CAMDEN, Maine ― Voters here soon could decide the fate of a 3-acre property along the Megunticook River that’s been ripe for development for nearly two decades.
Camden has received four proposals to transform the former Apollo Tannery site, which the town acquired in 2003 after the business closed and property owners failed to pay taxes.
From giving the land away in exchange for job creation to considering proposals for a movie studio and an ambulance center, the town has tried to develop the site for years. Officials are hopeful to finally develop the site after a new slate of diverse proposals was submitted this fall.
They include two plans aimed at creating affordable housing, one that would create an industrial “eco-village” for entrepreneurs and craftspeople, and another proposal to convert the site into a community park.
“I think this time is different,” Camden Development Director Jeremy Martin said. “I think the diversity of the proposals is great. I could see all four proposals working at this site.”
Since acquiring the site, the town has spent nearly $1 million dollars to demolish the former tannery and conduct environmental clean-ups there. The vacant site, known informally as Tannery Park, has served as home to the Camden Farmers’ Market and a portion of the Megunticook River Trail.
Multiple groups have tried over the years to come up with a vision for the site, Martin said, but they never gained a strong consensus.
About 12 miles south on Route 1 in Thomaston, officials have been dealing with a similar challenge on how to redevelop the former Maine State Prison site which the town has owned since the early 2000s. In September, voters shot down two proposals to develop portions of the site for housing.
“As time goes by, for communities that have this [open land] issue, it becomes more challenging to get broad consensus on what to do with the properties,” Martin said.
Camden’s economic development advisory committee will review the four proposals over the next month, and generate comments and questions before presenting their findings to the selectboard as early as January.
From there the selectboard will host workshops with developers. Voters could cast ballots on one or more of the proposals in June 2021.