I find support for home businesses in unexpected places
I have been trying to read the Camoin Report– a development plan for the Boothbay Peninsula in Maine.
A local public-private group calling itself the Joint Economic Community Development council for Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor (JECD) spent 79000.00 of taxpayers’ money to hire New York consultants to prepare a plan for our community.
My initial reaction was that a remote consultant firm cannot create as relevant a development plan as someone who knows the community well, but in all fairness, the report does a decent job of representing all views in the community, more so than we usually get from our community leaders. That scores a point for using remote consultants to develop a plan for a local region- as a first step.
However, it is not actually a plan, more like an assessment with recommendations and in that category it is successful but for the fact that it does not transparently state that the Boothbay water supplies are endangered by development. Such is the nature of political speech, especially that kind of speech that attempts not to take sides. Though it does not seem there should be two sides to the sustainability of our water supply- there are. One side, the loudest says, ignore this non-issue!!!. The other side holds that sustaining the water supply is the starting point for developing a plan for the future.
Most PDF files are easy to read, navigate and search but the Camoin Report layout seems designed to frustrate the casual would-be reader.
Some sections use the standard page view and others are formatted in the landscape view. I have tried, without success, to transpose the report into a readable format until I gave up but in the process, I read bits and pieces of the report.
The Camoin Report is fair in that it legitimizes every point of view. Just about anybody can use the report to support any policy. Therefore it has planning value only if it is considered comprehensively by Town leadership but Town Leadership chose only three areas to work on out of sixty-three identified in the Camoin Report, the same areas they would likely have chosen had the Camoin Report never been written.
Like any political document, the Camoin Report states matters in language that can be interpreted to mean many different things. The Camoin report does not say that the population density on the peninsula should be quadrupled, but there are certainly many parts of the report that can be quoted to support that the population on the peninsula needs to be quadrupled. Likewise, there are many parts of the report that can be quoted in support of limiting development in the interest of sustaining the viability of Adams Pond and Knickerbocker Lake as well as the peninsula’s historical identity in the tradition of a Garden City and a New England village that intentionally avoided overcrowding, the opposite philosophy of Boothbay’s new developer’s plans for the peninsula’s future.
Read more about the historical precedence set by the New England village here:
What Do Lessons from the Industrial Revolution Have to Tell Us Today?
A historical reversal of direction underway?
There are some good ideas in the Camoin Report mixed with the usual government by public-private relationships advice that is ubiquitous in contemporary economic development thinking, but the Boothbay Peninsula is not a ubiquitous place and it would be a great loss if it were to be made into one.
Scoring a point for inclusion of The LifeStyle Factor
Credit is due to the Camoin Report, for including under “Objective Three Target and reinvigorate existing commercial areas for economic growth”,
“small businesses and entrepreneurs seeking high-quality village lifestyle with home occupations”.
It is rare to find a mention of home businesses, let alone acknowledgment of the value of the businesses in a home sector measured as a quality lifestyle choice. It is in the Camoin Report that I have first seen home businesses included in the local economic discussion. The authors voicing that recognition are from out-of-state and the words have not been noted by our local community leaders.
The Camoin Report scores a second point as a remote consultant who will speak for the whole fabric of a community rather than merely a targeted sector.
The targeted sector mentality still rules the day!
Three years after the report was completed, the town selectmen got together to select three priorities from the 63 priorities that the Camoin Report identified, the three issues were “broadband, housing diversity and availability, and downtown development and waterfront management.”
Broadband is being pushed on this community by a small group formed as a “public-private relationship” that aims to form a public-privately owned broadband corporation just for the peninsula. It has been an uphill road for them since our community is rated as over-served by the state, but there is no limit to how much other people’s money this group is willing to spend to get its way. I suggest waving a meme of Elon Musk and asking why the public should take on the risk.
“Housing diversity and availability” and “waterfront management” are examples of political language that can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. One can say that “housing diversity” includes business in a home- but that wasn’t actually said. One can also interpret “housing diversity and availability” to mean, we need a plan to increase population density on the peninsula, which is being said over and over again. Why?
Why must the population be expanded? So that we can build housing developments and a school. Why must we build housing developments and a school? The school is to attract a population to the peninsula, needed to attract corporate jobs requiring large workforces to the peninsula, to occupy the housing developments, which will bring in lots of taxes! It’s about the taxes! Why do we need more taxes? To spend on new development!
What Boothbay has now is irreplaceable!
The actual JECD group called it quits when coronavirus hit. It was a public-private organization that enabled its members to access community funds to spend on extra-curricula agendas primarily in support of the dining and entertainment businesses in downtown Boothbay Harbor, operating like a taxpayer-financed Chamber of Commerce, paying for advertising campaigns for a “targeted sector” industry.
The JECD Party Policy Paradigm
In recent weeks, the JECD has, for all practical purposes, re-emerged as several united factions whose agendas are so well coordinated in purpose and the announcement of each project is so strategically timed to be released in succession, like clockwork, one right after the other, that they might as well be a political party.
The JECD party has a spending agenda that makes the former JECD look like a nickel and dime operation.
First, to be announced is a fifty-million-dollar school system, declared to be needed to attract families to the region. It is estimated that the school investment will generate a 14% and 23 % hike in property taxes in Boothbay Harbor and Boothbay, respectively.
A School System Should Not Be Approached as an Instrument of Gentrification
Especially Not with a Looming Confucious Institute in the Picture!
That is followed by the announcement of a newly formed non-profit, the Boothbay Region Housing Trust, which is promoting a repeal of the ordinances protecting the working waterfront and for a re-write of other ordinances to reduce the land plot sizes by half so that houses can be built more closely together.
Did I Fall Down The Rabbit Hole Into A Dystopian World Or Is This Really Real?
Greed and the real estate boom in Boothbay Maine
Next, Kenneth Rayle announces his unopposed candidacy for Boothbay Harbor selectman. Rayle was on the board of the JECD and currently serves on the broadband committee that is pushing for a public-private broadband company for the Boothbay Region, estimated cost is six million.
Rayle says that we can’t wait on the affordable workforce housing,
One critical issue for Boothbay Harbor is housing or more accurately a shortage of affordable housing for working families who, if they could get a good job here, would traditionally live here. …..so we must determine what step(s) can be instituted first and take those steps which may involve zoning changes, incentives, or other practical ideas…. Doing nothing is an option, but an option that is, in my opinion, not in the best interests of the town.
Like a polished politician, Rayle brings up “incentives”, without explaining what he means. My guess is the incentives are needed as corporate welfare to attract “targeted sector” companies to employ a large enough workforce to radically increase the population density on the peninsula. So old school!
Next Rayle says the driver of our economy is the tourist industry, not making any connection between the need for “affordable housing for working families who, if they could get a good job here, would live here as working families did once traditionally live here when they had traditional New England style homes, and the fact that the tourist industry, exacerbated by the Air BnB, and Paul Coulombe’s intention to transform a once middle-class vacationland into the gardens of the super-rich has been driving affordable housing off the peninsula. Forget about that! Just concentrate on the bouncing ball and absorb what I say!
The JECD party wants to build development housing very close together as “workforce housing”. The choice for the workers in the “quality job” workforce would be to live in a row house in Boothbay or commute off the peninsula to more natural spacious settings in a community that is not aiming to be a tourist destination for the wealthy.
According to Rayle ”Our economy became stagnant in the 80s, through the 2000s and there has been a distinct uptick in the last 10 years.”
I could hardly believe I was reading such revisionist history of the local economy in the eighties and nineties, an abundant time, when the peninsula was still a middle-class vacationland, up until 2002 when there was a sudden and dramatic drop in retail activity. The next year. in 2003, Amazon started making a profit.
Rayle’s reference to a “distinct uptick” is not supported in the word around Main Street. Main Streets across the world have seen income decline with the rise of the internet. If there is a “distinct uptick” it is in gentrification as the lower end of the economy can no longer afford Boothbay. As property taxes rise, the lower end of the economy leaves and is replaced with a higher income class that can afford the higher taxes to pay for higher levels of spending led by public-private relationships, the factions that compose the JECD party.
All of the factions that compose the JECD party are making proposals that will increase property taxes, including “affordable” workforce housing, smaller units packed more closely together on smaller plots of land. The developer who advocated quadrupling the population density and breaking the old summer homes up into smaller units, added to his recommendation that “taxes will have to be raised”, offering no explanation as to why.
A Distinct Uptick ( in gentrification)
Population in 2010: 1,086. Population change since 2000: -12.2%
Estimated median household income in 2019: $49,667 (it was $31,201 in 2000) Estimated per capita income in 2019: $30,338 (it was $18,133 in 2000)
Those hobnobbing at the country club and other new wealth culture venues are probably seeing a distinct uptick in the numbers in their peer group, as the wealth divide widens on the peninsula. Perhaps as they gather around their new social centers, they coordinate their political platform and its timed release in the local media.
The wealth divide is an issue for the younger generation that Boothbay needs to attract
Another need that Boothbay has, almost as important as protecting the water supply is to attract young people to the Peninsula. We are the grayest town in the grayest county in the grayest state. It is a serious need to attract more young people, not just a political talking point, but as Boothbay moves demographically toward the upper end of the wealth divide, it is becoming a symbol of why many young people feel they will never own a home. and resent the baby boomers for it. Let them build row houses!
NO! Let them build businesses in a home!
An affordable spacious living style that doesn’t threaten the water supply.
Remote work is on the rise! Thinking about economic development in terms of incentives to attract large corporations with large workforces is receding, especially for a peninsula with an endangered water supply. Boothbay can develop more incrementally, consistent with its historical rate of development by branding itself as a smaller and attractive remote working, business in the home community. It suits the peninsula’s environmental needs while preserving our uniqueness and is consistent with our history and is tuned to the beat of the remote working revolution.
Green Party Paradigm:
Don’t rewrite the ordinances to decrease lot sizes, rewrite the ordinances to encourage a business in a home lifestyle.
Support from an unexpected place, the VC community
Lately, distant rumblings are audible from entrepreneurial conceptualists considering working from home as a rising movement about to unfold as categorically new business models.
Working from home now has its own initials: WFH !!!
Nicolas Cole is a high-profile content provider and influencer, in Campbell’s Soup & How To Design A Category Breakthrough In The Roaring 2020s, Cole explains breakthrough concepts for a venture capitalist audience, making the point that a breakthrough can’t be researched because it is new, there is nothing established before it to research. For example, Campbell’s soup did something no one had done before when it sold the soup as a condensed product. A condensed soup lowered the shipping cost and therefore the price of the soup. Cole defines this invention of Campbell’s as creating a new category of product — the condensed soup category and uses it to advocate thinking in terms of new business categories. Cole then spins his own version of a potential new business category. a merging of the home business and the Air B&B.
“What new category could we create that would inherently leave the old category to die?”
Work From Home + Native Digitals + Rent, Don’t Buy = Tons Of New Category Opportunities — Nicolas Cole
The stigma around working from home is gone.
It is not clear what old category is left to die, but considering the wider context of Cole’s presentation, I think he means homeownership. That is because the younger generation largely disbelieves that they will ever be able to afford a home. Cole takes that belief and spins it into a choice of preference by the new normal in a rootless society, populations forever on the move, global citizens roaming around the world from Air B&B to Air B&B, appearing and disappearing from any location as if in a constant state of evolving superimposition, never taking a permanent form anywhere, like fireflies sparkling on a midsummer night. Here one moment and gone the next.
The idea of business facilities as Air B&B’s seems a bit wonky to me but if it should become an actuality, it would attract a wandering creative independent workforce, probably looking for a more permanent place to settle down. A natural garden city with an existing business in the home community could attract this type of workforce and their families to the Boothbay Peninsula.
I am familiar with how it feels to live in a fleeting community. On the peninsula in Maine, where I spent my early years, there was a rooted community and a transient community, seasonally re-appearing and disappearing, producing a great sense of here today but gone tomorrow. Since my family was new to the area, we were outsiders in the local community and so there was a more keenly felt connection to the transient community and a feeling of being left behind when they vanished.
As a teenage outsider, I existed as if in a state of superimposition, I did not neatly fit into either the transient or rooted community. I was both and neither, the observer who didn’t open the box to find out what is really real.
Outside the box, all is real and reality takes on the form of potentiality. That makes an intriguing adventure but the human spirit longs for a home that becomes actual when possibilities collapse into commitment.
Many who seemed like transients to my perception, had actually been summer residents for generations so that they too had strong roots in the area. They built spacious summer homes for gathering the family together.
The Ocean Point community was one such place and Andersen Studio was a favorite “first destination” when the returning families hit town. The Ocean Point community collected our work of stoneware functional forms and wildlife sculptures prolifically, recognizing it as something unique, and handed our work down through the generations. Enfolded within those collections are the memories of generations who gathered together in the Boothbay Region as their own family tradition. Perhaps part of the attraction of Andersen Design to the Ocean Point community is because it was a family business with a production connected to a home.
If one knows of the deep connection between Andersen Studio and the Ocean Point community, it is all the more symbolic that our family homestead was the first in East Boothbay to be transformed into subdivided units for the purpose of pecuniary gain, as proposed for East Boothbay by the Developer I have nicknamed “Howard”, in my post “ Did I Fall Down The Rabbit Hole into a Dystopian World Or is This Really Real?
Did I Fall Down The Rabbit Hole Into A Dystopian World Or Is This Really Real?
Greed and the real estate boom in Boothbay Maine
Like Campbell’s Soup, Andersen Design also created a new category of business, the production as an art form. Andy Warhol, who became famous by producing silkscreen prints that used Campbell’s Soup cans as a subject matter, is given credit by the art world for creating the category that uses production as an art form, but in fact, Andersen Design predates Andy Warhol’s “factory”, which was also famous as a home to a family of misfits transformed into celebrities by Warhol branding, a precursor to today’s “influencers”.
Hand Making Ceramics in the USA, The Medium is Still the Message
I was raised in a ceramic business in the home, which was different from its surroundings, making myself and my…
Creating a new category gives the Andersen Design brand historical provenance, which confers staying power, even when we no longer have a production, which I hope will not always be the case, and that the new business in the home culture will be a contributing factor in bringing about the actualization of that hope.
Boothbay is becoming an Air BnB town that captures the wanderer but many a wanderer is looking for a community in which they can take root.
The business-in-a-home lifestyle is a perpetual learning environment. To learn is to survive, or as 1960’s poet rock musician, Bob Dylan said “He not busy being born is busy dying”, the mantra of living on the edge.
The permanent business in a home has many advantages over the air B&B version proposed by Nicolas Cole. Its not the billionaire-maker that would attract the VC community, but it should be considered as a new opportunity zone by government policy-makers, particularly in places where environmental sustainability places a natural limit on population growth. In the meantime, it takes a leap of faith.
Running one’s own business is like unfolding a potential and giving it form. The business grows or not and that‘s up to you and God’s mysterious will, a factor I came to understand early since my family lived, during the offseason, on the edge of check to check, events arriving in the mail at un-pre-determined intervals. It is the lifestyle accessible to those who have the guts to start on a wing and a prayer and without a windfall investment.
The term windfall means “an apple or other fruit blown down from a tree or bush by the wind.” Perhaps God forbid Eve to pick the apple from the tree so that she would know the wind. The wind is within and without. If you listen, you can hear the wind everywhere and glide within it effortlessly.