BAR HARBOR — Ledgelawn Avenue residents Robert and Kate Jordan, accompanied by their attorney Bill Reiff, appeared before the Planning Board on June 19 to discuss their application to operate a TA-1, which is a bed and breakfast accommodation in a private, year-round residence.
The Jordans had previously rented out an apartment above their garage without town approval.
“The town filed a land use action last fall in which Mr. and Mrs. Jordan were the defendants,” said Town Attorney Ed Bearor. “This was a consent judgment meaning that the parties agreed to this. It was presented to the judge; he signed it and asked a few questions. So it is an order of the court, and it stems from alleged violations of the land use ordinance.”
According to Bearor, the consent agreement stipulates that the Jordans were to refrain from advertising and renting out the dwelling unit.
But in his statements to the board, Reiff said that his clients had since advertised the property and had gone ahead and rented it out a few days ago. The Jordans did not do this to “thumb their noses at authority,” Reiff said, but because “the consent agreement was last year and these rentals are seasonal. And they had fully expected to have the application approved before they advertised or before anyone came in.”
Rob Jordan spoke briefly, saying that the only place they advertise is on Airbnb. After signing the consent agreement last year, he said, he noted in bold letters that they were not taking reservations for 2019.
“I didn’t take the site down because I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to have people come back to it,” he said. “We didn’t start getting reservations until the middle of May,” Jordan said, adding that he did so because, after the June 5 public hearing, he saw no reason why the application would be denied.
“I think really what he did was jump the gun and assume he was going to be approved some time ago,” Reiff said.
Chair Tom St. Germain asked whether the board could approve an application with a violation.
“I would hope that you let us work through the violation,” said Bearor. “Otherwise, frankly, you start to undermine the authority of the code office.”
St. Germain later asked if the town could designate Code Enforcement Officer Angie Chamberlain as a representative to help the Jordans get on a path out of violation.
Bearor said Chamberlain could act as an authorized agent but noted that a conditional approval “ought to put a number of days on it and [the board’s] order of decision ought to reflect what will happen if it isn’t resolved.”
“At the root of this, aren’t we litigating the consent agreement? And isn’t that out of our purview?” asked board member Joe Cough.
“If your approval is conditioned upon the violation being satisfied,” said Bearor, “then you get to the same end.”
But board member John Fitzpatrick didn’t like that idea. “Approving something conditionally is still providing it with approval,” he said.
Board member Basil Eleftheriou echoed Fitzpatrick’s concerns. “I like to do things in a step-by-step process,” he said. “Doing it conditionally might open us up to an appeals process, which I’d rather not go down.”
When it came time to call a motion to vote on TA-1 property status and the issue of a parking requirement modification, Cough asked if the applicants would like to wait until “they have all their ducks to be in a row” before the Planning Board deliberated.
“If it’s going to fail, it’s going to fail,” said Jordan. “I’d rather not wait two more weeks or another month to get this all done. It’s already the end of June, and I have a commitment to basically pay a fine to the town on the 21st of a couple thousand dollars. And that’s going to be hard to come up with at this point. So the timeline in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish is dramatically affected by delaying things.”
After unanimously approving the modification for parking, the board addressed the issue of TA-1 status and decided to continue considering the application at the next meeting.