BAR HARBOR — A deal between the town and the state for the former ferry terminal property on Eden Street contains what some are calling a “poison pill.”
Maine Department of Transportation officials insisted the agreement include a provision that if Article 13, a restrictive citizen petition zoning change for the property is approved, the deal is off.
A vote on Article 13 and on the town’s proposed zoning change for the property, Article 12, will be on the town meeting ballot next month.
The DOT purchased the property earlier this year from Marine Atlantic, the Canadian crown corporation that has been its owner since 1985. The $3.5 million purchase was paid for with funds from a statewide bond issue that included this project.
The option agreement includes a purchase price of either $2 million or $2.5 million, depending on conditions in the agreement. The reduced price may be offered if the town has approved a business plan and a developer and/or funding committed before the option expires in November of this year.
The property is estimated to be worth $6.5 million.
If the town buys the property but does not develop a facility “for uses associated with maritime transportation” within five years, the DOT may repossess the property and sell it on the open market.
On Tuesday, the Town Council voted 5-1 to sign the agreement. Councilors Matthew Hochman, Paul Paradis, Anne Greenlee, Peter St. Germain and Burt Barker voted in favor. Clark Stivers dissented, and Gary Friedmann was absent.
Town Manager Cornell Knight said that when he spoke with the deputy DOT commissioner and a member of the department’s legal team, they insisted on the clause terminating the agreement if Article 13 passes.
“They said it was non-negotiable, because [the article] affects making it a maritime site that you could dock cruise ships at.”
Supporters of Article 13 took issue with the petition being characterized in the agreement as a “cruise ship moratorium” and said Knight and Paradis, who negotiated the agreement on behalf of the town, should not have accepted that condition.
“All parties in a negotiation have a say,” Anne-Marie Quinn said. “The other side has a right to come back and say, ‘That’s not acceptable.’ Apparently, that didn’t happen.”
Hochman said he was uncomfortable with that language in the agreement, but those were the terms offered.
“The other option [in negotiations] was to walk away and not buy the site, and that’s not acceptable either,” he said. “We are kind of backed into a corner here, but this way, the voters of Bar Harbor still have a choice.”