Camden Herald letters to the editor Feb.11

Feb 11, 2021

Tannery site project, a historical review

This week marks the beginning of what promises to be a long and detailed examination of those proposals that have been presented for the redevelopment of the Tannery property. Prior to picking apart or praising individual proposals I believe some historic review is in order. An original group studied the tannery situation and issued a report in 2008 that stipulated a long list of requirements for redevelopment. Those requirements failed to produce any realistic proposals.

In 2015 a new group of citizen volunteers called the Tannery Work Group was formed. This group spent two years studying the property, its potential, its current uses and the current situation in Camden. The group also held several public meetings with interested citizens.

The Tannery Work Group concluded that the best use of the property was a multi- use approach that would preserve the site and be a significant asset to the neighborhood and the community at large. This multi-use approach was to have three main aspects. First was to preserve space for the continued use by the Camden Farmers Market, the oldest farmers market in Maine. Second was to preserve and create additional park space that could include a toddler’s playground. Third was to keep some part of the site open to development either as a community resource or some limited commercial development. This plan was accepted by the Select Board in January of 2017.

Later in November 2017, the town applied to the Environmental Protection Agency for a Brownfields Cleanup Grant. The grant application contained very specific language as to the purpose of seeking the funds. The application stipulated:

“The Town of Camden envisions it being redeveloped into a park or community space, as well as a year round Farmers Market. It is likely that a portion of the property will also be separated and redeveloped for commercial use.”

These exact words are repeated again in a section of the application titled “Project Goal (site reuse plan)”

Other interesting aspects of the application state that the town will create a Community Engagement Plan which stipulates all kinds of public outreach, meetings and printouts. This plan has never been written or acted upon. It also stipulated that there would be engagement with involved community groups such as the Parks and Recreation committee and Friends of Tannery Park. These never happened. This application with the above language and stipulations was submitted to the EPA in November 2017 with a request for $200,000. At this point the only town group or committee that has been asked to be involved is CEDAC who’s focus is commercial development.

In August of 2018 the EPA awarded the town a $200,000 Brownfields Cleanup Grant. On page one of the grant it states:

“PROJECT TITLE AND DESCRIPTION

Apollo Tannery Brownfields Cleanup Grant

This agreement will provide funding to the Town of Camden to clean up a Brownfields site in Camden, Maine. The former Apollo Tanner operated from 1887 to 1999, and left a legacy of industrial contamination on the property. The town intends to cleanup the site and redevelop it into a park and year-round farmers market. Brownfields are real property, the expansion, development or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” (my underlining)

It seems to me this leaves the town in a precarious position. We have not abided by our own application both in actions and the RFP we promoted. The projects we are currently discussing do not adhere to the standards we set forth. This could leave us in legal jeopardy.

I would only remind the community that we are under no obligation to accept any of these proposals. We can use the remaining grant funds to remediate by covering the site and proceed on the basis of true community desires.

Stephen Gold

Camden

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