Camden development moratorium to end Saturday

Posted Oct. 07, 2009, at 9:45 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — Any owners of “formula” businesses interested in expanding into downtown Camden now have a window of opportunity to do so — but they have to act between Oct. 10 and the annual town meeting in June.

Select Board members decided at Tuesday night’s regular meeting not to take action to continue the six-month moratorium on development, which expires Saturday. The moratorium sprang from last spring’s controversial Dunkin’ Donuts affair.

A proposal for a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in a storefront at 5 Elm St. sparked a resident-led effort to change the town’s zoning ordinances to temporarily prohibit formula businesses from opening in the downtown business district, resulting in the moratorium.

The town planning board had not requested that the moratorium be continued and no one from the board was on hand to answer questions.

Some Select Board members said they were uneasy about letting the matter hang open- ended before the June meeting, when voters likely will decide whether or not to accept new language regarding development.

“If someone came in and decided to put in a franchise in December, the whole process would start all over again,” said board member Morgan Laidlaw.

But Town Manager Roberta Smith cautioned against the board taking action when no extension was requested.

“A moratorium restricts property rights,” Smith said.

No one on the board moved to extend the moratorium.

Property rights, and the balance between business interests and residents, were much discussed in other meeting business.

Board members discussed nine recent complaints about excessive nighttime noise coming from Cuzzy’s Restaurant at 16 Bay View St. Although the restaurant has an amusement permit that allows for music until 12:30 a.m., some neighbors have been unamused by what they say is intolerable noise.

“The problem here is amplification of sound. I can stand next to Cuzzy’s and the whole place is shaking,” said John Duffy. “It’s the kind of place they stick terrorists in to get them to crack. … In Camden, you can have bedlam here. I go to Belfast or to New York City to get a good night’s sleep.”

Despite these remarks, neighbors at the meeting said Cuzzy’s owner Christopher Cousins had been “very responsive,” Duffy said.

Cousins said he would make extra efforts to close his windows and monitor noise levels.

“I didn’t realize there were this many complaints,” he said. “It was my understanding that police officers would give me a pre-emptive warning.”

Although there was a brief discussion of the town’s noise ordinance — which prohibits “unreasonable” noise between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. — the board took no action at the meeting.

Select Board Chair Karen Grove said she was sure the matter could be worked through without further action, if Cousins and proprietors of other downtown restaurants continued to cooperate with the town.

In other business, the board decided against a resident’s request for an ordinance prohibiting open burning of leaves, brush and other yard waste in the village center.

“We’ve had one complaint in two years,” said Fire Chief Chris Farley. “I don’t see a rampant problem. I just don’t see it. I don’t see a need to create more policies.”

The board members also voted to proclaim Saturday, Oct. 24 as Climate Action Day in Camden, and to accept an $8,477 bid to replace the furnace at the Wastewater Shop and a $43,700 bid to repair and insulate the shop roof.

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