BAR HARBOR — Citizen-staffed groups responsible for permitting new buildings, signs and subdivisions are running at just over half full, highlighting a dearth of participation across several of the town’s key boards and committees.
The seven-member design review board (DRB), which reviews and approves exterior changes to businesses and new and renovated signs, initially fell to just three members this month. With just three members, the board would have had no quorum and would have been unable to meet or make decisions.
That eventuality was avoided Tuesday when member Steve Demers announced he would serve another three-year term. He was appointed by town councilors, bringing the membership of the board to four, which is just at quorum level. If Demers or another member is sick or otherwise absent from a meeting, the board will not be able to function.
The eight-member marine resources committee faced a similar situation to the DRB as fiscal year 2014 drew to a close this week and membership dwindled to just 4. Two members who had let their terms expire stepped up again Tuesday to join for three years. Councilors appointed Michael McKernan and Natalie Springuel by unanimous vote, bringing the group’s membership to six.
No one has stepped up to fill the vacancy left by outgoing planning board member Marc Jaffrey this summer, bringing membership of that group to just three. The five-member board, responsible for reviewing and approving all subdivision applications, new buildings and other major developments, is now functioning with a quorum of three members, but no more. Should someone be absent, the board would not be able to act.
The town has more than 80 citizen committee seats, and at this time, less than 70 are occupied. The membership of a number of committees is full or close to full. The seven-member conservation committee has five members, the five-member school committee is full, and the 17-member cruise ship committee is short just one member.
The dearth of people willing to participate on controversial decision-making bodies such as the planning and design review boards is a problem, though, town council Chairman Paul Paradis said this week. If those boards slow down or cannot meet, he said, small business owners with projects underway could be economically harmed.
“This is something that we are all thinking about,” Paradis said. “If we can’t get people to serve on the boards that are doing the town’s business, that’s no good. We need to fix that.”