BAR HARBOR – The Town Council will hold a public hearing Nov. 16 on a proposal to add two full-time members to the Planning Board.
The idea sprung from a previous proposal to add alternates following a tie vote of the Planning Board that leaves a question on the size of the majority needed at town meeting to pass new vacation rentals regulations.
Town Manager Cornell Knight brought the alternate idea forward, saying it was a way to avoid a tie vote in the future, but the board was more interested in beefing the board back up to seven members, as it has operated in the past.
At its meeting on Tuesday, the council voted to hold the public hearing next month, but not before diving into several other potential changes. The council did make tweaks to the proposed qualifications and powers and duties of the board but ended up holding off on a recommendation from council member Gary Friedmann to add language saying that one of the responsibilities of the Planning Board is to carry out the policies of the council. Council member Jill Goldthwait also raised the idea of making changes to the size of the quorum, but the council decided against taking any action on that idea as well.
Vacation rentals have been one of the most contentious issues in town and the council and Planning Board have not always seen eye-to-eye on the proposed changes, which will go to town meeting in November.
The Planning Board is charged with giving a majority recommendation on land use changes. If it recommends the changes, they need a simple majority at town meeting. If the board does not recommend them, passage requires a two-thirds vote.
The day the board took a vote, a member of the five-member board was absent, leaving the board with a tie vote. Dueling legal interpretations on the implications of the split vote have emerged, but there hasn’t been a definitive opinion on the matter.
Council member Matthew Hochman said Tuesday that he could foresee a legal challenge on the town meeting vote, no matter if it was up or down.