Citizens’ petition up for vote in November

BAR HARBOR — A proposed ordinance change to define public utility installations and facilities and regulate their use will come before voters following successful citizens’ petitions – but not until the November general election.

Town councilors reviewing the proposed land use ordinance amendments on Tuesday found that the way they are written would contradict language contained in the proposed ordinance repeal and replacement that voters will decide on in June. Were they to put both the repeal and replacement and the citizens’ petition amendments on the ballot at the same time, councilors could invite contradictory results, town attorney Rob Crawford said.

“I looked carefully at the warrant articles, as contrasted with the proposed recodification of your ordinances. This doesn’t have an appendix C anymore, so, what’s proposed in both of these is to amend Appendix C. So if these were put on the same ballot on the same time with the proposal to adopt the recodification, we could have some mischief that would ensue,” Crawford said.

“You would have amendments on an appendix on an ordinance that no longer has an appendix.”

The citizens’ petition amendments were spearheaded by residents upset over Emera Maine’s proposal to build an electric substation on a three-acre lot in the residential neighborhood of Woodbury Road. The amendments highlight the fact that both “public utility installation” and “public utility facility” are undefined in the current land use ordinance, and basically allowed without planning board oversight or even a building permit in many districts in town.

The LUO repeal and replacement language would require planning board approval for public utility installations over 2,000 square feet, a provision added recently after opponents of the Emera proposal became engaged in the process. Backers of the citizens’ petitions reviewed Tuesday, however, suggest that the provision is not enough to protect citizens here from unwanted substation development.

The amendment language reviewed Tuesday calls for changes to the Appendix C table of uses of the ordinance. However, the repeal and replacement on the ballot in June, if passed, would eliminate Appendix C from the ordinance and move use descriptions into individual chapters for each zone. Councilors agreed with Crawford that were the two to pass at the same time, the town would be faced with a confusing situation.

Crawford told councilors that according to town charter rules, upon submission of a successful citizens’ petition, the suggested language must be brought to voters within one year. He said that if the repeal and replacement passes in June, the citizens’ petition language could be altered to fit the new ordinance and brought to voters in November. If the repeal and replacement does not pass, the petition proposal could be brought to voters in November without any change.

Donna Karlson, who was involved with spearheading the citizens’ petition, said that they were simply adding two definitions, and she didn’t see the conflict nor any reason not to put it on the ballot in June.

“I’m really very concerned that a land use ordinance which clearly says the town council shall place it automatically on the warrant, I’m concerned about what that would mean … so, I’d just like to say that I hope this doesn’t end up as another huge legal problem for the town. Think very carefully about the actions you’re taking. I’m not a lawyer, but the LUO ordinance is very clear. Read item one. We can change our LUO by citizens’ petition. Read it carefully.”

Councilors voted 7-0 to put the petition amendments on the November warrant.


Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

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