The 30 acres of peat bog and forested wetland, on the left, at Jones Marsh near the head of Mount Desert Island has been acquired by Maine Coast Heritage Trust for permanent conservation. Island Housing Trust is planning a workforce-affordable housing development for the 30 upland acres on the right. IMAGE COURTESY OF MAINE COAST HERITAGE TRUST

Land acquired for workforce housing

BAR HARBOR — Island Housing Trust (IHT) can now rev up planning for a workforce-affordable housing development at Jones Marsh near the head of Mount Desert Island.

IHT and Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) have jointly raised the $450,000 needed to buy 60 acres of land across Route 3 from Thomas Bay. MCHT will retain half of that acreage, which is mostly a peat bog and forested wetland, for permanent conservation.

MCHT wants to use the buildable portion of its 30 acres for a neighborhood of nine to 11 homes. The organization has applied to the Bar Harbor Planning board for approval to build a Planned Unit Development (PUD). The purpose of a PUD, according to the town’s Land Use Ordinance, is to provide “an opportunity for residential subdivision developments on large tracts of land to embody the principles of clustering of dwelling units…reducing infrastructure needs and reducing negative impacts on the environment.”

Marla O’Byrne, executive director of IHT, said Tuesday that the organization is still considering development options.

“We’re looking at what kinds of houses to put there and where are the best locations for them,” she said.

“And now that we have acquired the land, we will be looking to get an estimate of what the cost will be to put in the infrastructure. Once we have that and the permitting costs and all the rest of it, then we will have a case to make to raise the funds.”

People who buy houses in the proposed Jones Marsh neighborhood would have to be employed on MDI and have a household income below a certain threshold. The deed to the property would include an affordability covenant that limits the price for which it could be re-sold, thereby keeping it within the financial reach of working families in the future.

As for MCHT’s 30 acres at Jones Marsh, project manager Misha Mytar said a management plan is being developed. She described the property as “highly ecologically significant, both as wildlife habitat and as future marsh.”

“As sea level rises, we expect the marsh to creep inland and reestablish itself in what is now bog,” she said. “Healthy salt marshes are critical to a healthy coast.”

MCHT and IHT bought the 60 acres at Jones Marsh from Conservation Limited Development LLC, a creation of MCHT that acquired the property in 2016.


Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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