At the polls November 7

Camden voters to decide on new rules for outer harbor piers and floats, town-wide zoning changes to increase housing opportunities

Mon, 10/23/2023 - 6:30pm

    CAMDEN – On Nov. 7, Camden voters will decide on town-wide zoning changes to encourage housing development and regulations for structures in the outer harbor. Changes to the Town Charter relating to the budget process are also on the ballot.

    A separate school district ballot requests approval of a $1.9 million bond for replacement of heating and cooling systems at the elementary school, due to failure of the existing geothermal system.

    Town of Camden ballot

    Article 2 addresses changes to local zoning mandated by 2022 State legislation to increase housing density and affordable housing opportunities. Read the state law, An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions, here.

    Camden’s proposed zoning changes reduce lot sizes for single, two-family and multifamily housing in multiple districts. Examples of the changes include reduction by two-thirds in minimum lot size per dwelling unit in Rural 1 and 2 districts, from 60,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet.

    Proposed for the Traditional Village District is a similar lot size reduction, from 10,000 square feet to 3,333 square feet per dwelling, for single, two-family and multi-family homes.

    In the Village Extension District where public sewer is available, a 2,500 square foot lot size minimum is proposed for single family dwellings, allowing four on an undeveloped 10,000 square foot lot.

    The new zoning proposes an Affordable Housing Overlay to encourage affordable housing development in nine districts. These districts include Traditional Village and Village Extension and the Downtown, River, Harbor and Highway business districts. The changes to the town’s zoning and Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay were approved by the Planning Board in July.

    Articles 3 and 4 propose changes to the town’s Harbor and Waterways ordinance.

    Article 3 creates new requirements for existing piers that require significant repair or replacement due to damage. The requirements call for raising piers to eight feet above mean-high water, if practicable, and structural reinforcement to mitigate risk from sea level rise.

    The ordinance also calls for design that allows piers to be raised in the future “to mitigate increased risk of sea-level rise.”

    Article 4 adds regulation of land-attached floats in Camden Harbor to the ordinance, including a required permit for any associated moorings or structures.

    Site plan review is required if the float structure is more than 20 feet long.

    Land-attached floats are described as a, “system consisting of a ramp with an attached location on land or real property that connects to and/or serves as access to a moored float in the Outer or Coastal Harbor.” The article also amends “performance and construction standards for piers in the Outer and Coastal Harbors to address sea level rise.”

    The proposed changes are related to issues identified in the town’s June 14, 2022 Moratorium prohibiting installation, construction or modification of residential piers, docks, floats, ramps and other structures in Camden’s outer and coastal harbors. The Moratorium has been renewed several times and is still in place.

    Article 5 presents changes to the Town Charter that are mainly administrative in nature. One change clarifies that the ballot for the annual budget will show both Select Board and Budget Committee recommendations on expenses and revenues, and that voters will be asked to adopt the Select Board’s recommendations.

    School Administrative District 28 (K-8 schools)

    Voters will see a separate ballot seeking approval of bond financing for the installation of a new heating and cooling system at the elementary school.

    “Do you favor authorizing the School Board of Maine School Administrative District 28 to issue bonds or notes in the name of the District for capital purposes in an amount not to exceed $1.9 million for the purpose of designing and installing a heating and cooling systems to replace the failed geothermal system at the Camden Rockport Elementary School?”

    According to SAD 28, when Camden Rockport Elementary School was designed, and then completed in 2009, a major component was the open loop geothermal system for heating and cooling.

    The system included three supply wells and five return wells. The system functioned as expected for a few years before numerous costly problems began to arise. The most critical issue is that those five return wells will not accept the return water at a normal rate, the district said. 

    A few years ago, the district installed a propane boiler as an emergency measure to help heat the building through the winter.

    The geothermal system is only running at 25 percent capacity due to the inability of the return wells to accept water. The problem has to do with changes in the aquifer which we cannot control, and experts don’t fully understand since it is so far underground.

    The water the school gets is very salty and shortens the life of the three supply well pumps. The district has replaced them all once and only two are currently running.

    The system also includes eight heat pumps that provide cooling and heating. Five of them are for radiant floor heat and three are for the air handlers. Only three of those eight are currently fully operational.

    In addition to salty water, the water frequently carries excess debris. That debris gets caught in the supply line and clogs the coils in the heat pumps, requiring our maintenance staff to constantly flush the heat pumps.