Hampden council approves waterfront zoning district

Posted June 05, 2012, at 10:26 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — Despite being short two members, the Hampden Town Council was able to approve a draft purchase and sales agreement for the old high school property, unanimously approve a zoning ordinance amendment and general assistance ordinance revision and turn down a request for a campsite at the Hampden Business Park.

But after councilors wrangled for more than 90 minutes over a proposal by organizers of the KahBang music, art and film festival to pay Hampden $5,000 to use the business park as a campground for approximately 350-400 festival-goers for four days, Monday night’s three-hour meeting quickly lost steam.

Councilor Kristen Hornbrook abruptly got up from her seat, saying she had to leave. She left as fellow councilors asked her to stay a few minutes for a quick vote on approving the use of reserve funds for the public library.

“The grubs ate the lawn, so they had to spend $205 to fix it,” said Town Manager Susan Lessard. “We have the authority to use funds from the reserve account, but it still requires council approval. It’ll just have to wait a couple weeks.”

With Councilors Shelby Wright and Jeremy Williams both absent from the meeting, Hornbrook’s departure left the council without a quorum and unable to take up anymore business. That means one of the most important agenda items wasn’t addressed: the annual town budget.

“The budget has been introduced for public hearing as presented, so there’s no problem as far as our timetable goes,” said Lessard.

But there will now be no opportunity for councilors to address any concerns before the budget heads toward a formal approval vote.

“There is still some work we have to do with some outside agencies regarding funding for them because they requested more than we budgeted,” said Councilor and Mayor Janet Hughes. “Not taking it up tonight means it doesn’t allow any potential comments or questions regarding any individual line items from the council.”

There was some good news regarding the budget, according to Lessard and councilors.

“We’ve been able to maintain our 15.9 mill rate for five straight years, even this year with opening a new high school across the street,” Hughes said. “The good news, at least for this year, is we will be able to absorb that increase from the new school. It may not be a long-term solution, but it will work for this year and that’s good news in this economic climate.”

The total estimated fiscal year 2013 budget figure is pegged at $9,466,978. That represents a total increase of $182,512, or 1.41 percent from last year.

“If it got adjusted a dime this year, 10 cents in six years — especially with a new high school opening across the street — that’s pretty good,” said Lessard.

In other action, councilors voted to:

• Approve the creation of a Waterfront 1 District for the peninsula property area near the marina where the town plans to create a park with hiking trails and canoe and kayak rentals.

“The council felt the current commercial service designation was too wide-ranging a description,” said town planner Bob Osborne. “The result of this zone change means the list of uses is more waterfront-central. This covers a range of uses, including restaurants, boat building and recreation.”

Osborne said the new district also restricts uses that aren’t complementary to the park, such as drive-through restaurants or heavy industrial use.

“And having that 1 District designation allows us flexibility to create a variant of that designation down the road, such as maybe a Waterfront II District that has a frontage requirement and more of a mindset toward development, like condos or a hotel.”

• Heard an update from Credere Associates of Westbrook about an ongoing environmental assessment survey of the soon-to-be-vacated Hampden Academy, which will be sold to the town by the school district.

• Approved a draft purchase and sale agreement of the old Hampden Academy property, pending any complications or problems found during initial surveys.

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