Parking zoning debate resumes

BAR HARBOR — Round two of a debate about parking lots, parking decks and parking garages in town began last week when the Planning Board and Town Council met in a joint workshop to discuss zoning changes.

The proposed amendments to the town’s Land Use ordinance (LUO) are very similar to changes that were going to go to voters in last week’s election but were pulled from the ballot in September after town staff found an error in the text of the proposed amendments.

Where to allow parking garages continues to be a sticking point, as is how the parking garage changes should be presented to voters.

“The most often-cited comment during the Warrant Committee review was that [the ballot questions] were lumped together,” Town Manager Cornell Knight said.

The zoning questions are not about particular parking garage projects, but there are two projects that have been proposed in recent years that require the zoning changes. One, a public-private partnership between the town and hotel company Ocean Properties, was proposed for the lot behind the West Street Hotel. The other is planned for the Jackson Laboratory campus.

“The thing that’s tripping us up is the parking garage in the middle of town,” Councilor Clark Stivers said. It may make sense to have a garage there, where the parking problem is most severe, he said, “but that’s where all the fur has been flying.”

Stivers and Anne Greenlee supported separating the ballot questions to allow voters to weigh in on adding “parking garage” as an allowed use in each of six districts separately.

Council Chair Paul Paradis argued that too many warrant articles also could be confusing. “By separating them out, it looks like we’re voting on a specific structure. And we’re not.”

The Planning Board voted 3-1 to recommend combining the changes into two ballot questions: one adding “parking garage” in downtown districts and one adding the use in the districts where the College of the Atlantic, Jackson Laboratory and MDI Biological Laboratory are sited.

Only four councilors were present, and a motion to accept the Planning Board’s recommendation failed 2-2. A subsequent motion, to proceed with a separate warrant article for each district where “parking garage” is proposed, passed 3-1 with Anne Greenlee, Stivers and Paradis in favor and Burt Barker opposed.

The draft warrant articles add “parking lot,” “parking deck” and “parking garage” as allowed uses in several districts. Other articles adjust definitions for parking as an accessory use and add regulations to allow off-site parking for some facilities.

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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