KENNEBUNK, Maine — A member of the town’s Economic Development Committee, and a spokesman for the business in town that would benefit from the change, have voiced concern over whether voters know what they’re approving — or rejecting — when they cast their ballots for referendum Question 3 in the Nov. 4 election.
The question asks voters to approve a zoning change to the industrial district.
Angus Macaulay, a member of the town’s Economic Development Committee, went to the town’s website to read the explanation but still came away “scratching my head,” he said in an email. He recently got an answer from other members of the committee.
Blake Baldwin, co-chairman of the committee, said approval of the industrial zoning change would help keep a major Kennebunk business in town.
Kennebunk Savings wants to move its administrative operations to the former William Arthur building in the industrial Alewive Park off Alewive Road, Baldwin said.
The problem is that the entire area is zoned for industrial use only. Without the zoning change, Kennebunk Savings can’t make the move.
Kennebunk Savings also is concerned that with less than two weeks before the referendum, voters may not be aware of the issue. The bank is placing promotional ads in upcoming area newspapers asking people to vote in favor of the amendment, according to bank spokesman Heather Harris, vice president of community relations.
“We’re a little concerned the amendment isn’t clear on what people are voting for,” Harris said Tuesday.
The bank wants to consolidate administrative offices, in four locations around town, to the new building while retaining the Main Street office, she said.
Baldwin said the zoning change would not affect the acreage in the industrial park that was established years ago to attract light to medium industry.
William Arthur, a maker of fine stationery, was a long-time tenant, and two to three other businesses also moved in, but the park never fulfilled its grander scheme, Baldwin said.
More than two years after Crane bought William Arthur, and the company moved to Massachusetts, the building has sat vacant.
“[Economic Development Director] Matt Eddy and the Economic Development Committee have been working to fill that space,” Baldwin said. “We had worked with a number of possible tenants. At one time, we had plans for an eco-innovation center. That’s still the goal of this enterprise. Our long term goal is to put that together.”
In the meantime, Kennebunk Savings expressed an interest in using the building for office space, he said.
“It’s not currently zoned for that,” Baldwin said. “Rather than let them take that out of town and move more jobs out of the local economy, we thought it would make sense to do a zoning change.”
Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said the zoning change would be a positive step toward keeping Kennebunk competitive.
“This minor change in the language for the industrial zoning district, which allows for professional business office space, will allow the town to service existing businesses and their growth needs,” Tibbetts said. “Additionally, this change will enable other potential new businesses to consider Kennebunk as a home base.”
The change in zoning is good for the tax base, without losing future industrial development, Baldwin said.
“We’ve been working with several developers,” Baldwin said. “It’s a win-win-win for everybody. We keep the jobs and business in town; we get control of the land that then can be used for an eco-innovation center.”