An old debate about how much development should be allowed in a wetland area near the Bangor Mall was rekindled this month when a landowner asked the city for a zoning change that would have allowed campsites to open along parts of Stillwater Avenue.
Cindy DeBeck of Newburgh, who owns 70 acres of undeveloped land between the Walmart on Stillwater Avenue and the Penjajawoc Marsh, had hoped to open an RV campground on an area near the marsh. In addition to the zoning change, the campground proposal would have required additional approval from the city.
A thin section of DeBeck’s land is currently zoned in a way that does not allow a campground.
But after more than an hour of discussion Monday night, the Bangor City Council voted 7-2 to reject the proposed change, even though the planning board previously voted 4-3 to recommend the change.
If passed, the change would have grouped Stillwater Avenue with two other major Bangor roads, Broadway and Union Street, where campgrounds — along with golf courses and driving ranges — can be proposed in areas zoned as “Rural Residence and Agricultural.”
However, given past efforts by the city and private entities to protect Penjajawoc Marsh and given the possibility that any zoning changes could bring unintended consequences to an environmentally vulnerable area, more than two-thirds of councilors voted against the proposal.
Some councilors said it’s rare for the City Council to vote against the recommendation of the planning board, but added they had not realized the extent of the proposed zoning change when they first referred it to the planning board.
“If we were voting on this issue, if they were going to be the landowners, they would be great stewards out there,” Councilor Dan Tremble said, referring to DeBeck’s family. “But you know, in a generation or two generations, after all of us are gone, once we make a zone change it’s done. In the future, we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The marsh is cherished by bird enthusiasts and environmentalists who have resisted efforts to develop the surrounding land and who helped push the city to develop a management plan for the wetland in 2007.