Zoning proposal could allow new fast-food restaurant

Proposal excludes big fast food franchises from downtown business districts
By Susan Mustapich | Mar 12, 2019
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Camden's small highway business zone extends along the northwest side of Route 1 from the John Street intersection to the Rockport town line, and includes Subway, an existing formula-based fast-food restaurant.

CAMDEN — Proposed zoning for formula-based restaurants could bring a new fast-food restaurant to a highway business zone, while excluding these restaurants from downtown.

A public hearing is set for the zoning proposal March 21 at 5 p.m. in the John French Jr. conference room on Washington Street.

The proposed zoning limits formula-based fast-food restaurants in Camden to the highway business zone, a relatively small area on the northwest side of Route 1, beginning at the Rockport-Camden town line. The zone includes the Hannaford Shopping plaza and the Subway restaurant, and ends at the west side of the John Street intersection. The former McDuck's gas station and convenience store property, on the east side of the John Street intersection, is not located in the highway business zone.

This zone "has the capacity to handle heavy traffic flow" according to the proposal. Siting a fast-food restaurant in the highway business zone also lessens the possibility of adverse impacts to the downtown, including increasing traffic congestion, litter and an increased demand for parking, the proposal states..

The purpose of the highway business district is "to provide a location for highway-oriented businesses," according to Camden's zoning ordinance.

The zoning amendment also serves to exclude formula-based fast-food restaurants from the downtown business districts.

Current zoning allows these restaurants in downtown Camden, although drive thru facilities are prohibited.

According to the proposed zoning, Camden's downtown business districts "provide for a pedestrian-oriented, year-round business center with a focus on small-scale specialty and comparision shopping and services with the existing scale and character of downtown Camden," according to a written introduction to the new zoning amendment.

Camden has a history of controversy around the issue of locating fast-food restaurants in the downtown area. In 2009, when a Dunkin Donuts franchise was proposed for the center of downtown, local citizens rallied to oppose it, writing letters and signing a petition presented to town officals. There was a plan to hold a public vote on a referendum to place a retroactive 180-day moratorium on formula businesses downtown, but the francise owners backed out of their plan.

The highway business district begins within the Hannaford shopping plaza on Route 1, which is partially located in the town of Rockport. (Photo by: Susan Mustapich)
The small highway business zone (B-2) on the northwest side of Route 1 begins at the town line, includes most of the Hannaford shopping plaza, the Subway restaurant and ends at the John Street intersection. (Source: Town of Camden Zoning Map)
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