BAR HARBOR — With no application filed yet, the Planning Board reviewed preliminary plans to transform the vacant lot at 56 Cottage Street into a commercial parking lot.
The plan, is to build a private gated parking lot on the corner of Cottage and Kennebec Streets. Unlike the municipal parking lots with kiosks, where motorists pay to park by the hour, the private parking lot will be available for lease. Local businesses will be able lease groups of parking spots for employees.
According to preliminary plans, the entrance to the lot will be on Kennebec Street, a one-way residential street. The exit will be on Cottage Street. The entrance gate will be operated by a key fob, and the lot will feature landscaping, lighting, and 44 spaces, four of which will have electric car charging stations.
Representing the lot owner Karol Foss of Florida, Greg Johnston of G.F. Johnston & Associates of Southwest Harbor appeared before the Planning Board Aug. 7 to present the site plan for review before submitting a formal application.
“We know the input from staff during a preliminary review process will affect the final design,” Johnston wrote to Town Planner Michele Gagnon in a letter requesting the review. He told the board that getting their input early in the process would save expenses.
Upon scheduling the preliminary review with the Planning Board, Gagnon also invited property abutters as a courtesy. Several Kennebec Street and Cottage Street residents attended the meeting and had a chance to voice concerns during the public comment period.
Leo Doreika, said he had concerns about having the parking lot entrance “in a pedestrian zone,” referring to the fact that people walk in the road on Kennebec Street, which is too narrow for a sidewalk. He suggested moving both the entrance and exit to Cottage Street.
His concerns about the Kennebec Street entrance were shared by other abutters present.
Going forward with new applications, Gagnon explained, “our plan is to put the agenda in the paper and send courtesy notices to abutters regardless of the state [of the application], not to sit on an application. We are serious when we talk about meaningful outreach.”
The vacant lot to be developed has had many uses over the years. Foss bought the property from Bar Harbor Historical Society, which had intended to develop it as a museum, which would have required a zoning change. Those plans changed when Bar Harbor Historical Society was able to purchase the mansion La Rochelle on West Street, to renovate for that purpose.
Before the historical society had purchased the Cottage Street lot in May 2018, it was owned by Tom Alley under the name Worthy, LLC. Over the years, the property has housed a Thai restaurant, ice cream shop, arcade and gas station.