The ferry terminal on Eden Street. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Sorting out the terminal terms

BAR HARBOR — Below is a glossary of terms and concepts related to cruise ship operations and the ferry terminal property ballot questions facing voters at the town meeting in June.

Business plan: A plan for how revenue from fees charged to cruise ships could support purchase of the ferry terminal property and construction of a cruise ship pier and other development at the ferry terminal site. Public visioning sessions are planned as part of the process to develop the plan.

It will include a recommendation for financing via a town bond issue or by creation of a Port Authority to hold debt. It is expected to be complete this fall.

Cruise ship pier: A facility for accepting cruise ship passengers. Under a feasibility plan developed by consultants Bermello Ajamil and Partners in 2012 and updated in 2016, a pier able to accommodate two large cruise ships could be built at the site, allowing passengers to disembark directly and eliminating the need for tendering. To date, there are only conceptual plans. No piers shown are longer than 2,000 feet.

Article 12: A zoning amendment for the ferry terminal property on the June 13 ballot prepared by the town Planning Board and backed by the Town Council. It creates a new Shoreland Maritime Activities District that is only the single parcel of land at 112 Eden St., under state guidelines for facilitating a deep water port facility.

Piers, wharfs, docks, passenger terminal, ferry terminal, marina, commercial boatyard or commercial fish pier are allowed by site plan review.

Article 13: A zoning amendment related to cruise ships on the June 13 ballot brought by citizen petition. Limits cruise ships berthed at any pier or dock to 300 feet long or less in all shoreland districts.

It adds a cruise ship passenger cap to the land use ordinance at current levels. Adds “cruise ship tendering/berthing facility” as a permitted use in two shoreland zones. Leaves the 112 Eden St. property split between two zoning districts.

Friends of Frenchman Bay: A group organized to support passage of Article 13 and defeat the Port Authority bill in the state legislature. Group member Sarah Steinhardt of New York City created an online petition on opposing construction of a cruise ship pier and opposing the Port Authority bill in the legislature.

Passenger cap: The harbormaster may only accept reservations for cruise ships visiting Bar Harbor, whether anchored in Frenchman Bay or tied to a pier, up to a daily maximum number of passengers according to the ship’s capacity.

The cap is currently 3,500 passengers per day in July and August and 5,500 in May, June, September and October. It has not changed in nearly a decade.

The passenger cap does not regulate how many days per week or per year ships may visit, or how many ships may visit in a season.

It is set by a vote of the Town Council on recommendation of the Cruise Ship Committee. If Article 13 is approved by voters, changes to the cap would require a town meeting vote.

The council approved exceeding the cap on a trial basis for four days in 2018, but some of those reservations were cancelled, so the cap will be exceeded on only one day next year.

Port Authority: A legal entity that could be created in the future that could issue bonds to finance purchase or development of the ferry terminal property.

A bill in the legislature this year, LD 1400, would allow creation of a Bar Harbor Port Authority by town referendum vote. Under the language of the bill, the port authority would have a five-person governing board.

Three members would be elected by the voters of the town, and two would be appointed by the Town Council.

Bylaws laying out the specifics of Port Authority operations would be drafted ahead of a vote on its creation by local residents.

Purchase option: An agreement between the town and the Maine Department of Transportation, which currently owns the ferry terminal property, allowing the town an exclusive option to purchase the property “solely for uses associated with maritime transportation.”

The purchase price is either $2 million or $2.5 million, depending on conditions included in the deal. The agreement includes a clause that the agreement will be terminated if Article 13 is approved by voters in June.

The Town Council approved the agreement this week.

Tendering: Currently, large cruise ships visiting Bar Harbor send passengers ashore on small vessels called “tenders.” For some of the ships, the larger Bar Harbor Whale Watch boats are used for this purpose.

The tenders disembark passengers at Harbor Place and the Harborside Hotel, both of which are owned by hotel company Ocean Properties Ltd. Passengers have less time to spend in town or on tours when tendering vs. disembarking at a pier, officials noted.


Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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