DOT questions ‘political will’ on ferry terminal

BAR HARBOR — State officials are questioning whether the Town of Bar Harbor is still in support of a plan to redevelop the former international ferry terminal as a cruise ship terminal. Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner David Bernhardt wrote a letter to town officials Thursday, ahead of a planned special planning board meeting with state officials Friday. The letter seeks a vote on a proposed zoning change before the state will complete a lease on the property.

“The Town Council took formal action by way of a Council vote in 2014 to show support of the Terminal development by the Maine Port Authority (MPA),” Bernhardt wrote. “Written notification was sent to the MPA to confirm the Town’s ‘unwavering support for the acquisition of the Bar Harbor Ferry Terminal…for the development of a cruise ship berth.’”

In March 2016, MPA director John Henshaw wrote to town Planning Director Robert Osborne requesting specific zoning changes to the affected districts. The planning board and town council discussed the changes, and planned to create a new district in the town’s land use ordinance for the property. Those changes, though, would not be ready for the November 2016 ballot, Osborne said.

DOT and MPA were surprised and concerned to learn that the requested changes will not appear on the November ballot, Bernhardt wrote. It “leaves the agency questioning the continued political will of the Town to move the project forward into the next stage.

“MaineDOT will delay signing of the lease agreement/purchase option with [current owner] Marine Atlantic until after an affirmative vote of the Town of Bar Harbor has been taken to change the zoning ordinance, as requested, and further assurances are given by the Town Council as the Town’s commitment in advocating for the project if it moves forward.”

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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