Planning Board rejects cruise ship limits, retail marijuana  



BAR HARBOR — The November town meeting may be two months out, but the Planning Board has made its recommendations for four articles on the warrant. 

During a meeting Sept. 7, the board recommended that Bar Harbor voters reject a citizens’ petition setting daily limits on cruise ship disembarkation and a proposal allowing retail marijuana sales in town. The board also recommended voters adopt a removal of the two-thirds majority vote requirement.  

Before residents vote on election day, the Planning Board must issue their opinion on articles pertaining to the land use ordinance. All but one article on the warrant would amend the land use ordinance if enacted.  

Although voters will ultimately decide if each article passes, they will see the board’s recommendations, with the Warrant Committee’s, on the ballot.  

Two-thirds rule  

The second article voters will decide on would remove a two-thirds majority rule to amend the land use ordinance. The Town Council requested the change.  

For land use ordinance amendments that the Planning Board doesn’t recommend, a two-thirds majority among voters at town meeting is required for it to pass. The proposal would remove the two-thirds requirement and replace it with a simple majority. 

The Planning Board voted 4-2 to recommend removing the two-thirds rule.  

Planning Board Vice Chair Ruth Eveland was in support of removal because the rule gives more weight to Planning Board member’s votes.  

“There has often been a perception that there needs to be an engineered work-around around how town decisions are made,” she said. “Having this super threshold to be passed makes that worse. 

Cruise ship cap 

The third article on the warrant would limit the number of cruise ship passengers allowed to disembark into town to a maximum of 1,000 per day.  

However, if a passenger made a reservation before March 17, they would be exempt from this cap.  

The harbormaster would create a reservation system, a daily counting and tracking system and a violation reporting system.  

If more passengers come into town than are allowed, the code enforcement officer would be responsible for issuing a fine of $100 per additional person.  

Planning Board members voiced concerns about the extra work it would create for the staff, who would be responsible for counting each passenger coming off every cruise ship.  

Eveland supported an alternative plan created by the town’s task force that imposes monthly limits and doesn’t cut disembarkation numbers as drastically.  

Board member Joseph Cough worried about the possibility of the cruise industry suing the town if the citizens’ initiative were passed.  

Ultimately, the board voted 6-0 in rejection of the proposal. 

Retail marijuana  

Two citizens’ petitions that combined would permit and license retail marijuana sales in town will be on the ballot, but the Planning Board only made recommendations on one proposal that deals with the land use aspect.  

The first petition amends the land use ordinance to define recreational marijuana as a new use under retail in four districts within Bar Harbor. Those districts include Downtown Village 1, Downtown Village 2, Bar Harbor Gateway and Downtown Village Transitional.  

The Planning Board voted 5-1 against the adoption of the ordinance change.  

Board Secretary Elissa Chesler said she did not support the amendment because it would open up cannabis sales in the downtown districts.  

“This is juxtaposing retail cannabis with tourism,” she said. “It’s bringing that use right in proximity to an area where people are more footloose and fancy free.”  

The board also unanimously voted to approve an amendment to update Appendix A in the land use ordinance. This article would change dates of construction, names and addresses for multiple historic properties.  

 

 

Victoria DeCoster

Victoria DeCoster

Victoria DeCoster covers the Bar Harbor area including town boards and committees. She recently moved to the island after graduating from Syracuse University last year. Contact Victoria with tips and story ideas at [email protected].

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