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Changing Economic Paradigms


Weston Neil Andersen, founder of Andersen Design at age 91, photograph by Susan Mackenzie Andersen


The narrator of the video, produced by GHD inc is selling the need for the round about. He tells us that the traffic going to the Boothbay Botanical Gardens will double in the next twenty years with nothing to back that up but his confident tone of voice. Selectmen promoting tiff financing speak as if there can be no doubt that projected property taxes will yield sufficient return on the investment to cover Boothbay's cost of the round about. Tiffs are seldom spoken about in terms of risk, but there is no such thing as a no risk investment. The future does not follow a certain path.

My family has been selling in this region since 1958 but we did not anticipate the sudden down turn in summer tourist spending that happened regionally in 2002 and has continued to decline ever since. The next year, The Boothbay Opera House reopened as an entertainment venue, followed by the Botanical Gardens, Bigelow Labs  and elaborate transformations still underway at the Boothbay Harbor Country Club, but the once abundant summer revenue has not returned. I hear the buzz around town about the recessed retail market, but no mention from the Town selectmen or the JECD as they make plans to expand and talk of heavy traffic flowing from the Botanical Gardens, traffic I have never encountered in my frequent travels, at varying times of day, through the section of roadway where the round about is now being constructed. Does Paul Coulombe know about the retail recession which has afflicted this area for 15 years as he plans a new shopping district for Boothbay? Are the stores in the new Boothbay shopping district going to bring the shoppers in just because they are there? Are the shopkeepers going to be the new property tax payers who will cover the Town of Boothbay costs of the round about?
America's prize-winning number of 47 square feet of retail space per capita is 3-8X higher than anywhere else in the developed world!
Bad Trend Breaking: Why Retail Results Are Not Better Than Expected, But Worse Than Ever!By David Stockman. Posted On Sunday, June 1st, 2014
Nationally major retail chains have been closing locations as online sales have continued to climb. A company like Andersen Design, if re-capitalized, could be an asset to this region because our name brand recognition can translate into online success and market other lines, provided our company is funded to re-establish at a scale appropriate to the size and depth of our line of products, which would look like this:

Graphic from Andersen Design's Business Plan, available on request



Our brand name recognition is also a qualifying asset for the museum. Such a museum. if located in an ordinance-friendly location would draw other designer-craftsmen to the area. Products made by a designer-craftsmen are best appreciated in the real world environment and so introduce a reason for the shopper to shop in the brick and mortar world.

The current objectives found in the Boothbay Comprhensive Plan of 2015 do not bode well as a place to grow a designer-craftsmen community, and thus make Boothbay an unsuitable location for the proposed museum. The reason our founders and parents left Ohio was because the Levittown community in which they were located would not allow them to establish a ceramic slip-casting studio in their own home.

Levittown

The Imperfect Rise of the American Suburbs

Objective B.2 Accommodate home occupations and home businesses while minimizing their impacts on neighboring properties
Action B.2-1. Revise the land use regulations to clarify the treatment of low-intensity “home occupations” (currently called home occupations, homemaker/office) and more intensive “home businesses” (currently called home occupations, other) including establishing standards for each type of use, with clear, objective criteria. These criteria should be different for the two types of activities and should be tied to the scale of the business use and the nature or scope of the activity.
Action B.2-2. Revise the standards for low-intensity “home occupations” that are carried on entirely within a structure on a residential property and have little or no impacts on adjacent properties and allow this use in all areas of the community with a simple administrative review process.
Town of Boothbay – Comprehensive Plan Update 2015 23 Action B.2-3. Revise the standards for more intensive “home businesses” that include activities that are carried on outside of a structure on a residential property or that generate noise or commercial traffic or similar impacts. These uses should be allowed through a planning board review process in which the owner of the home business must demonstrate that it will meet standards with objective criteria for minimizing the impacts on the adjacent neighborhood including providing appropriate buffering and maintaining the visual character of the roadscape.
Action B.2-4. Explore creating a small business assistance program that would help growing businesses, including home businesses and home occupations, with financing and with locating in appropriate commercial/industrial districts when appropriate.
 Andersen Design is a historical pioneer of  businesses in the home in the Boothbay Region, as I was made aware about last summer when a neighbor expressed how original we were when we moved into town and put out a sign a ran a business from our home. Our business grew far beyond what current ordinances will permit. We developed a national and international market and were number one sellers in venues such as the Smithsonian Catalog and the America House which was located across from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. When we wanted to expand to a larger production, the town wouldn't allow us to do so and so Dad expanded in Portland where we employed about 25 people year round, but the remote distance from our home location eventually made that unsustainable.

The property across the street where Weston Neil Andersen wanted to build a ceramic studio production which which would be designed as a building merging into the hill side. This is the view we see from our windows. Photograph by Susan Mackenzie Andersen More images of Mill Pond HERE
The integrated lifestyle, inseparable from the home business, is the environment which formed my generation and my father's generation before us. Dad was raised on a farm. That is where Dad, as a small child, first fashioned sculpture from clay he found in the ground. Dad used to speak of how the farmers would lean against the fences talking while shifting the dirt through their hands, Whether my father recognized it, the family farm, which molds a particular kind of perspective into being, is the model upon which Dad built this business. The business in the home is an important counterbalance to another societal perspective in which business activities are segregated from other life activities.


Sculptures fashioned by Weston Neil Andersen as a child


If the objects identified in the Town of Boothbay Comprehensive Plan of 2015 were really the intended purpose of its planners, Andersen Design would be the type of business that the plan wants to encourage. The reality is that when I approached the JEDC about the  Andersen Design Museum of American Designer Craftsmen, I was told that the JEDC cannot do anything to help individual businesses, contradicting what is said with specificity in the Comprehensive Plan of 2015.

The plan specifically identifies businesses in the home as something it aims to encourage, while at the same time highly regulating those businesses consistent to what the planners think is appropriate. The plan does not explain what is meant by "appropriate", begging the question - appropriate to whom? Consider the conflict between Simpson's Boat building and its neighbor. Which party represents the measure of appropriate ?

Because of our unique assets including a product line of market proven designs, unparalleled in our industry, and a brand identity developed over 65 years, Andersen Design is a qualified voice for designer-craftsmen everywhere. I submit that a planning board which does not recognize the economic development asset that Andersen Design is to the Boothbay Region, Maine, as well as to the American ceramics industry, is highly unqualified  to decide what is appropriate, unless they are acting as exclusive representatives of the faction to which the neighbor attempting to close down  Simpson's boat yard belongs.

Objective B.2 , found in the comprehensive code, is standard code, but let it be said that businesses in the home are themselves residential properties. Often overlooked in planning board policy is that a business in the home is a specific lifestyle in which income producing activities are integrated with all the other activities taking place in the home. What is more holistic than a business in the home?
MISSION:  Reflect a broad and holistic definition of economic development
 Boothbay-Boothbay HarborDraft #2 Mission Statement of the Joint Economic Development Committee
Imagine if the regulations concerning the number of employees or independent contractors that town ordinances allow were applied to residential code. Will future ordinances limit the number of family members or guests allowed to be present in a home at one time? There is as much justification for such a regulation as there is for the inhabitants of Boothbay being required to go through "a simple review process" (Action B.2-2.) in order to engage in income earning activities in the privacy of their own homes, having little or no impacts on adjacent properties . What is a "simple review process" in this scenario. I submit that there is nothing "simple" about requiring such a review process for the activities described in the ordinance. That in itself is a draconian measure, which is never simple. Dear Lords, I am just here to beg your permission to sell my home made muffins at the church sale! Is this what we have come to? YES!

The planners go on to speak of how they will guide home businesses to relocate in "commercial/industrial districts". When a home business is ready to move to a stand alone location, the business owner will decide what is the best location for his business. If the Town ordinances accommodate the best location from the business person's perspective, then there is a match. If not the business will look for a another community which serves its needs.

The number of employees which any business can hire is naturally limited by the amount of space it occupies. There is no need for ordinances to cap the growth of home businesses by capping the number of employees and independent contractors a home business can hire. There is particularly no need for the selectmen to regulate income producing activities done in one's own home, which do not affect the neighbor hood. This language has persisted in the planners rhetoric since 2014 when I went to the town office to pick up a simple DBA form and was handed a an application for doing a business in the home instead of the document requested. I wondered that day if I had signed the document would I have cancelled our grandfathered zoning. The incident was irrational and bespoke of an in-inordinately controlling culture existing in Town government.

I make the point a second time that a reason to create a Town Charter for Boothbay is that it can limit the powers of the selectmen. I am of the opinion that that centrally managing our economy is not an appropriate role of government.

The Boothbay Register reports that the JECD has new plans in the works which will be financed with tiffs. The JECD's mission statement says it will carry out work in a transparent and cooperative way but the public is paying for consultants without being offered a clue about what is being planned. The Comprehensive Plan states that if a state approved plan is presented, Boothbay can get a state grant. In the next post I will speculate on what those plans might be, drawing on knowledge of state economic development policy gained from seven years of independent research,

In the meantime I am  Calling all Angels to pray for a miraculous intervention in next week so that Andersen Design can retain this business in the home with its very important grand fathered zoning. Please include us in your prayers. Read more HERE.

Mug by Weston Neil Andersen decorated by Brenda Andersen in the 1950's

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