The state DOT has purchased the former international ferry terminal on Eden Street in Bar Harbor. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

State buys ferry pier

BAR HARBOR — The Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) has purchased the former international ferry terminal property on Eden Street sooner than originally expected, officials said Tuesday.

The state and town have been working for several years on a plan to develop the property as a cruise ship terminal. The state’s purchase does not change the plan for a negotiated agreement for the town to buy the property by summer 2018, Maine Port Authority director John Henshaw said.

The DOT and the former property owner, Canadian Crown corporation Marine Atlantic, signed a three-year lease agreement Nov. 18 with a clause allowing for purchase at any time during the lease. The purchase price of $3.5 million includes $1 million already paid as rent for the three years.

“The property had some road frontage that needed to be taken as part of the Route 3 project,” Henshaw said. “The issue was that if Marine Atlantic had still owned the property, Maine DOT would have had to pay for the taking” over and above the negotiated purchase price, so they decided to exercise the purchase option sooner than planned.

“The lease has been eliminated from the picture, but it’s still June of 2018 that [the DOT] would like to have the transfer take place,” Town Manager Cornell Knight said. “We’re supposed to hear from them later this week or next week on the actual status and how things are going to progress.”

DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt wrote the town council in October expressing concern that public support for the project had waned and a planned zoning change would not be on the November ballot. Henshaw and Deputy Commissioner Jonathan Nass attended a special Planning Board meeting in October.

A few weeks later, the DOT informed town officials that the state would not buy and develop the property, and instead planned to work on a plan for town ownership.

The Islander filed a Freedom of Access Act request in November for copies of any correspondence received by the Maine Port Authority and MDOT from individuals and organizations in Hancock County, including Acadia National Park, concerning the ferry terminal project in the previous year.

No letters of opposition were recorded. The only letter the DOT received in that time was from Chris Fogg, former director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce and now head of the Maine Tourism Association, in Oct. 2016, expressing support for the cruise terminal project.

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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