Zoning districts in Bar Harbor’s downtown village. The area labeled E1, shown in red, is the Downtown Village I district. The pink area labeled E2 is Downtown Village II. Bar Harbor Gateway is in the upper left corner, shown in blue. MAP COURTESY OF THE TOWN OF BAR HARBOR

Parking, ferry terminal public hearing scheduled

BAR HARBOR — A hearing on the 13 zoning articles on the written town meeting ballot is set for the Tuesday, May 16 Town Council meeting at 7 p.m.

Ten of the 13 articles have to do with parking, two deal with use of the former ferry terminal at 121 Eden St., and one is a revision of the town’s list of historic properties. All are proposed amendments to the town’s land use ordinance (LUO).

Amendments adding “parking lot” and “parking garage” to downtown districts, which officials said 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.

Article 2 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 currently only allowed as accessory structures to hotels and multifamily dwellings.

Article 3 adds parking as an allowed accessory use in some districts where it is not expressly listed in the current ordinance.

Article 4 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 5 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, Articles 6-11, 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.

Garages are currently allowed in the LUO in the Town Hill Business and Village Residential neighborhoods.

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

A garage that has been proposed for the Backyard Parking Lot behind the West Street Hotel to be owned and operated jointly by the town and by hotel company Ocean Properties is in the Downtown Village I district.

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

Ferry terminal

Articles 12 and 13 are both about the ferry terminal property and maritime operations there.

The Planning Board has been at work on Article 12 for more than a year, including meetings with state officials. It creates a new Shoreland Maritime Activities District that is only the single parcel of land at 112 Eden St., under state guidelines for facilitating a deep water port facility. Piers, wharfs, docks, passenger terminal, ferry terminal, marina, commercial boatyard or commercial fish pier are allowed by site plan review.

Article 13 is a citizen initiative question brought by a committee headed by resident James Blanchard. It limits cruise ships berthed at any pier or dock to 300 feet long or less anywhere in town. It adds a cruise ship passenger cap to the land use ordinance at current levels, adds “cruise ship tendering/berthing facility” as a permitted use in two shoreland zones and leaves the 112 Eden St. property split between two zoning districts.

Some were surprised to see that the purchase option agreement between the town and the Maine Department of Transportation for the property, signed last week by the council, included a clause that the agreement will be terminated if Article 13 is approved by voters in June.

But Planning Board Chair Tom St. Germain argued at last week’s meeting that the state’s position has been consistent throughout the 15 months the board has been working on the ferry terminal question.

Since the Planning Board first met with state officials in October of 2015, he said, DOT officials consistently said that their involvement in the project is predicated on construction of a pier large enough to berth cruise ships.

The last question, Article 14, updates the town’s official list of historic properties. The list appears as Appendix A in the town’s land use ordinance and is supposed to be updated annually by the Design Review Board, Planning Director Bob Osborne said.

The DRB held a public hearing on Feb. 23 on their updated list. If a property owner indicated that they did not want their building to be included on the list, the property was removed, Osborne said. In updating the list, the board removed buildings that already had been demolished, updated business names and removed buildings no longer situated in the Overlay District.

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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