May 23, 2018
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Camden in talks to sell former tannery land to regional ambulance service

Stephen Betts | BDN
Stephen Betts | BDN
The site of the former tannery in Camden.
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

CAMDEN, Maine — The town may finally have a taker for nearly 3 acres of commercial property along the Megunticook River that it had offered for free to entice development.

The Select Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to begin negotiations with North East Mobile Health Services for the former Apollo Tannery property.

North East Mobile Health plans to build a 6,000-square-foot facility that would serve as its offices and garage for its ambulances.

The town had offered the land for free to potential buyers who would develop the property for a commercial venture, but Camden Development Director Brian Hodges said Wednesday that North East Mobile was not interested in the incentive at this time. North East is a profit-making company and will be paying property taxes, he said.

Dennis Brockway, president of North East, said Wednesday that the company is looking at other incentives involving the purchase but he could not comment on what those would be or whether the company would seek a Pine Tree Zone designation.

North East plans to begin construction by August 2015. The final sales agreement must be voted on by the Select Board. The company also must submit a site plan to the town and go through the planning board’s review process.

North East became the emergency medical services provider last year for Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Hope, succeeding Camden First Aid Association. The company has been leasing office space in Rockport.

The town will require that the Camden Riverwalk, which crosses the property, remain open to the public. The town also will require that the trees along Washington Street in front of the lot remain.

North East employs 30 people and will be hiring more workers, according to Hodges.

The company plans to have 35 parking spaces on the lot. The building and parking area will be on the Rawson Avenue side of the property. Entrances would be from both Washington Street and Rawson Avenue.

Hodges pointed out in a news release that North East wants to be good neighbors and will not activate the sirens of its emergency vehicles on the site unless necessary. The town public safety building is less than a half mile from the lot, the town pointed out.

North East has no plans to develop the remainder of the property although that will be allowed under the sales agreement.

The Washington Street property was acquired by the town in 2003 after the former Apollo Tannery shut down and the property owners did not pay their taxes. The decades of the tannery operating at the site, however, left environmental problems. The town and state environmental agencies worked together and cleaned the property.

In 2005, residents voted for a bond issue for the town to borrow $836,000 for the cleanup work. The town later received a $200,000 grant used to clean up brownfield sites.

The remediation work was completed in 2008.

As the recession struck, town officials decided to try a marketing ploy to attract jobs to the community by offering the land for free. Residents have rated bringing year-round jobs to Camden as a top goal.

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