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Lyman-Morse waterfront plan gains support

By Susan Mustapich | Nov 21, 2020
Source: YouTube Camden Maine The Camden Planning Board held a public hearing on the Lyman-Morse plan to demolish existing fire-damaged buildings and rebuild on Camden Harbor.

CAMDEN — The Planning Board made no decision on the Lyman-Morse site plan after a Nov. 19 public hearing, and will continue its review Dec. 3.

The majority of comments submitted for the public hearing were in support of the major redevelopment of Lyman-Morse's complex of buildings on Camden Harbor. The buildings were damaged during a fire at the Rhumb Line restaurant in June.

Comments were submitted by Camden residents, property owners and business owners. The meeting ran for three hours and included two public comment periods. At the end of the meeting, the Board voted to close the public comment period, and take up deliberation and discussion of approval criteria Thursday, Dec. 3.

The project was summarized at the start of the meeting. Smoke from the restaurant fire travelled through the existing buildings, which are connected and of hodgepodge construction. Afterwards, the town of Camden revoked occupancy permits for the buildings, and the company has operated out of trailers.

New construction will include a company office, a second boatwork building, retail and additional office space for lease, lounges for boaters and crews, a larger restaurant and a distillery building with a bar. A wider boardwalk will be designed for public access to the waterfront.

Planning and Development Director Jeremy Martin explained that the damaged buildings, totaling 31,400 square feet, will be demolished. The 11,000-square-foot boatwork building, located towards the back of the southeast corner of the property, will remain in place. New construction will total 32,924 square feet.

Will Gartley of Gartley & Dorsky Engineering presented a survey plan of all the property owned by Lyman-Morse companies around the north side of Camden Harbor

He showed plans and concept drawings providing details on the use and design of each of the new buildings, as well as drawings of building elevations.

The ground floor elevations of the buildings will be raised to meet new flood plain requirements. The current buildings are at an elevation of 9.5 feet. The new restaurant building, at the southeast corner of the property, will be built with a ground-floor elevation of 13 feet, with the remaining buildings at a ground-floor elevation of 11 feet.

Gartley compared the building elevations with the highest predicted tide for the year, which occurred on Nov. 17. He said the lowest floor of the restaurant will be six feet higher than that high tide measurement, and the remainder of the buildings will be four feet higher. The buildings will be 24 feet high, as measured from the ground-floor elevations, which is the maximum allowed by the zoning ordinance.

Most comments came in the form of letters and emails sent to the town's Planning and Development office. A few residents spoke during the public hearing. Comments were also posted while the meeting was taking place.

There were 13 written comments expressing support for the project and three written comments opposing the project. Martin read all of the written comments during the public hearing.

There were about 10 comments expressing a variety of concerns. These comments related to increased traffic on Sea Street from the larger restaurant and bar; obstruction of residents' existing views of Camden Harbor; change of the character of the area; glare from the exterior glass surfaces of the new buildings; noise from restaurant operations; disturbance to the neighborhood during construction; and insufficient measures to address sea level rise. A number of residents with concerns said they support the project.

The majority of comments posted during the meeting were questions.

Mark Poutasse, a Sea Street resident, spoke during the public hearing. His concern is that not enough consideration has been given to the change of character of the new development, and that the traffic study does not address the impact on Sea Street neighbors.

Alison McKellar spoke as a Camden resident, while noting she is on the Select Board. She expressed strong support for the project and for Lyman-Morse, while stating it was tragic that the fire has created an urgency to rebuild before the town adjusts its ordinances and Comprehensive Plan to address sea-level rise. She called this a failure of town government. She said the town has to ability to quickly hold a special town meeting soon to ask voters to approve changes that would give Lyman-Morse more flexibility to address sea-level rise in its new construction.

Planning Board member Ethan Shaw's questions focused on sea level rise and whether the company has looked at studies on the issue. He depicted a possibility that the new Lyman-Morse buildings could be underwater in 50 or 100 years.

Lyman-Morse owner Drew Lyman said he and his father Cabot take sea level rise seriously. He said they looked into what they could do with Gartley. He has reviewed sea level rise studies as a former member of the Harbor Committee, including the state report on Camden's Public Landing.

He addressed the suggestion that the town quickly change its zoning ordinances. Changing ordinances is something that should take time and needs to be thought out, he said, as there will be a lot of concerns and questions, he said. The urgency to rebuild is due to the fire and resulting loss of occupancy to their buildings.

Planning Board member Mark Siegenthaler asked about view corridors referenced in one of the public comments. He said he could not find this requirement in town ordinances. Martin confirmed Camden's ordinances do not give private properties a right to a view. Only viewsheds from public rights of way are preserved in the town's zoning ordinance, he said.

Matt Siegel of the planning board asked about public comments referring to a retaining wall and invasive trees growing in that area on the Lyman-Morse property. He asked if the company had addressed this. Gartley said the retaining wall will be replaced, and the invasive vegetation will be removed and likely replaced with lower growing vegetation.

Siegel said he is sees that the owners have assessed the risk of sea level rise and made that risk part of their decision making. This allayed his initial concern that the speed of the planning process had pushed this issue to the back burner.

Planning Board member Jeff Senders asked about the increase in impervious space, which is not detailed on the plans. Gartley said the impervious area is not increasing, and pointed out that areas beneath the boardwalk and green spaces are not impervious. Senders said the plan shows the 128 parking spaces required.

Chairwoman Rosie Curtis brought up questions asked by members of the public related to reconfiguring Sea Street as a one-way street with egress from Eaton Avenue, parking and signage. Gartley said the company will work with the town on signage. All employee parking is onsite, eliminating any need to park on Sea Street. He deferred consideration of a one-way street to the town of Camden.

Curtis asked about a concern with adding more boats to an already busy harbor.

Drew Lyman responded, saying "everything I'm doing is to increase the energy and the boats in the harbor. It's a busy harbor and that's what I love about it." He said this is done in coordination with the harbor master and within the harbor's rules." The company is as big a supporter of the windjammers, he said.

Siegenthaler said the town has studied and thought long and hard about Wayfarer and Lyman-Morse. The community fought building condos there and the interest has been to maintain a boatyard, he said. He had questions about the relation of restaurant operation to Planning Board site plan approval. Martin said what the Board is reviewing is approval of a restaurant with a roof deck. He said zoning allows restaurants as long as they meet the standards. Operation of the restaurant involves multiple inspections and licenses, which Martin listed.

The issue of noise from the rooftop restaurant was discussed. Gartley said the existing boatwork building, will be directly behind the new restaurant. The boatwork building is higher than the restaurant roof deck, and will absorb noise, he said. The town's noise ordinance, under the jurisdiction of the police department, was also discussed.

Randy Dunton reviewed the traffic study in regard to use of Sea Street. From a traffic standpoint, it is not expected that people will use Eaton or Arey avenues to get to Lyman-Morse, he said.

The study analyzed whether Sea Street is able to handle all the traffic to Lyman Morse. The documented volume of traffic on that street was compared to standard use of a road of that type. It was determined that the traffic on Sea Street is not even close to capacity, Dunton said.

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