Parking vote ballot yanked

BAR HARBOR — Two parking-related land use ordinance amendments that have been hotly debated over the last nine months have been withdrawn and will now not appear on the ballot here in November.

Councilors were unanimous in the decision to rescind the special town meeting warrant and cancel a planned Oct. 4 public hearing on the two articles.

Town Manager Cornell Knight recommended the action after staff found an error in the text of the proposed amendments.

In the documents that were approved by the Planning Board and council, “Parking garage” as an allowed use was removed from the Downtown Residential and Town Hill Business districts, he said. “Yet their intent was that those two districts not be removed,” as evident in meeting minutes.

“Where the Planning Board did not endorse changes to those two zones, they would have to pass by a two-thirds majority. It seemed very confusing to the voter.

“I think it’s important that we get it right,” Knight continued, “and make sure everyone understands what they’re voting for. So I recommend that you rescind the warrant.”

Debate over the proposed changes has been active at the Planning Board and council since December 2015, when these changes were removed from a broader set of LUO changes and postponed. Since then, the proposed changes have been grouped several different ways into as many as six separate ballot questions. But they progressed to the Warrant Committee combined into only two. The Warrant Committee recommended rejection of both when it met Aug. 29.

The existing private and municipal parking lots in the downtown districts are grandfathered nonconforming uses under the current ordinance, officials have said. That would continue to be the case if the reinsertion of the use is voted down. The use couldn’t be expanded, and no new lots, parking decks or garages could be built. However, multi-family houses and hotels are allowed to build parking garages as an accessory use.

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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