BAR HARBOR — Shorefront property owners who sued the town last summer over a zoning change for the former ferry terminal property on Eden Street are offering to withdraw their complaint if the Town Council takes formal action to say it has abandoned plans to build a pier capable of berthing large cruise ships there.
The complaint charges that a new Shoreland Maritime Activities District, added to the town’s land use ordinance following voter approval in June, would negatively impact the plaintiffs’ property values.
“We believe that they are impacted because they see the property,” Dale said. “They can imagine a [cruise-ship pier] and two mega-ships tied to it.”
Dale sent a settlement proposal to Town Attorney Ed Bearor Dec. 13. In it, the plaintiffs offer to dismiss the current civil action “if the Town Council would, in turn, vote at an upcoming meeting that it has expressly abandoned plans for construction of a large mega-cruise ship pier, by either the town or any third party, and withdraw its support for LD-1400 [the proposed Bar Harbor Port Authority bill].” (See related story.)
Josh Randlett, an attorney at Rudman Winchell representing the town in the suit, said this week that the town is evaluating the settlement.
The town’s position, he said, is that people who do not own property in Bar Harbor should be permitted to challenge a zoning change “duly approved” by the town’s voters.
Meanwhile, more plaintiffs may join the suit if the Hancock County Superior Court grants their second amended complaint.
Portland attorney William Dale, who is representing James Blanchard, William B. Ruger Jr., Jonathan Eno and Karen Gilfillan in the action, said about 10 property owners from Hancock and Sorrento are hoping to join the suit. They believe their property value also would be diminished if the town builds a cruise ship pier at the abandoned ferry terminal, impacting their scenic views.
The motion for the second amended complaint was filed on Nov. 3.
The complaint, penned by Dale, asks the court to invalidate the zoning change. In addition to the property value concern, the plaintiffs also argue the change was inconsistent with the town’s land use ordinance and state shoreland zoning rules.
Blanchard owns a $1.76 million waterfront home at the end of Harbor Lane, less than a mile from the terminal. Ruger, a resident of Newport, N.H., owns $5.2 million of property, according to tax information, half-a-mile north of the terminal.
The complaint was amended on Aug. 2 after Ruger was incorrectly described as a Bar Harbor voter. Further, two more plaintiffs were added, residents Eno and Gilfillan, also Bar Harbor shorefront property owners.
Friends of Frenchman Bay
A citizen group that opposes development of a cruise ship pier in Frenchman Bay requested that the court allow it to submit a brief in the suit.
On Dec. 11, Brian Thomas, a Lamoine-based attorney at Stocking & Thomas LLC who is representing Friends of Frenchman Bay (FFB), wrote that the brief would be “in support of the plaintiff.”
The court asked both parties in the case to weigh in on whether the brief should be allowed.
Randlett said the town opposes Friends of Frenchman Bay’s request. He said granting the request could set a precedent for other groups to get involved in the case, which could cause delays in the proceedings.
“The time and resources of this court, and of the parties, would be adversely impacted if individuals or entities such as FFB are permitted to take part in this litigation based on such speculative assertions,” Randlett wrote on Jan. 3, “that the scenic views of the bay could potentially change if the town of Bar Harbor decides in the future to utilize the old ferry terminal in a particular manner that they find undesirable.”
Dale said the plaintiffs responded to the court on Dec. 22 saying they have no objections to FFB’s request.