An architect's concept drawing of the new Mount Desert Street Inn, a 31-room bed-and-breakfast planned for the corner of Mount Desert and Spring streets. An appeal challenging the Planning Board's approval of the project was rejected. IMAGE COURTESY OF TOWN OF BAR HARBOR

Bed-and-breakfast construction appeal denied



BAR HARBOR — Plans for a large, new bed-and-breakfast on Mount Desert Street overcame another hurdle last week after the Board of Appeals rejected an appeal from existing bed-and-breakfast owners challenging the Planning Board’s approval of the project.

The proposal is to demolish the 12-room motel at 68 Mount Desert St. and replace it with a new three- and four-story, 31-room bed-and-breakfast. Mother-and-son team Cathy and Steve Coston, doing business as Mount Desert Street LLC, own and operate the current motel.

Robert and Anne Bahr, owners of Anne’s White Columns Inn, Cleftstone Manor and the Elmhurst Inn, and Andrew Geel, owner of the Thornhedge Inn, brought the appeal. Holbrook House owners Michelle and Eric Allvin also joined the filing.

“If you allow this, you’re making it more profitable to tear the buildings down,” rather than maintain historic buildings as bed-and-breakfasts, Geel said.

Most of the town’s bed-and-breakfasts are in buildings that were once large, private homes. At issue is whether the planned purpose-built new facility fits the definition of bed-and-breakfast under the town’s zoning rules.

The Planning Board approved the project’s conditional use application in April after more than a year of review. The board’s attorney and one board member expressed concern at the time that the project might not meet the bed-and-breakfast definition.

The appeals board decided in a 3-0 vote July 26 that the Planning Board had not erred in granting the permit.

Board members Ellen Dohmen and Michael Siklosi said they thought the proposed new facility fit the definition of “Bed-and-breakfast III” in the town’s land use ordinance (LUO). Board member Kay Stevens-Rosa said she was not sure it does fit the definition, but the board did not have enough “leverage” to definitively say they erred, either.

Two board members were recused from the vote: Linda Martin owns property that abuts the project. Roger Samuel has a significant financial relationship with the Bahrs, having sold the former Graycote Inn (now the Elmhurst Inn) to them last year.

Diane O’Connell, attorney for the appellants, cited language in the zoning ordinance that redevelopment in the Mount Desert Street Corridor district “should be reviewed carefully to retain its historic character.”

“I think this would have the opposite effect,” she said.

Patricia Samuel, formerly of the Graycote Inn, was involved in the zoning updates that created the “bed-and-breakfast III” use. The authors of that zoning language did not intend to require that a bed-and-breakfast be a converted residential building, she said.

“The idea was it would be a traditional bed-and-breakfast function, just in a new building,” Pat Samuel said.

“I’m uncomfortable with you implying that it had to be an existing or historic structure” in order to fit the definition,” Dohmen told the appellants. “The Design Review Board worked to ensure that the new building ‘retains the historic character’ of the neighborhood. I’m quite sure they were put through their paces.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Appeals Board member Michael Siklosi.

 

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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