Town drafts vacation rental regulations 

BAR HARBOR Citizens of Bar Harbor will get a chance to vote on changes to the regulation of vacation rentals in June.  

Bar Harbor has witnessean increase in permit applications for vacation rentals every year, which, at times, has made it difficult for people to find year-round housing. Currently, there are over 500 vacation rental licenses set to expire on May 31, 2021. 

The town’s draft changes involve placing a cap on the number of vacation rentalin town, as well as prohibiting the ability to transfer a permit to someone else. Last week the council discussed two different options for presenting those changes to voters. One option was for the changes to be presented as one warrant article that would include a cap on the number of rental registration and prohibit transferabilitywhile a second option addressed maximum number of registrations and transferability in two separate articles. 

Though the council ultimately voted to present two articles to votersPlanning Director Michele Gagnon felt having them in one article would be the simplest and cleanest option to present at the Planning Board’s public hearing on Jan. 6 

Some council members, such as Jill Goldthwait, agreed with Gagnon and felt the first option, which combined the amendments, would be easier to present. “I think that we should fly it as one document, it is very cohesive with those who are trying to develop affordable housing,” she said. 

However, there were other council members who were hesitant to approve any of the draft options and had more questions about the second option. “What happens if we get no on the vacation rental cap but yes on the transferability?” council member Val Peacock asked.  

“The biggest problem is that people are going to be confused because it does not stand well on its ownwhich is why option one makes more sense,” said Gagnon, when referring to the second option 

After much discussion, Goldthwait attempted to move forward the first draft option that would allow for one warrant article. “I will make a motion that we put this out to a vote in June as the single document as presented by the planning department,” she said.  The motion failed without a second.  

Council member Gary Friedmann then proposed a motion to approve the second draft option, which split the proposed amendment changes into two separate parts.  

“I will move that we submit a request for the planning board to consider options 2A and 2B land use ordinances to vacation rentals and for the Planning Board to consider this request at a public hearing,” said Freedman.  

Council member Matt Hochman seconded the motion. The motion passed 5-2 (Dobbs, Cough). 

Those who did not move the motion had their reasons. Council member Erin Cough spoke about the council’s opposing views with the Planning Board during recent workshops where the composition of the drafts was discussed in great detail. “My concernthe things that have been presented to voters, when they are presented in big packages and there are big changes, there might be one or two issues that people don’t agree with, so people vote against it,” said Cough. 

If this process were to continue after the Planning Board’s public hearing, these new changes would be discussed further by the Planning Board, Warrant Committee and Town Council before they are presented on a ballot for public vote at Bar Harbor’s annual Town Meeting on June 6. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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