Thorny issues in subdivision reviews

BAR HARBOR — Issues presented by housing development proposals under review by the town include whether a planned new private road could provide access to town land and how flexible to be with rules for affordable housing. 

A planned subdivision off Route 3 and Ledgewood Road called The Farm will have a public hearing at the June 3 Planning Board meeting. 

The subdivision includes a road that ends with a cul-de-sac, as some other subdivision roads in town do. 

Joe Cough, who is the developer and also a member of the Planning Board, asked the Town Council whether the town would be interested in using the road in the future to access an adjacent town-owned parcel that has been for use as a solar farm or affordable housing. 

The parcel is also accessible by a right-of-way from another direction, but it’s only wide enough for utility access and not for a road with two-way traffic. 

On Tuesday, the council voted unanimously (Councilor Erin Cough, who is married to Joe Cough, was recused) that the town may be interested in future use of the road, but the vote did not commit the town to anything. 

Councilor Gary Friedmann called future use of the property “a pretty exciting opportunity for the town.” 

Part of the property is within the legislative boundary of Acadia National Park. The land is not actually owned by the park, but the boundary was created by legislation in 1986 to designate land that may be acquired in the future for inclusion in the park. John Kelly of Acadia National Park is asking for the boundary to be noted on the planning documents. 

Perry Moore, a landscape architect working on the subdivision, told the Planning Board he didn’t think that label is required. “The park has had more than 30 years to buy it,” he said, calling it “something the federal government has had on a planning document as a wish list.” 

Kelly said in an email that the law that created the boundary “contains provisions to prevent the development of private property within the boundary ‘in a manner that is detrimental to the scenic, historical, cultural and other values for which the Park was established.’” 

The current parcel to be subdivided is 73 acres; about 30 acres of it are envisioned to be retained in the present state. Cough said he’s in discussions with a nonprofit about putting that back section of the property into a conservation easement. “If we accept the full proposal that (the nonprofit has) offered, we’ll be eliminating a couple of lots in the subdivision,” he said. 

Schooner Head Housing 

The board will also hold a public hearing June 3 on the Schooner Head Housing project, a planned 44-unit apartment complex on Schooner Head Road for employees of The Jackson Laboratory. 

The 37-acre lot is directly across from one of the parking lots, Lot G, on the laboratory’s Bar Harbor campus. The application was prepared using a planning construct called a Planned Unit Development (PUD-V). 

The requirements for a PUD-V require that a portion of the housing units be affordable housing, under a specific definition. During the completeness review of the project on May 6, Planning Board members said they weren’t sure this project met those requirements. 

Apartments would only be available to employees of the laboratory. Katy Longley, the chief operating officer of the laboratory, said the organization has “a lot of hourly employees” in Bar Harbor “that easily fit” the income requirements in the affordable housing rules. “We want a mix of administrative, professional and frontline workers” living there, she said. 

The laboratory and Developers Collaborative, a partner on the project, are asking for the standards to be modified so 20 percent of the total apartments actually built would be designated affordable, as opposed to 20 percent of the maximum number allowed to be built under density calculations. 

“We’re not asking for any modification whatsoever for who qualifies to live there or how much rent we’re able to charge them,” said John Fitzpatrick, senior director of facilities for the lab and a member of the Planning Board. 

And, he said, if the application runs into problems under PUD-V, they could reapply under a different section of the PUD rules, PUD-O, which would not require that any units be designated affordable. 

The difference would be that PUD-O is intended for areas without public water and sewer. “We could go PUD-O and put in a septic system for 160 units even though we have sewer 250 feet away,” he said. 

The choice to use PUD-V, Fitzpatrick said, was because we want to meet … the town’s goals of putting residential development in areas where we have water and sewerThis ordinance really blocks us from doing that.” 

Board Chair Tom St. Germain agreed that the standards in the ordinance “confront the developer with some unenviable choices.” But, he said, “it’s there. We have to deal with it.” 



Name  Owner and location  Size of property  Issues discussed  Next 


Clark Acres  April and Robert Post, Crooked Road  5.51 acres, 2 lots  Creation of a new, standalone lot in an existing subdivision by splitting one of the original lots.  Approved April 10 
Harborcove  ABC, LLC (Chris White), Crooked Road  4.5 acres, 

13 units (renovate 4 existing buildings, construct one new duplex and 6 new single-family houses) 

Overhead utility lines, room on house lots for future addition of decks, etc., traffic  Approved April 29 
Schooner Head Housing  The Jackson Laboratory and Developers Collaborative, 

Schooner Head Road 

40 acres, 44 apartments in first phase  Apartments to be rented only to laboratory employees, some units designated affordable   Public hearing set for June 3 
The Farm  McFarland Farm, LLC 

(Joe Cough and partner), Ledgewood Road 

73 acres, 13-lot residential subdivision, retain approx. 30 acres  Access to town property via subdivision road, Acadia legislative boundary  Public hearing set for June 3 


Christopher Maller, Christopher S. Maller Revocable Trust and Harold MacQuinn, Inc., Owls Nest Lane  69 acres, 14 lots  Restrictive covenants for house lots e.g. max house size, traffic, groundwater and fire pond  Site visit, neighborhood meeting March 5, completeness review not yet scheduled 
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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