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New ideas to help businesses in Camden include open-air market

Jul 08, 2020

CAMDEN — An open-air market will be a new feature at Tannery Park this summer, if a plan approved by the Select Board July 7 goes forward.

Board members agreed to allow an open-air market for businesses to sell their wares, to be located at Tannery Park one day a week through the summer. Fridays were proposed as the day, as the property is only used Wednesdays and Saturdays by the Camden Farmers' Market. Businesses will have to be licensed and insured to do this, according to Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell.

The idea was proposed by Jennel Pendleton, owner of Barefoot in Denim, who wrote to the town asking about use of town property for a mobile boutique. Pendleton said this is a strategy for her business to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, along with an e-commerce site she launched in January. She has surveyed her customers, and they support the idea, she wrote.

Pendleton had to vacate her store on Bay View Street, due to the state-mandated closure of non-essential businesses in March and inability to renegotiate her rent, she wrote.

Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin said other local businesses have expressed interest in the concept.

Board members were unanimous is directing Caler-Bell to work out the details. Marc Ratner said he hopes others will want to join the market. Taylor Benzi said that if any business has a reasonable request, the town should do anything it can to help them. Alison McKellar hopes the plan will allow many types of vendors.

Jenna Lookner said, "It's really important to safely support our businesses and this is one way to do it." This may also encourage more pedestrian use of the sidewalk on Washington Street, she said. Bob Falciani said the open-air market will add vibrancy to the town, and is a great idea precipitated by the challenges of the pandemic.

Keep Maine Healthy grant

Caler-Bell announced that Camden has received a $102,000 "Keep Maine Healthy" grant, to be used to assist businesses as they reopen, and for community awareness and education. This includes efforts to keep people safe, while salvaging the tourist season, she said. The town is getting feedback on opportunities from business owners, and is open to ideas.

It will also pay for an increase in police foot patrols downtown, to help businesses with mask wearing issues, she said. The grant is retroactive to June, and will pay for signage posted around downtown last month regarding social distancing.

Town Manager contract renewed

Board members renewed a three-year contract with Caler-Bell. Her salary in the first year of the contract is $119,225. It allows Caler-Bell the same cost of living increases given to other town employees in subsequent years, and merit increases at the discretion of the board. Caler-Bell was hired by the town in June 2017.

Route 52 parking

The town is receiving complaints about parking along Route 52 near an informal swimming area called the ledges, according to Caler-Bell. The use of this area has been restricted by enforcing no-parking rules, but is also seeing higher use, according to a memo she prepared for the board. Caler-Bell attributes this to "areas that provide public access to the lake, such as Barrett’s Cove and the boat launches at Routes 52 and 105, are often crowded, with people doing their best to be mindful of social distancing."

The Select Board has the authority to remove this area as a no parking zone, she wrote.

Police Chief Randy Gagne also provided information for the Board about parking on Route 52. He wrote that parking has been prohibited for several decades or longer due to the width of the road. Prior to that, vehicles would be parked in the roadway. This, plus the 40 mile per house speed limit and unrestricted crossing of the road by pedestrians created dangerous situations, he wrote. There are four parking spaces, and the potential for more adding more, he wrote, but he suggested consulting with the Department of Transportation first.

Board members received one email in favor of reopening parking there and one against, both of which were read aloud. One letter said Route 52 was the most convenient area for their family to swim at the end of a long day's work. The other letter cited the dangerous situations created by reopening parking, including the danger to swimmers from boats, because it is not a marked or designated swimming area.

Caler-Bell said changes to the area, such as widening the shoulders and creating safer pedestrian access could be discussed as part of ongoing work with Patrick Adams from the Transportation Department and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. There have been two community meetings in Camden regarding improving pedestrian and bicycle safety, which is part of a larger effort to reduce a spike in pedestrian deaths.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: ananur forma | Jul 08, 2020 15:21

VERY odd, never would've thought this. Friend from Belfast drove through Camden yesterday and said she was shocked to say hardly anyone was wearing a mask. I thought the people in Camden were people of conscience. Were these all people from away who don't  care about us? I'm wondering...

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