The focus should not be on developing the property at this time, but on cleaning it up once and for all. The town has had a grant to do cleanup there, but has not used all of it. There is a logic to the fact that the costs of cleanup have risen since the grant was acquired, but perhaps it would have been better to come to the townspeople at town meeting for the rest of the cleanup money and make this project the priority.

Cleanup should include the river banks as well. There seems to be a sense of denial in the community about the banks issue, but we have seen the need for the cleanup there first-hand. The town might as well get it all sorted out rather than kicking that can down the road.

Once the former tannery property is cleaned up entirely and deemed safe for any and all uses, the town could then contemplate what the best possible use of this asset really is.

Perhaps it could serve as a spot for affordable housing. It exists in a residential neighborhood and that would fit nicely.

Perhaps it could serve as a town park. It seems to be needed, this public space for such things as the Farmer’s Market, the staging area for projects and access to the Megunticook River. The park would go well with the walking paths already there.

Major business development seems like it would be out of character and constitute sprawl. Camden has the downtown and shopping centers. Why develop this area?

Money could be cited as an answer as it always is, but failing to invest in this asset now could be a penny wise and a pound foolish in the long term. Town staff could devote some time to acquiring more grants for the cleanup. They seem to have a talent for grant-writing. Aside from that, the property is going to be worth top dollar when that work is done.

The real objective should be to improve health and safety for all time. Development can come later.

Periodically, The Camden Herald editorial board collaborates on local issues of concern.