CAMDEN, Maine — The picturesque — and sometimes finicky — town by the sea might look a little bit dimmer after a vote this fall.
Residents will decide in November on proposed amendments to Camden’s sign ordinance, which would include the banning of neon signs and illuminated signs inside of a business that can be seen from the street.
“We are restrictive of what businesses can do to put themselves out there, and in this economy, you need to let people know you’re open for business,” said selectman John French Jr. at Tuesday night’s regular select board meeting. French also said that he thinks the interior of a building is “sacred.”
Despite his apparent displeasure with some aspects of the draft ordinance, French and other board members unanimously voted to put the changes on the ballot.
Planning board members argued that the cumulative effect of the changes would be more friendly to business and “liberalizes” current rules by giving them the right to affix another 4-foot-square sign outside.
But resident Brandon Kimble, who makes cabinets at his home business, told the select board that he disagreed, adamantly.
“It’s like this storybook fantasy land that we want to create in this town,” Kimble said. “We’re taking advertising away from people. I just don’t understand it. It’s not Peyton Place anymore. It’s 2009. And it’s hard living in this community.”
Select board members seemed enthusiastic about certain elements of the draft ordinance, including the requirement that signs advertising an obsolete business be taken down and the suggestion that the already-banned sidewalk sandwich board signs be more heavily regulated.
“It’s a constant battle,” said Camden Code Enforcement Officer Jeffrey Nims.
Planning board chairman Chris MacLean said after the meeting that he welcomed the active discussion about town issues and that the board reached out to the business committee over the three months they spent drafting the proposed amendments.
MacLean stopped to talk just outside the Washington Street Conference Room where a block away a small, cheerful neon “open” sign advertised that Zaddick’s Pizza was still serving. It was an example of an internally illuminated sign that probably wouldn’t make the cut if the amendments pass this fall, he said. The proposed ordinance says that signs which were “lawfully” in existence prior to the adoption of the ordinance would be excepted from its provisions. MacLean seemed dubious that the neon signs would be allowed this type of grandfather clause.
“But nothing gets enforced unless there’s a complaint,” planning board member Jan MacKinnon added.
In other business, select board members voted to set the 2009 tax rate at $13.21 per thousand, which is a half-percent increase over 2008. Board members Anita Brosius Scott and Debbie Dodge voted against the motion.
Board members decided that Camden needed to protect itself against the chance that more properties go into foreclosure or more residents need assistance from the town.
“The economy might be climbing internationally, but you don’t see it here yet,” French said. “It wouldn’t hurt to have a little bit of cushion to get us through tough times. I think we’re going to see some of those this winter.”
The board also authorized $22,206 worth of corrosion repair work for the Camden Fire Department’s ladder truck with Brosius-Scott in opposition. The funds will be withdrawn from the Fire Equipment Reserve Account.