BAR HARBOR—The Jackson Laboratory has unveiled a revised plan for a 24-unit apartment complex specifically for lab employees on land across from the organization’s main campus.
The workforce housing project would consist of two 12-unit buildings that are three stories high and located on the western side of Route 3 on a 36-acre lot owned by the laboratory. “We’ve always wanted the location to be easy walking and biking distance to work [and] close to downtown Bar Harbor,” said the lab’s Director of Engineering and Capital Projects Kelly Doran. She said that the desired location was the closest the lab could get to downtown Bar Harbor.
Portland-based project engineer Sarah Nicholson of Woodard & Curran Inc. brought forth a sketch plan for review that included the two buildings, a centralized open green area, a storage building and a 36-space parking lot for the residents. Pedestrian access for safe walking to the lab will also be provided. The property would be accessible off Woodland Rd., which also contains six cottages owned by the lab.
As part of a planned $13 million investment in town, which also includes a daycare project, the lab hopes to meet the needs of employees who said in a 2019 survey that the biggest issue for its workers was an extreme lack of housing on the island. Bar Harbor has witnessed an increase in permit applications for vacation rentals every year and summer homeowners have extended their stays, which, at times, has made it difficult for lab employees to find year-round housing. At a recent Town Council meeting, the lab’s Chief Operating Officer Catherine Longley said that at “every new employee coffee [gathering] in Bar Harbor, the number one issue the employees say is, ‘I can’t find a place to live.’”
Planning Board Chairman Tom St.Germain asked a question, posed via email by a resident of East Strawberry Hill Road, a road parallel to the project, “Should [residents] be worried about the bulky buildings within view of the road that they live on?” Doran said the buildings would blend in with the surrounding natural landscape.
William Meyerjack, another resident of East Strawberry Hill Road, joined the virtual meeting to voice his concerns about the project. “You will be building this unit right near the rear of my house. It’s not going to be a pretty sight for me to see,” he said. For a long time, the homeowner said he has enjoyed looking out the window to a nice wild, wooded view and is now concerned his view will be curtailed. He said that he was also concerned that the intended blasting for the project will damage his property. “It’s all solid ledge. We live off a well that could be affected, plus the foundation of our house could be affected,” he added. Both Nicholson and Duran assured attendees that blasting would be controlled. A pre-blast survey would be conducted, said Nicholson.
Planning Board secretary Erica Brooks wanted to know how the storm water runoff she had previously witnessed coming down during a heavy rain event would be managed. “We are currently working on the stormwater design plan,” said Nicholson, but provided general thoughts about how that would be managed in a final plan.
The board held a virtual site visit along with a neighborhood meeting on Dec. 10. The project will again come before the Planning Board at its January meeting and will be reviewed for completeness.