Camden voters will no longer be asked in June to allow the town to enter into a sales agreement with a developer who is seeking to build a makerspaces for entrepreneurs, as well as housing units on the site of a former tannery.
The Camden selectboard had hoped the details of a purchase and sales agreement would be ready in time for the annual town meeting in June. However, a housing component was added to the proposal at the town’s request which requires the developer, Cranesport LLC, to flesh out additional financing and planning aspects of the project.
While the proposal will not go before voters in June, the developer is still in discussions with the town to determine how to make the project viable.
The multi-use development is the latest proposal being considered for the site of the former Apollo Tannery, which the town has been attempting to sell for over a decade. Given the long history of failed proposals for the site, officials felt it would be unfair to take an incomplete development agreement to voters.
“The last thing we want to think about is rushing [a vote] to the point where there are too many ‘what if’s’ in the document,” Camden Selectboard Chair Bob Falciani said at an April 13 meeting. “That’s not the risk I would recommend to the voters at this time.”
Camden took ownership of the site ― which is located along the Megunticook River ― in 2003, when the tannery closed and property owners failed to pay taxes.
Since acquiring the site, the town has spent nearly $1 million dollars to demolish the former tannery and conduct environmental clean-ups there.
Last year, the town received four proposals for the redevelopment of the site. Last month, the selectboard chose the Cranesport LLC proposal as the most viable option for the site, and expressed interest in sending the proposal to voters for approval this summer.
The developer initially planned to build a $2.5 million “industrial eco-village” that would lease affordable workspace to entrepreneurs and local makers. The proposal also includes the creation of a structure that would serve as the permanent location for the farmers’ market.
After town officials expressed a desire that any development at the tannery site include a housing element, Cranesport amended its proposal to incorporate 10 to 12 apartments on the site as well.
However, that addition caused the cost of the project to nearly double, according to Camden Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell, meaning the developer needs to determine the best financing options for the project.
Since the selectboard needs to finalize the June town meeting warrant this month, there is not enough time to flesh out the details of financing and other aspects of the proposal.
“It’s just become very clear that the addition of housing has made it incredibly complicated and we’re not going to be able to have [an agreement] ready,” Caler-Bell said.
It is not clear if the town will bring the Cranesport LLC proposal to voters at a later date. However, Caler-Bell urged selectboard members not to request another round of proposals for the site given how long the town has been trying to develop it.
Michael Mullins, of Cransport LLC, said Wednesday his company is still interested in working with the town on the proposal.