CAMDEN, Maine — Residents of properties near a former tannery site are rallying to put the brakes on the town’s pending sale of the land to an ambulance service.
The neighbors say the ambulance operations in their residential neighborhood would cause noise and safety problems. They argue that those issues violate the standards approved by voters for any sale of the lot.
Town officials announced last week that they had voted unanimously to begin negotiations with Northeast Mobile Health Services to sell the nearly 3 town-owned acres along the Megunticook River that had been the site of the Apollo Tannery. The town has been trying to sell the land for five years and even offered to give it away if a company would come in with jobs.
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 company employs 30 people but anticipates hiring more workers.
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.
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.
Several residents spoke out at last week’s Select Board meeting in opposition to the sale.
Tom Resek of Rawson Avenue said Monday that the residents plan to meet with North East officials at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Tucker Room of the Camden Opera House.
Resek said 20 residents turned out for an inaugural meeting last week to discuss how to stop the project. There are about 50 people on the email list of residents interested in getting information on the effort, he said.
The group also has hired an attorney to serve as a consultant for its members but no move has been taken to take legal action, he said.
The main concerns are that noise and traffic that would be detrimental to the area of Camden known as Millville, he said. Residents do not want to live next to an ambulance service that will have flashing lights, sirens and ambulances speeding through the neighborhood 24 hours a day, according to Resek.
He said he knows town officials have been eager to sell the land but urged them not to sell to North East.
“Be a little more patient, a little more imaginative, and have a little more respect for the neighborhood,” Resek said.
The land could be used for a farmers’ market, a craft school or an environmental learning center or for small neighborhood commercial operations such as a coffee shop, he said.
While pointing out that the sale is not final, Select Board members defended their action and said that North East Mobile would be a good fit on the property.
Select Board member John French Jr. said that it will not be just a garage and sheds but an office building. He said there will not be sirens on the site but North East Mobile will need them once they get to intersections such as with Route 1.
“This will be no war zone,” French said.
Board member Donald White also said the operations would not produce noise at the site.
Board member Leonard Lookner said he has always looked out for the rights of residential neighborhoods. He said he has argued for years at the annual town meetings against residents giving the Select Board the authority to sell town land without specific approval from the voters for each sale.
Residents several years ago gave the board the authority to sell the former tannery lot.
Residents, however, pointed to one of the standards approved by voters, which states that any business that has a significant loud outside noise component or any business that would impose a hazardous or dangerous environment is unacceptable for the site.
The town acquired the property in 2003.