Housing workshop set

The Bar Harbor Town Council will hold a workshop to address what Councilor Gary Friemann describes as “the housing crisis” on Sept. 16, but the workshop will not include discussion of vacation rental restrictions.

In a request to Friedmann requested to put housing on Aug. 20 council agenda, Friedmann outlined a “six-point plan to end the housing crisis.”

He proposed a moratorium on new permits for non-hosted, vacation rentals.

“We know that many local families rely on AirBnb type revenue to be able to afford to live here,” he wrote. “But out-of-town investors have discovered that they can buy up multiple dwellings in almost every zone to rent by the night.”

His proposal included zoning changes to allow rooming houses and dormitories, and allowing higher density in areas served by town water and sewer. He suggested working with The Jackson Laboratory to plan an employee housing project that “contributes to the tax base” and partnerships with organizations such as Island Housing Trust and the National Park Service.

“I think our job as councilors is to look at the bigger picture,” Councilor Erin Cough said at Tuesday’s meeting. She proposed the workshop, which she said would allow councilors to have “a very focused discussion.”

Councilor Steve Coston said he disagreed with the idea of a moratorium on non-hosted vacation rentals.

“Any time you have some people in town allowed to do something, and you tell other people they can’t, I feel weird about that,” he said.

Coston moved to schedule a workshop to work on the other proposals. The motion passed 4-3, with Coston, Friedmann, Jeff Dobbs, and Joe Minutolo voting in favor; and Matthew Hochman, Cough, and Judie Noonan voting against.

Hochman, Cough, and Noonan said they were in favor of scheduling a workshop, but were not comfortable excluding the vacation rental proposal.

“I’d like to leave all the bullet points on the table,” Noonan said.

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