CAMDEN, Maine — North East Mobile Health Services announced Tuesday that it plans to pursue another location for its regional headquarters after neighbors of a town-owned lot threatened legal action if the Select Board sold the land to the company.
The town has been trying to sell the land for more than five years and even offered to give it away if a company would come in with jobs.
When North East Mobile Health proposed building a 6,000-square-foot facility on the property to serve as its offices and garage for its ambulances, selectmen jumped at the opportunity and voted unanimously on Aug. 5 to begin negotiations with the company.
But neighbors opposed to the proposal argued that an ambulance center would be noisy and create traffic hazards.
In response, North East Mobile Health issued a news release Tuesday stating that it had released the town from negotiating exclusively with the firm. The local selectmen had been scheduled to vote Tuesday night on a purchase-and-sale agreement but that was pulled off the agenda.
Tom Resek, one of the neighbors who led the effort to block the sale, said he was very happy.
“I’m so happy, I can’t even tell you,” Resek said.
Select Board Chairman Martin Cates stated in a separate release that he will ask the board to hold a nonbinding referendum in November to ask residents whether they want the 2.45-acre former Apollo Tannery site to be developed for commercial use to create jobs or to be a public park.
North East stated it had been presented with an alternate location that it wanted to consider. The location includes sufficient space and a building on site that could meet its needs, the company stated.
The company did not reveal the alternative location.
North East President Dennis Brockway said in the news release that the company’s focus has always been on finding a location to best serve the people in the four-town community in its primary service area.
“North East Mobile Health is thankful to the Town of Camden for working with us on our site search,” Brockway stated, “and we appreciate the warm response we have received since becoming the area’s designated emergency medical services provider.”
Resek said residents will work to make sure that the process for selling the lot is more transparent and has more involvement from the community.
The tannery closed in 1999 and the town acquired it through nonpayment of property taxes in 2003. After spending about $1 million to clean up environmental problems at the site, the town tried to sell the property for economic development.
When that didn’t work, town officials decided in 2010 to try a marketing ploy to attract jobs to the community by offering the land for free. While there were some inquiries, including by a start-up movie company, the ploy has been unsuccessful thus far.