This map, included in the draft open space plan for Bar Harbor that was developed by the Conservation Commission, details priority areas for conservation that cover a large portion of available land in the town. IMAGE COURTESY OF TOWN OF BAR HARBOR

Open space plan to be pared back

BAR HARBOR — The town’s Conservation Commission is at work editing its open space plan to include only conservation actions that are feasible to complete within 10 years, Planning Director Bob Osborne told the Town Council Tuesday.

Development of the plan has been controversial because much of the land in the town already is protected in some way and some property owners have argued the plan might infringe on their rights if adopted.

The existing draft plan, Osborne said, contains 29 goals and 191 strategies. “And it’s open ended as to how long any of them would take. What the town needs is a 10-year document, not a lifetime document, and to look at strategies that make sense for now.”

Member’s of the town Conservation Commission met with a group of about eight property owners Nov. 17 at Mount Desert Island High School to discuss revisions to the draft Bar Harbor open space plan.

“Concern was expressed that the open space plan is complex and offers goals and strategies that … could place unreasonable limits on the utility of the land that those families intend to pass on to their heirs,” Osborne wrote in a memo. Buffers around Acadia National Park, boundary creep of Acadia, setbacks from open space easements and impact fees for certain kinds of development were among the specific concerns expressed.

The open space plan was published in June 2014, as envisioned in the town’s 2007 comprehensive plan. Councilors voted not to adopt it when it was presented in May 2015.

At a meeting with the Town Council this summer, members of the commission said they hoped to work more closely with landowners.

“I thought the night ended on a positive note overall,” commission Chair Jesse Wheeler said of the November landowner meeting. “I think we were able to provide a space to actively listen and get a little bit of brainstorming going on about what’s needed to make this a more effective plan.”

The group discussed conservation activities managed by the state, such as shoreland development restrictions, floodplain and stormwater management, and tree growth programs. “There’s an opportunity if the town wants to go further” than the state requirements in some of these areas, Wheeler said.

Other land conservation opportunities don’t involve any land acquisition or easements: Bar Harbor has long experience with public access to some privately owned property, such as the Shore Path and the Town Hill Playground.



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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