BAR HARBOR — The number of passengers able to disembark from cruise ships in town may soon be drastically reduced if a group of residents can gather enough signatures to bring a citizen petition to a successful vote.
On Wednesday morning, the language of a land use ordinance amendment was presented to Bar Harbor Town Clerk Liz Graves seeking to limit the number of passengers from cruise ships to no more than 1,000 per day despite the number of ships that come into town. Graves will next prepare the petitions to be circulated for signatures. Three hundred signatures are required.
According to the language of the amendment, property owners who receive passengers would be required to obtain a permit from the town. Rules and regulations to oversee the daily limits would be developed by the harbor master, and the code enforcement officer would enforce those regulations. A minimum penalty for each disembarking passenger over the limit would be subject to a fine, paid for by the permit holder.
According to the Charles Sidman, speaking on behalf of the petitioners, who also include Amy Sidman, Barbara Fenderson, Art Greif, Donna Karlson, Pat Murphy and Jim O’Connell, the petition became a necessary step to reduce passenger levels after the town failed to show progress to that end. “The Town Council has talked about eventualities and maybes but has not been able to get anything done,” he said.
In language accompanying the amendment, petitioners say the large number of passengers who disembark from cruise ships causes congestion, jeopardizes the ability to adequately deliver emergency services and impacts the ability of local shops, restaurants and other businesses to attract and serve customers. It states, “In order to protect, preserve and promote the general health, safety, welfare and peace of the community, it is determined to be in the best interest of the Town to amend the daily disembarkation limits by lowering the cap to 1,000 and requiring that all property owners receive a permit from the Code Enforcement Officer that formally imposes such a limit.”
As drafted, “the provision is applicable as of March 16, 2022, and the purpose of the retroactive application of the amendment is to provide adequate notice of the daily passenger cap to all interested parties prior to the time when reservations are made for the 2023 cruise ship season. As stated in the amendment, the daily passenger cap will not apply to any cruise ship reservation or ‘booking’ that has already been accepted by the Town’s Harbor Master prior to March 16, 2022, and the Town will not take any enforcement action with regard to any cruise ship visits occurring prior to the date of adoption of this subsection by voters at Town Meeting.”
Sidman said he expects the petitioners to have the needed signatures by the June election “if not sooner.”