CAMDEN, Maine — A divided Select Board refused Tuesday night to send a ballot question to voters on whether some Route 1 bed-and-breakfast businesses can serve dinners to their guests.
The board voted 3-2 to reject putting the proposed ordinance change on the Nov. 4 ballot. The ordinance change would have allowed inns on High Street — the section of Route 1 north of downtown — that are within 500 feet of a zone that allows restaurants, to serve meals to overnight guests.
The issue has generated considerable interest in town during the past year. At a July 2 public hearing before the planning board, 30 people spoke out on the proposal with two-thirds opposed and the remainder in support. The planners sent the proposal on to the Select Board.
Select Board Chairman Martin Cates said Tuesday night that it was a travesty for the board not to send the question to voters. He said the board should not be in fear of what voters will decide.
Select Board member Leonard Lookner said if the board doesn’t listen to the people who speak out at hearings, then why are they held. Board member John French Jr. agreed, pointing out that 11 of the 12 people who spoke out Tuesday night were against the ordinance change. The hearing and discussion on the issue Tuesday night lasted 90 minutes.
The change has been sought by Kristen Bifulco, who owns the Windward House bed-and-breakfast at 6 High St. The Windward House is a 6,400-square-foot 1854-built Greek Revival House.
On Wednesday, Bifulco said she was stunned by the board’s vote. She said she can’t understand why after three years of working with the planning board, town attorney and code enforcement officer that the Select Board would refuse to have the matter decided by voters.
One option she has is to gather signatures on a formal petition process to get it on the municipal ballot. Bifulco said she does not know whether she will go that route.
Bifulco repeated her position that the proposed ordinance change would generate more business for Camden by bringing more people into the community. She said other inns are allowed to serve dinners, but because she is in the traditional village zone, she is not.
Opponents said the change would harm the High Street neighborhood while others said it would take away business from downtown restaurants.