Bar Harbor Town Council sets straw poll for June

BAR HARBOR  Making several revisions to proposed motions, councilors at the Town Council meeting on Tuesday ultimately decided to refer the regulation of short-term vacation rentals back to the Planning Department and Planning Board for further recommendations. They also voted to place a straw poll question on the June ballot that pertains to the transferability of licenses when a property is sold 

Just two months ago, the council agreed to submit two different options for presenting proposed changes regarding vacation rental regulations to voters as part of the annual Town Meeting in JuneThe articles addressed maximum number of registrations and transferability in two separate articles. Two weeks prior to the council meeting, these proposed changes were sent to the Planning Board for public hearing where the board voted to send the vacation rental draft orders, including a cap, back with changes to the council and to take no action on the vacation rental transferability draft order.  

After council member Erin Cough changed the language of her motion several times to acknowledge the different recommendations, she suggested a final motion regarding the regulation of vacation rental licenses. “My motion is to not sign the certifications as presented [by the Planning Board] and to refer it back to the Planning Department and Planning Board for further recommendations including recommendations for licensing for 190 [town code chapter 190 regarding vacation rentals],” said Cough. The motion passed 6-1 (Goldthwait). 

Cough said it was her understanding that once the Planning Department proposes changes, those changes would need to go back to the Planning Board for a public hearing. She then proposed another motion regarding transferability to be put to voters as a straw poll on the June ballot. The motion carried 5-2 (Friedmann, Goldthwait). 

Town Planner Michelle Gagnon agreed with Cough that the Planning Department will work with the Planning Board on everything, with the exception of transferability, and then work separately on a possible question for a straw poll regarding vacation rental transferability.  

Council members discussed two options for dealing with transferability. One would be to place language governing transferability into the town code, section 190, which would then give the council the ability to hold an up or down vote. The second would be to place the language into the town’s Land Use Ordinance, which would require a town-wide vote. “I just want to remind everyone of the process for amending 190, would be presenting the changes to you [the town council], calling for a public hearing and then after that voting on it,” said Town Clerk Sharon Linscott. 

Council member Gary Friedmann believed the intent was for the Planning Department to draft changes to section 190 and not to address transferability in the land use ordinance. “If Michele were to share that with the Planning Board, it would be a courtesy, but certainly not within their purview,” he said. Town Manager Cornell Knight agreed with Friedmann that it would be the council’s authority to approve a change to chapter 190. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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