BAR HARBOR — After more than a year of negotiation and changes, a planned new 31-room bed-and-breakfast was approved by the Planning Board last week. The board approved the conditional use application by a vote of 3-1. Board members Tom St. Germain, Basil Eleftheriou and Alf Anderson voted in favor, and John Fitzpatrick voted against the proposal. Joe Cough was recused.
The proposal is to demolish the 12-room motel at 68 Mount Desert St. and replace it with a new 3- and 4-story, 36-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.
“One of the things I’m happiest about is that, even though what we have now is a 1970s strip motel, my mother and I already do all the things that would be expected from a traditional B&B,” Steve Coston said. “We greet guests personally. Our home is our business, and our business is our home.”
During previous appearances before the Planning Board, Fitzpatrick and others expressed concern that the building and business meet the criteria for the “bed and breakfast III” use defined in the town’s land use ordinance.
He asked for an opinion from town attorney Ed Bearor, who said at last week’s hearing that he does not find the application to fit the definition of a B&B.
Jane Holland, who owns the Aysgarth Station bed-and-breakfast, said in an email comment submitted to the planning department that the new building is really a hotel. “If this is a B&B, then any lodging property that has a resident manager and a muffin available [also would qualify],” she wrote.
Eleftheriou said bed-and-breakfasts are more often created from existing residential properties than built new, but several of the B&B definitions in the ordinance are for new buildings.
“I would guess we wouldn’t have this much dialogue about a change-of-use application [to convert a house into a B&B] if that came before us,” he said.
“You could easily make this a single family dwelling,” Hardy said, “we’ve just jumped the gun and converted it. That was part of the thought process – how could this have evolved?”
“We’re not trying to pretend we’re building a house,” Coston said. “We shouldn’t be held to a different standard just because we’re starting from scratch.”
Coston, architect Todd Hardy and the project team also worked for months with the Design Review Board last year before a certificate of appropriateness was granted. They made significant changes to the plans to create a building the DRB felt would better fit the neighborhood.