BAR HARBOR — Mount Desert Island Hospital recently added to their downtown land holdings with the purchase of two properties adjacent to the main hospital campus, a two-family home at 294 Main St. and a house at 6 Stanwood Place.
They plan to use them for temporary and short-term housing for employees and participants in medical education programs.
Because a hefty chunk of the land in Bar Harbor is owned by nonprofit organizations or by Acadia National Park, and thus exempt from property tax, some residents wince when another property comes off the tax rolls.
“I know there are questions about us purchasing these two properties,” hospital Chief Financial Officer Chrissi Maguire-Harding said. “They will come off the tax rolls because we’re exempted from taxes. It’s a fair debate. But our hope is that the community benefit that we’re giving back outweighs it.”
MDI Hospital is the second largest employer on the island, spokesperson Oka Hutchins said.
The house on Stanwood was owned by Catherine Walton and had a town-assessed value of $257,000. The larger house on the corner of Stanwood and Main, known for many years as Cunningham Manor, sits on a 0.41-acre lot and is assessed at $509,500.
According to the hospital’s 990 tax form for 2015, the most recent available, the organization owns land worth $3.8 million and buildings worth $27.9 million ($14.8 million of depreciation on the buildings was claimed, for a “book value” of $13.1 million).
Those properties are mostly in Bar Harbor, but the hospital also has health centers in Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Trenton.
Acadia National Park and some of the nonprofits here make a voluntary payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) each year. Officials at The Jackson Laboratory have said that whenever that organization buys a taxable property, they increase its PILOT by an amount equivalent to the taxes from that property.
In the case of the hospital, “community benefit” comes in the form of free and discounted health services and other community programs, Maguire-Harding said.
Educational partnerships with medical schools such as Tufts and the University of Pennsylvania are an important tool for the hospital to attract doctors here, she said. New programs with Colby College and the College of the Atlantic also are in the works. Some of the students in those programs will stay in these houses.
The hospital’s trustees are beginning work on an updated facility master plan, but it is in the early stages, Maguire-Harding said.
“We are tasked with investigating and moving forward with that to help answer the question ‘How can we grow with the footprint we have? How can we best position ourselves for our mission?’” she said. “How we use these abutting properties will be key to what that footprint might look like.”
The former Cadillac Motel at 336 Main St. is currently used by the hospital for temporary housing for education programs as well as for employees to facilitate shift coverage and emergency coverage. The former Maine Street Motel building at 317 Main St. is used for office space and parking.
The hospital held a lease with the YMCA for parking behind the Y building, but that lease expired more than a year ago, and they have not renewed it, Maguire-Harding said.