BAR HARBOR — Voters at open town meeting have the advantage of listening to debate on warrant articles up for a vote there. Because there’s no opportunity for debate on the questions going on the written ballot, the Town Council holds hearings on those questions at the last council meeting before town meeting.
Of the questions that will be on the town meeting written ballot on June 12, residents were most vocal about the ferry terminal purchase bond.
Following Monday’s business plan meeting (see related story), the future of the ferry terminal property was fresh on residents’ and councilors’ minds. Article 6, if passed, would generate $3.5 million in bond revenue to purchase the abandoned ferry terminal property at 121 Eden St. from the Maine Department of Transportation with no strings attached, affording them time to evaluate options for development of the property.
Resident Joe Minutolo said the town should look into options including applying for grants, bumping cruise ship passenger fees, subdividing the lot, leasing out operations of the marina and selling on underutilized town-owned property.
Resident Dessa Dancy spoke passionately in favor of approving article 6.
“Voting no shuts the door forever,” she said. “We have lost this property before; it’s not coming again. Put all the studies in the shredder because the door is shut with a no vote.”
Resident Carol Chappell encouraged voters to approve the bond because if it was sold to a private company, zoning would allow it to be developed under many marine uses without voter approval.
“If we don’t buy the property, it will be sold on the open market and the voters of Bar Harbor will have little say over how it is developed,” she said. “We have the potential of owning the last available parcel of public oceanfront property in Bar Harbor. We can develop this property into a multiuse marina and provide much-improved public access to the ocean for the resident of and the visitors to Bar Harbor.”
Resident Ellen Grover asked councilors if the process of selecting a business plan would be public. She said she worries the council is not giving enough weight to concerns about overcrowding and congestion.
Councilor Matt Hochman said councilors are always open to input from the public. Further, Councilor Paul Paradis said any bonded funding for development would have to be approved at town meeting, so the process is inherently public.
Both the Town Council and the Warrant Committee unanimously recommended passing article 6.
Article 7, a $600,000 bond for a system to implement paid parking in the downtown, was discussed briefly. Some residents were concerned about how the bond would be paid back. Town Manager Cornell Knight said income from parking meters, kiosks and permits, an estimated $500,000 per year, would cover the bond debt in two years.
The council unanimously recommended adoption of the bond, and the Warrant Committee voted 15-2 in favor of adoption.
Some commenters thought article 2, which could axe any language about timber harvesting from the land use ordinance and rely only on state regulations, was too harsh. State officials have said they will not enforce regulations that are unique to a particular town.
Mike Handwerk, a member of the town’s Conservation Commission, said he thought putting the change to voters was premature. He said he wanted the commission to take a closer look at potential change because he did not “want to take away from something that is a real protection of the natural resources” on the island.
The Planning Board unanimously recommended adoption, while the Warrant Committee voted 15-2 in favor of rejection.
Shoreland zoning and appendix C
Resident Jake Jagel said the town would have to correct some conflicts between article 3, which brings shoreland zoning into conformity with state regulations, and article 4, which removes appendix C and puts the information found there into article 3 of the land use ordinance.
“In article 3, Marine Research [district shows a] minimum area per family change from 20,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet,” Jagel said. “Article 4 has it at 20,000 feet. Hopefully, they are corrected before anybody takes action.”
The Planning Board and Warrant Committee unanimously recommended adoption of article 3 and article 4.
The final land use change was article 5, a potential rezone of Acadia Veterinary Hospital at 21 Federal St. from the Downtown Residential district to the Downtown Village II district and adding “veterinary clinic” to the permitted uses of the latter district.
Abutters were skeptical of the change because the change could potentially allow an auto garage or a daycare to enter their neighborhood.
“It’s a quaint neighborhood, so we’re very concerned that the nature of the neighborhood will go away,” said Joe Bonaventura, who owns property at 11 Federal St.
No actions were taken by the council following the public hearing.
Co-owner of Acadia Veterinary Hospital Marion Fine said there are no plans to put another business at the property or sell the property as anything other than a veterinary hospital.
“Our goal is for it to remain a vet hospital,” she said. “The highest price it would go for is as a veterinary hospital. Aside from that, it would still have to adhere to the zoning of Bar Harbor.”
The Planning Board and Warrant Committee both unanimously recommended adoption of this change.