Rehab of 'last of the red sheds' scrutinized at Zoning Board hearing

By Susan Mustapich | Jun 18, 2019
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Lyman Morse plans to rebuild the remaining red shed at the head of Camden Harbor and add decks to the building and single-family residential space on the second floor.

CAMDEN — The replacement of the last red shed at the head of Camden Harbor with a nearly identical building was found to meet Zoning Board of Appeals requirements for changes to non-conforming buildings in the Shoreland Zone.

The ZBA hearing was held June 13, with members Deb Chapman, Ron Vanosdol, Sam Smith and John French present, and member Jon Kuhl absent.

The rebuilt structure, owned by Lyman Morse, will include new single-family residential space on the second floor, which is allowed in the Harbor Business District, where the red shed is located. The first floor will remain maritime and commercial use, as required by zoning, according to Will Gartley, of Gartley and Dorsky Engineering and Surveying. The exact use is not yet determined, but could be dingy storage or a canvas shop, Drew Lyman said.

The ZBA review relates only to replacing a non-conforming structure in the Shoreland Zone. The red shed was built in a tidal area before Camden's zoning ordinance and shoreland setbacks existed.

Currently, new construction is prohibited in tidal areas. The setback from the "harbor line," for conforming buildings over 24 feet in height, is 60 feet, according to the Zoning Ordinance. The roof line of the red shed is 28.9 feet high, according to Gartley, and is grandfathered.

The portion of the project in the tidal area will require a permit from the the state Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps of Engineers, Gartley said. Lyman mentioned that the state Department of Marine Resources and a federal fisheries agency will also look at part of the construction. The building plan will also have to meet FEMA's coastal construction criteria, according to Code Officer Steve Wilson. Within the last five years, FEMA has adopted new flood zones, he said. The new flood elevation for this part of the harbor is 11 feet, and the lowest floor has to be a foot above that, Wilson added.

In addition to all of these reviews, a site plan review conducted by the Planning Board is also required because of the size of the new building.

By happenstance, the building is the last of a number of red sheds that were built at the head of Camden Harbor for maritime uses. These red sheds feature in many photographs of Camden Harbor, and are even depicted on the town of Camden seal. The most recent red shed to be demolished was attached to the American Boathouse, and was not deemed to be part of the structure that had historical significance. That red shed was directly west of Lyman Morse's building.

Gartley described the new building Lyman Morse is planning as slightly smaller than the existing building, because of the removal of a "bump out" on the north side of the building, and a lessening of the width on the west side. The building will have decks added to the side. Gartley and Lyman indicated the building will be red, but will not have a white roof, as it does now. Under the building, pilings will still continue to support the structure, as they do now, and a retaining wall on the east side of the building will be reconstructed, and become part of the building's foundation.

The building is in a tight space, which includes parking and easements for underground utilities and a sewer line. All of this does not allow for much movement of the building to reduce its intrusion into the shoreland setback, according to Gartley. The retaining wall supporting part of Atlantic Avenue is behind the building, and construction to move the foundation further from shore and closer to that wall could undermine it, he said.

During the public comment period, Mary Jo Brink asked for more information about the building's roof line. "The roof line right now is quite sloped, and there are three houses on Atlantic that look through the slope for our views," she said.

After Gartley responded that the height of the roof line at its highest point would be continued the entire length of the building, Chapman asked if the views would change. Gartley acknowledged that the height would be higher at the harbor end of the building than it is now, but he did not have information on whether that would affect views from locations on Atlantic Avenue.

Wilson clarified that the Planning Board is going to review the height of the building and the configuration, and there are references to view corridors in its review.

Select Board member Alison McKellar's questions focused on the effects of the project on habitat. She noted that the town does not often see the rebuilding of "structures in this important, thriving zone." She mentioned that building on, walling off, and filling around the harbor has eliminated habitat and resulted in many species no longer being able to access the inter-tidal mudflats. She said the area where the red shed is located is a special part of the harbor containing "some of the only area that's not walled off, not concrete."

Lyman indicated that the company is open to discussions, and encouraged McKellar to come in and talk.

McKellar asked about options for moving the building further away from the shoreline.

Gartley replied the the building can neither be moved closer to Atlantic because of the grade and retaining wall, nor reoriented parallel to the shore, because of the utility easements.

Chapman asked about the plan's preparations for sea level rise and surges, and if conditions could be added for replanting vegetation that is environmentally helpful.

During board deliberations, French said Lyman Morse has oriented the building in the most practical way, given the retaining wall and utilities; its plan would address soil erosion, it is addressing shore impact by continuing to use pilings, and demonstrating it will improve vegetation. The board approved a motion in agreement.

Vanosdol brought up change of use. Wilson stated that the ZBA would only rule on a change from one non-conforming use to another non-conforming use. Vanosdol made a motion to the effect that the change of use met the guidelines of the zone the building is located in.

French said that based on the board's findings, the plan met the criteria, and recommended a vote to approve. Members voted 4 to 0 to approve the application .

Zoning Board of Appeals members, from left, Deb Chapman, Ron Vanosdol, Sam Smith and John French, found that Lyman Morse's plan to rebuild the red shed at the head of Camden Harbor met the required criteria. (Source: Town of Camden YouTube Channel)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jun 19, 2019 15:55

I am so glad the views were not compromised. Hopefully zoning will be specifically enforced and NOT changed.

Camden is surely known for "By the Sea" .  Hopefully it will never lose it's small town feature.

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