Apartment complex decision delayed

BAR HARBOR — The town’s planning board is set to continue the public hearing on a proposed expansion of an apartment complex at 25 West Street Extension next week, following disagreement over the number of affordable units required under the Planned Unit Development (PUD) site plan.

The follow-up hearing is set for the Wednesday, Dec. 19 planning board meeting. Meanwhile, the board attorneys representing the applicant and the planning board have been tasked with “working out the affordability details.”

The applicant, Bar Harbor Apartments, LLC has proposed to reconfigure the existing 14 units into 16 units.

The company plans to reserve 14 of the apartments for seasonal housing for employees of hotel company Ocean Properties, Ltd. (OPL) and make the remaining two units available as year-round affordable housing.

According to Eben Salvatore, director of operations for Ocean Properties, the year-round residents would also be OPL employees. “That would be our goal: to have year round employees that meet the criteria to live there,” he told the Islander.

The company is asking the planning board to approve 16 apartments on the proposed site through PUD.

The purpose of a PUD, according to the town’s Land Use Ordinance, is to provide “an opportunity for residential subdivision developments on large tracts of land to embody the principles of clustering of dwelling units…reducing infrastructure needs and reducing negative impacts on the environment.”

With clustered dwelling units, PUD allows for a greater density of units as long as certain criteria are met. One of those criteria are offering affordable housing options alongside market rate options. “I think PUD is one of the only tools [Bar Harbor has] to help the housing crunch,” Salvatore said.

The proposed subdivision is located in a village residential zone, where multifamily housing is allowed. However, the minimum area per family is 10,000 square feet, according to the current Land Use Ordinance.

The proposed subdivision is considered “grandfathered” because the existing 14 units were built prior to 2006, when the minimum area per family was only 5,000 square feet.

Bar Harbor Apartments is looking to expand beyond the allowed 14 units by adding two designated affordable housing units under PUD.

At the hearing Dec. 5, resident Arthur Greif expressed concern that there was no sidewalk on West Street for pedestrians to travel back and forth. “Seasonal housing should be in the downtown area,” he said.

Greif also questioned whether the affordable housing requirements were being met under PUD. He suggested that six of the 16 units should be designated affordable.

Betsy Mills, whose home and gardens abut the property, spoke about opening her garden one weekend per year to raise money for charity. She is concerned about the reconfiguration of buildings, which according to the plan will be closer to her property line.

“The planning board has a reputation for favoring developers,” she said.

Jeffrey Crafts, a Professional Engineer working with Mills, told the planning board, “I hate to tell you, but this project doesn’t meet the ordinance. Have the courage to say no to a bad project.”

“The biggest problem Bar Harbor has is housing,” said Stephen Coston, a member of the town council who said he spoke “as an individual” in favor of the proposed development.

Gary Friedmann, who serves as chair of Bar Harbor Town Council but spoke as a concerned citizen, agreed. “Many people call it a housing crisis,” he said. “We have to do everything we can to encourage businesspeople to provide all kinds of housing.”

The planning board discussed whether or not the affordability requirements were being met under PUD. Member John Fitzpatrick said that in his reading of PUD regulations, “I come up with a minimum of four affordable units. It’s very prescribed.”

Board member Joseph Cough said he agreed with the applicant’s calculation of making two units affordable. “Getting two affordables out of it may be a minor win for affordability, but it is a win for affordability,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to ask the applicant’s lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, to work out the affordability details with Edmond Bearor, the town attorney.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

Latest posts by Becky Pritchard (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.