Moratorium, public parking, charter commission go to Dec. 18 special town meeting

By Susan Mustapich | Dec 06, 2018
Courtesy of: Dale Dougherty A vote will be held at a special town meeting Dec. 18 to address the growing number of unregulated moorings in inland waters, including Lake Megunticook, pictured here.

CAMDEN — Voters will decide at a Dec. 18 special town meeting whether to enact a 180-day moratorium on the placement of new moorings in inland waterways, the lease/purchase of a large downtown lot to increase public parking, and the creation of a charter commission.

The meeting will be held in the John French Conference Room, 8 Washington St., at 6:30 p.m.

Inland waterway mooring moratorium

Select Board members agreed Dec. 4  to hold a public vote on enacting a 180-day moratorium, which, if passed, would give the town time to develop ordinances to regulate moorings on inland waterways.

While board members agree voters should decide on the moratorium, there is no consensus on whether a moratorium is enforceable.

Board Chairman Bob Falciani contends the moratorium cannot be enforced, because existing moorings are not documented. Board member Alison McKellar wants to avoid creating a moratorium that is not enforceable. Board members discussed changing the language of the moratorium article to be voted on to clarify exactly what cannot be done with moorings in inland waterways if it is passed by voters.

Board members Jenna Lookner and Marc Ratner spoke in support of the moratorium, to give the town time to discuss regulations and address concerns raised by lakefront property owners and users of the lake and public boat ramps. Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell said the moratorium language can be changed, and the changes voted on, at the special town meeting.

The Select Board held two public hearings on inland waterway moorings. At the public hearings, community members expressed concerns about the increase in the number of moorings in Lake Megunticook, near the public boat launches at Bog Bridge and Route 52, and outside the swimming area at the town-owned Barrett's Cove Beach.

Some of the lakefront property owners who spoke are concerned about development of properties on the islands in Lake Megunticook, and the increased number of docks, floats and boats related to those properties.

Camden has no regulations for moorings on its inland waterways, but it does have ordinances for permitting docks and floats.

Public parking opportunity

Board members unanimously agreed to send to voters a decision on a lease/purchase of parking lots in the Knox Mill area. If approved, the purchase will signficantly increase the number of public parking spaces in downtown Camden.

The lease/purchase includes much of the large parking area behind the Knox Mill, as well as a smaller parking lot at 4 Knowlton St. The smaller lot would serve as the trailhead for the Riverwalk. Contractor Ford Enterprises was recently selected to build the newest section of the natural walkway along the Megunticook River. The new section will connnect the Riverwalk section at Tannery Park on Washington Street to 4 Knowlton St.

The public vote on the parking lot lease/purchase is the final step in a plan that has been in the works for about a year. One of the preliminary steps was Caler-Bell's plan to pay for the lease/purchase by using revenues in the downtown tax incentive financing account as matching funds for grants for downtown improvements.There is $60,000 in the 2018-19 municipal budget for the first year of lease/purchase payments.

The other step was an ordinance change, approved by voters in November, which reduces requirements for the number of parking spaces alloted to residential units from two to one per unit. The ordinance change also applies to congregate and senior housing in the downtown area.

The amount of the lease/purchases cannot exceed 174 consecutive monthly payments of $5,000, a total of $870,000. Caler-Bell said the lease/purchase price is based on the assessed value of 4 Knowlton St. and the asking price of the owner of the Knox Mill lot.

Charter Commission

Voters will be asked to approve the formation of a Charter Commission, in order to review and revise the town charter.

The charter is the document that defines the operation of the town manager form of government used by Camden. The current charter was adopted more than 40 years ago, and has been amended, but not comprehensively revised, since that time.

The proposal before voters is that a comprehensive charter review and revision is needed in order to eliminate inconsistences between local government and state law and practices, "and to best reflect current times and methods of conducting the citizens' business."

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