CAMDEN — A proposed zoning change that would limit fast-food franchises to a small area on Route 1 where a shopping plaza and an existing fast-food restaurant are located is one of several proposals heading for public review.

Planning, Development and Code Office Director Jeremy Martin gave the Select Board an overview Jan. 8 of zoning changes and amendments that he, the Planning Board and town committees are drafting and which are priorities for a June public vote.

Martin told the board that a formula-based restaurant restriction amendment will be ready to go to a Planning Board public hearing Jan. 31.

A draft of the ordinance amendment explains the purpose as helping to maintain the unique identity of the core of downtown Camden, which has “traditionally been home to small, locally or Maine owned and operated business, especially food service establishments.”

A formula-based fast-food restaurant is defined as a food service establishment that is required to offer standardized features, including “standardized menus, ingredients, food preparation, decor, interior or exterior color schemes, external facade and/or employee uniforms.”

The ordinance amendment would prohibit formula-based fast-food restaurants in all commercial districts of the town, except for the Highway Business District. This small commercial district is on the west side of Route 1, beginning at the town’s southern boundary and ending at John Street, and contains the Hannaford Supermarket, Bangor Savings Bank, Camden National Bank and Key Bank branches, and the fast-food Subway sandwich shop.

Discussion of fast-food restaurants in downtown Camden is not new. In 2009, when the owners of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in Rockland, Rockport and Waldoboro planned to open another store at 5 Elm St., a local citizens group rallied to oppose it. The town planner received 70 letters in opposition within one week of the announcement.

Within two weeks, a citizen petition opposing the fast-food doughnut and coffee shop had collected 600 signatures. Within a month, a referendum was set for a public vote on a retroactive 180-day moratorium on formula businesses in downtown, to allow time to develop ordinances prohibiting such businesses.

Soon afterward, the business owners backed out of their plan to open the doughnut franchise in the heart of Camden’s downtown. Later that year, voters approved design standards for the downtown area that favored protection of the town’s character, historic features and specific architectural details.


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