CAMDEN, Maine — Planning board Chairman Christopher MacLean on Sunday unveiled a business development proposal showing ways the planning board can promote and foster business development in the town.
“We need to stop the exodus of business from Camden,” MacLean said in an interview with the Bangor Daily News. MacLean said the existence of nine empty stores in town is of great concern and the situation requires planning.
Last month, when the Select Board approved the creation of a Community and Economic Development Task Force to start looking at business issues, MacLean realized the planning board also would have to be involved.
“When I heard about that, it struck me that the planning board needs to do something similar,” MacLean said.
He is proposing a business development subcommittee of the planning board to serve as a liaison to the new economic development task force.
“The planning board needs to be at the forefront looking at all the ideas that are circling around to promote business development around town,” he said.
The planning board has a dual function of reviewing new applications, including subdivision and site-plan applications, and of looking to the future, or looking for ways of revising the comprehensive plan, “the document that kind of looks into the future and speaks to what we want to develop into,” he said.
“One thing the planning board can do immediately is to make recommendations to revise zoning ordinances to find different kinds of uses in different parts of town,” he said. “Those changes would have to be approved by the town voters.
“My vision is to take a serious look at zoning ordinances,” he said. “We have an experienced planning board. All the forces are there to allow Camden to be at the forefront.”
Planning board members MacLean, Lowrie Sargeant and Kerry Sabanty will serve on the new business development subcommittee, MacLean said.
The first meeting will be a brainstorming session in which planners will discuss the panel’s role and consider recommendations to the planning board on the priorities of possible business-related zone changes.
Other agenda items are to include ways to facilitate greater awareness and connections between the board and other town committees, Pine Tree Zone possibilities, development of a local business park, and discussion of home occupation standards.
“We want to create a Web site and work closely with the press,” MacLean said.
A business park could be set up at the former Apollo Tannery site, or at the town-owned property on Route 1 north near the site of the planned Verizon Wireless communications tower, he suggested.
Home occupations need to be looked at also, he said, including their effects on their neighborhoods and as part of a creative economy.
MacLean said the planning board has requested a place on the agenda of the Select Board at its Jan. 13 meeting to consider creation of a liaison to the economic development task force.
Assuming the Select Board approves the request, the planning board will have to discuss who and how many members of the committee should serve as liaison.
MacLean also hopes to start a discussion at the Select Board meeting on community outreach efforts to raise awareness of the planning board’s efforts to promote and foster business development.
The planners additionally hope to discuss with the Select Board ways to develop greater awareness in the business community about “positive changes taking place in Camden with respect to business development.”
MacLean hopes to schedule a planning board meeting in early January to discuss the new subcommittee.