Brittany Parker and Andrew Simon perform at the Saltair Inn in Bar Harbor. Parker and Simon's application for a site plan review for the use of a boat storage building in Tremont as performance space has been deemed incomplete by the Planning Board there. ISLANDER PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

Show won’t go on: Unpermitted theater rejected



TREMONT — A stop work order remains in effect for the Barn Arts Collective’s use of a boat storage facility for performances. The theater group’s site plan review application was found incomplete Tuesday by the town’s Planning Board.

The action cancels the Tremont-based group’s scheduled performances of “Cabaret” at the boathouse. Friday was to be opening night.

The Barn Arts Collective has been using a boat storage building owned by Richard Helmke of Bass Harbor Boat Shop for theatrical performances and musical events during the summer months, when the storage building is empty of boats. Complaints about parking and noise led Code Enforcement Officer John Larson to investigate.

On Aug. 7, Larson issued a stop work order to Helmke and his wife, stating that the Barn Arts use of the building at the corner of the Tremont and Mitchell roads is in violation of the town’s land use ordinance. The events at the boathouse are a new use of what the Planning Board approved as a boat storage facility. To continue this use, Planning Board approval of a site plan review is needed, Larson wrote.

Larson directed the Helmkes to “cease and desist from all entertainment activities” at the building until the Planning Board approves a site plan review on the change of use.

The heads of the Barn Arts Collective, Andrew Simon and Brittany Parker, subsequently submitted a site plan review application, which the Planning Board considered Tuesday. From the beginning, it was apparent that the application had little chance of being found complete.

The first issue was a matter of the $15 application fee. Chairman Mike Ryan asked Larson if the fee had been paid.

“I haven’t collected it yet,” Larson said.

After a member of the public offered to pay the fee in cash, Simon reached into his own pocket. Larson declined, saying he had no official method of accepting the cash at the meeting. The Planning Board agreed to proceed with review but with a warning from member Susan Snyder.

“You do understand that until the fee is paid, the application is not complete,” she told Simon and Parker.

The next hitch involved a sketch plan of the lot and the building. None had been included in the application, as required. Here again, the Planning Board was helpful. They agreed that the plan submitted when the building was first permitted could be used.

The Planning Board found other deficiencies. They included a lack of any information on buffering, information on the height of the building and the location of parking and driveways on and adjacent to the site. Ryan also pointed out that Simon and Parker had identified only three properties within 500 feet of the boathouse; he counted 11 properties that were subject to the requirement.

Even before the site plan review checklist being used by the Planning Board had been completed, Ryan cut to the chase.

“Quite frankly, this isn’t going to go as complete,” he told Simon and Parker.

Throughout the proceedings, Simon and Parker said they had little knowledge of how the process works and had completed the online site plan review application. When asked, they said they had not been provided with the checklist being used by the board.

“All that was available to us was what was on the website,” Parker said.

Larson responded, saying he left a phone message with Simon last week telling him the checklist is available. Simon said he didn’t get the message. After checking the phone number on the application, Larson was told by Simon that they accidentally put the wrong number on the application.

Because the Planning Board voted 4-0 to find the application incomplete, a public comment period and other steps in the process did not take place. Simon and Parker were told to come back with a complete application. The next scheduled Planning Board meeting is on Sept. 12.

Keith Higgins, an abutter to the boathouse and the town’s fire chief, suggested to Simon and Parker that they should discuss their plans with the State Fire Marshal’s Office to make sure what they are doing meets life safety codes.

“If something happens, it’s going to be on you guys,” he said.

Higgins also asked if the approved use of the building remains as boat storage. It does, he was told.

Simon protested, asking if they could have approval on a “conditional” basis.

“We’re committed to our mission to bring people together,” he said, adding that there are performances scheduled at the boathouse.

Before the meeting Tuesday, Larson said he gave Simon permission to hold one event, which had been scheduled, after the stop work order was issued. He acknowledged that the group ignored that concession and held at least one subsequent event. Larson was adamant about his decision.

“The stop work order should stay in effect until you get this approved,” he said.

If events continue without approval, the Helmkes are subject to legal action in state court. Larson in his stop work order notes they could be fined up to $2,500 per violation per day and liable for the town’s legal fees.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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