Parking, cruise ship zoning hearing set

BAR HARBOR — Zoning changes dealing with parking, housing and the use of the former international ferry terminal are set for public hearing at the March 7 Town Council meting. The changes are necessary for two controversial projects, a downtown parking garage and a cruise ship terminal, to move forward.

Amendments adding “parking lot” and “parking garage” to downtown districts, which officials say used to be allowed but were inadvertently omitted when the districts were redrawn in 2010, have had two false starts.

In December 2015, the Town Council rejected several specific amendments on parking lots and garages and instead directed the Planning Board to prepare a single, comprehensive parking amendment.

The board prepared those recommendations for a November 2016 vote. They were debated by the council and Warrant Committee before being scrapped in September of last year when town staff found errors in the wording of the articles.

The first of the current slate of amendments adds “parking lot” as a principal use in several districts, meaning the town or a private developer could create a parking lot as a business, subject to site plan review. Lots are already allowed as accessory structures to other types of land uses.

Another amendment, A2, aims to add parking as an allowed accessory use in some districts where it is not expressly listed in the current ordinance.

Article A3 adds “parking deck,” which would be entirely new to the ordinance, in several districts. A parking deck is a two-level structure that makes use of site grade differential, rather than internal ramps, to access the parking areas.

Article A4 allows a business or institution to fulfill parking requirements in a site plan by building parking on a nearby but nonadjacent property.

Six separate warrant articles, A5.1-A5.6, each add “parking garage” as an allowed use in a single district. Three are downtown districts, and three are associated with institutions: The Jackson Laboratory, College of the Atlantic and the MDI Biological Laboratory.

The proposed articles require Design Review Board approval for all parking garage projects, including ones outside the design review overlay district.

Garages are currently allowed in the LUO in the Town Hill Business and Village Residential neighborhoods. The proposed amendments do not change that.

A planned parking garage at The Jackson Laboratory cannot be built unless the amendment for that district is approved, town officials have said.

Ferry terminal

Another proposed amendment would create a new district for the former international ferry terminal property on Eden Street. The property currently straddles two different zoning districts.

Planning Director Bob Osborne based the draft amendment on a mechanism in state zoning guidelines that allows for the creation of a special district like this one without the move being considered spot zoning. The guidelines have a provision for a “commercial fisheries maritime activities district.”

Uses allowed in the new district with a building permit or change-of-use permit are “government facility and grounds, and temporary pier, dock, wharf, breakwater or other use projecting into the water.”

Uses allowed by site plan review include commercial boatyard, commercial fish pier, passenger terminal, ferry terminal, marina and services.

Bank, farmers market, hotel, multifamily dwelling, professional office buildings, restaurant, retail, take-out restaurant and wireless communications facility are allowed as accessory uses.

The Planning Board removed childcare centers, wind turbines, private schools and nursing homes from the list during their review of the draft. They also said that any housing units at the facility should be for employees.

Ferry terminal petition

Another zoning proposal for that property also may come before voters in June, via a citizen initiative process. Petitioners announced Tuesday they had collected and submitted nearly 400 signatures and submitted them to Town Clerk Pat Gray for certification.

Their proposal would set the maximum number of cruise ship passengers on any one day at the current levels. Writing that rule into the LUO would mean any change to the passenger cap would require a town meeting vote.

It also includes a definition of “cruise ship tendering/berthing facility” that limits ships tying up to a pier to 300 feet precluding an expanded dock at the Eden Street site.

Larger ships still would have to send passengers ashore by smaller, “tender” boats, as is currently done.

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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