Downtown Camden Maine

Downtown Camden Maine

The businessman who has proposed opening a Dunkin’ Donuts store in downtown Camden said he has let the landlord out of their agreement so the space can be rented by other parties.

Michael Ouimet of Connecticut said Thursday that he has not made a decision whether to drop the plans and may wait until the June 23 town referendum that calls for a 180-day moratorium on formula franchise stores, retroactive to before the application was filed for the doughnut shop.

But he said he told the property owners that if they find another tenant they may rent it to them.

The 5 Elm St. building is owned by Chet and Tasha Mazakas of Active Investments LLC.

Ouimet was in Camden this week and said he has met with an attorney to determine his next course of action. He said he had invested $10,000 thus far in obtaining permits and preparing for starting the business.

The original plan was to open the Dunkin’ Donuts in late summer or early fall at 5 Elm St. Since then, a group of citizens has organized to block the project, saying a formula franchise store would seriously damage Camden’s brand of having independent, unique stores — a brand the citizens say attracts tourists.

The moratorium referendum is scheduled for Tuesday, June 23 with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Washington Street conference room at the town office. Absentee ballots became available May 22 at the town office and may be picked up during its regular business hours.

The moratorium would allow the town time to develop zoning ordinances to regulate or ban formula franchise restaurants.

The Select Board will hold a formal public hearing Monday, June 1 at 7 p.m. at the Camden Opera House auditorium.

This meeting will be broadcast on Channel 22.

The Camden Planning Board will hold an informational meeting Wednesday, June 17 at 6 p.m. at the same location.

Town Planner Jeffrey Nims said the Planning Board will ask those in attendance specific questions about what they want in a formula franchise ordinance. Attendees will be asked where the ordinance should apply, the downtown or the entire town; what types of businesses it should apply to; whether there should be a minimum separation between such businesses; and other questions.

The proposed moratorium would cover an area that begins at the north end at one property beyond Tannery Lane. To the south the boundary would be at one property beyond Village Variety on that side of Elm Street and as far as Rite Aid on the other side of the street.

The Select Board can approve another 180-day extension when the initial moratorium is set to expire if the work on revising ordinances is not complete.

The exact wording of the referendum is: “Shall the town adopt a moratorium pursuant to 30-A M.R.S.A. Section 4356 for a period of 180 days on the issuance of any permits, retroactive to April 10, 2009, that would allow a formula business to open within the Downtown Business District (Zone B-1)? For the purposes of this moratorium, a formula business is defined as one which is required by contractual or other arrangement to maintain one or more of the following items: standardized (‘formula’) array of services and/or merchandise, trademark, logo, service mark, symbol, decor, architecture, layout, uniform, or similar standardized features and which causes it to be substantially identical to more than twenty other businesses regardless of ownership or location.”

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