DOT, Marine Atlantic ink ferry terminal lease

BAR HARBOR — The Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) has signed a three-year lease and paid $1 million rent up front for the former international ferry terminal property on Eden Street.

The lease agreement between Marine Atlantic, the Canadian crown corporation that owns the property, and the state DOT was signed Nov. 15. The agreement includes an option to buy the property during the term of the lease, and the $1 million rent payment may be counted toward a $3.5 million purchase price.

Last month, state officials had informed the town that DOT would not be going ahead with a plan to purchase and develop the property through the Maine Port Authority. They discussed assigning the lease to the town, but Town Manager Cornell Knight said in a memo to the Town Council this week that DOT will hold the lease until a purchase agreement is complete.

“[DOT Deputy Commissioner Jonathan Nass] said the DOT thinks the best solution is for the town to own and develop the property, and they would like to work on an agreement to accomplish that goal,” Knight wrote. “Negotiations would begin in January, and the town can use the balance of the current contract with Luis Ajamil to advise us on the agreement and the development of a business plan.”

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, the council voted 6-0 to allow Knight and council Chair Paul Paradis to negotiate the agreement, which would come back to council for a vote.

“We don’t know what the purchase price would be,” Paradis said. “It could be $3.5 million, or it could be zero, but it will probably be somewhere in between.”

He also said the project may qualify for a revenue bond issue rather than the more common general obligation municipal bonds.

Councilor Matt Hochman said he had solicited feedback from residents on the issue since learning about the lease agreement, and he heard that people are in favor of town ownership but felt it would be important to have a business plan in place first.

When the agreement with the DOT is complete, he said, “we will have a good idea about what those plans are, what our obligations will be, and how to go forward with it.”

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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