Camden's planning board will consider a zoning ordinance amendment that would essentially ban chain fast food restaurants from downtown. Credit: Don Ryan | AP

A proposed zoning change being considered in Camden would prohibit fast food restaurants from its downtown.

The town’s Planning Board is considering a formula-based restaurant restriction ordinance amendment that would limit the area in town where fast food businesses could operate to a small portion of Route 1 just south of downtown.

With Camden’s downtown historically being home to locally owned restaurants, the Camden Planning Board is proposing the zoning amendment “to ensure that food service businesses in Camden respect the character of the community and do not create undue impacts in terms of noise, littler, traffic and other adverse impacts,” according to a draft of the ordinance amendment.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the amendment on Jan. 31. If passed, it would then go to the selectboard for approval before a final vote at Camden’s annual town meeting in June.

Jeremy Martin, Camden’s director of planning and development, said he found that many residents assume that the town had an existing prohibition on fast food restaurants being located within the downtown. In 2009, the owner of a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise tried to open a location in downtown Camden and was met with backlash.

While that incident sparked calls for a moratorium on fast food businesses, Martin said nothing was ever done. However, Camden does have an existing ban on drive-through food service, he said.

“People grew concerned when I told them that, ‘No, we can still have a formula-based restaurant in the downtown,’” Martin said. “The community, I think, all along had thought this prohibition was already in place.”

According to the draft ordinance amendment, a formula-based fast food service establishment is a restaurant required by a contract or other arrangements to have a number of standardized features, “which causes it to be substantially identical to other restaurants, regardless of the ownership or location of those other restaurants.”

These features can include, according to the draft amendment, standardized menus, ingredients or decor; pre-prepared food in a ready-to-consume state; or food selected from a limited menu and sold over the counter in disposable containers and wrappers.

Martin said the wording of the ordinance amendment might need to be tweaked to ensure that Sea Dog Brewing Co.’s existing downtown Camden location is not affected. Sea Dog has restaurants in Maine, New Hampshire and Florida.