MOUNT DESERT — A zoning change that would allow the Asticou Inn to build additional guest rooms is being proposed by the town’s Land Use Advisory Group.
The idea is to create a new zoning district — Shoreland Residential 3 (SR3) — encompassing the 16-acre Asticou property at the head of the harbor in Northeast Harbor.
The hotel is currently in SR2, which does not allow for hotels.
Because the Asticou had been on the site for more than 80 years before the Land Use Zoning Ordinance was adopted in 1978, it was a grandfathered use and could continue to operate. But it could not legally expand beyond its current footprint. The ordinance has been amended dozens of times, but the apparent oversight was never corrected.
Officials of the Asti-Kim Corporation, which owns the inn, have said a major rehabilitation and expansion is needed if it is to remain financially viable. They said they would like to replace the 31 existing guest rooms in the inn’s main building, many of which are quite small, with about 20 larger rooms and, at the same time, replace the three, two-room “topsider” cottages with several new cottages or an annex with perhaps 21 rooms.
“In its current configuration, the Asticou … is not sustainable,” Alex Kimball, Asti-Kim’s vice president and treasurer told the Planning Board a year ago. “We’ve got to do something different if we’re going to keep the Asticou as a going enterprise.”
The proposed new zoning district would allow for “hotels/motels” and associated facilities and services including restaurants, meeting rooms, personal services and recreational facilities such as swimming pools and tennis courts.
“We’ve gone over this with people involved with the [zoning change] request, so everybody seems fine with it,” planning consultant Noel Musson, who serves as facilitator for the Land Use Advisory Group, said at the group’s meeting on Tuesday.
He said he plans to meet with people who live near the inn about the proposed zoning change.
The planning board will hold a public hearing on the proposed new zoning district, along with other ordinance amendments, at its Feb. 12 meeting. The planning board will then make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen. If the selectmen approve, the proposed zoning ordinance change would be voted on by residents at the May 5 town meeting.
The Land Use Advisory Group also is proposing that rooming houses with accommodations for up to 16 people be allowed in the Village Commercial zoning district. The proposed ordinance amendment states that rooming houses could provide “sleeping accommodations for no less than 30 days or on a permanent basis,” as well as “an onsite shared cooking facility for access by all occupants…but there shall be no other separate cooking facilities for individual occupants.”