Apartment expansion plan survives appeal

BAR HARBOR — A planned redevelopment of a West Street Extension apartment complex cleared another hurdle last Thursday when a third appeal from neighbor Elizabeth Mills was denied. The complex is used for employee housing by Bar Harbor Hotels, which plans to redevelop the 1980s-era development to include 16 apartments. 

Through her attorney, Arthur Greif, Mills argued that the Planning Board incorrectly calculated the number of apartments that are required to be designated “affordable in the planning construct the application uses, called a Planned Unit Development. The approved plan has three affordable units; Greif argued it should be five. 

In its April 29 approval of the project, the Planning Board decided that a stairway connecting the complex to Woodbury Road qualifies as a “pedestrian amenity” in the plan, allowing a “credit” for one fewer affordable units. At its meeting Thursday, the Board of Appeals unanimously found that the Planning Board’s findings were based on sufficient evidence. 

Greif referred to the stairway as a “rickety wooden stairway to a dirt road,” and argued that “pedestrian amenities” must be open to the public. 

“The garden in our backyard is not a pedestrian amenity,” he told the board. 

Ellen Dohmen, chairwoman of the Board of Appeals, said the land use ordinance does not require pedestrian amenities to be open to the public. After confirming from the project representatives that the stairway has not yet been built, board member Michael Siklosi said, “an unconstructed stairway can hardly be rickety.” 

This was the third time the Board of Appeals has considered an appeal from Mills of Planning Board approvals of this project. The first time, in March of 2019, the board dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the appeal application was incomplete. 

In May 2019, Mills filed a Superior Court complaint challenging the board’s decision. The court had not yet acted on the matter in August, when the town’s Planning Department issued a building permit for the project for concrete foundations for the planned new buildings. 

In October, Mills also asked the court for a stay delaying construction activities until her court complaint was resolved. Justice Ann Murray granted the stay in a December decision, which also remanded the application to the Board of Appeals, finding Mills had met all requirements in filing the appeal, and instructed the board to hear the appeal on the merits. 

The Board of Appeals in February of this year found that the Planning Board had erred in calculating the maximum number of units and how many of those are required to be designated affordable. In April, the Planning Board approved a revised application with 16 units, three of which are designated affordable. 

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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