BAR HARBOR — A 50-acre parcel of land in Town Hill owned by Acadia National Park is being eyed for housing development.
The property was up for discussion when Park Superintendant Kevin Schneider met with the Bar Harbor Town Council last week. Town officials have asked whether the park would consider transferring the parcel to the town.
Schneider said he was willing to enter talks with the town about transferring the land, but warned that progress would be slow, because the transfer of land “would require legislation.”
The rectangular parcel of land, off Crooked Road in Town Hill, is considered a “deletion parcel” by the park.
That means that it was already part of the park when Congress set the park’s current boundaries in 1986, but it’s outside the contiguous boundary line. Long-term plans call for the park to transfer ownership of all such non-contiguous parcels to other entities.
Under the same 1986 legislation, the parcel was slated to be transferred to the town for use as a regional transfer station. That, according to Acadia Management Assistant John Kelley, was a “caveat” that was written into the 1986 boundary bill. “The law could only be changed by another law,” he explained.
Bar Harbor officials have long since concluded that the site would not be appropriate for a transfer station, in large part because of likely opposition from residents of the area.
The town is still interested in acquiring the parcel for other purposes, however. “Since the solid waste issues at the time of the 1986 park boundary legislation no longer exist,” wrote Town Manager Cornell Knight in a memo on Jan. 7, “this parcel could be ideal for a combination of … housing and solar energy generation.”
In January, Friedmann proposed adding the parcel to a bill in Congress clarifying Acadia’s boundaries following the acquisition of new land on the Schoodic Peninsula. The council voted in favor of Friedmann’s proposal at its Jan. 15 meeting. However, the vote came too late to add the language to the bill.
According to congressional staff members, amending the Acadia bill after it was submitted would likely mean it would have to be taken out of the package and resubmitted as a separate bill, delaying it further. Instead, the Acadia boundary bill sailed through without the addition, becoming law in March.
Transfer of the 50-acre parcel now would require a new boundary bill, which Schneider said he was willing to talk about. “We’re certainly open to dialogue about that parcel,” he told councilors. “I’m open to thoughts or ideas.”
Friedmann made reference to potentially swapping “parcels that the town has that the park may be interested in.”
One such parcel is the Breakneck Road, which is a narrow strip of land between Hulls Cove and Eagle Lake Road that is surrounded by the park, but owned by the town.
According to Kelley, “it is literally a strip of non-park land within legislative [park] boundary.”
This, Kelley noted, makes it “an acquisition parcel,” but the idea of swapping land “has not been discussed. That’s a new idea, not vetted,” he said.