Vacation rental owners ask for B & B permits to stay within rules

BAR HARBOR — Two families have filed site plans to open bed and breakfast accommodations at their year-round residences to legally rent portions of their property to transient guests. One application has been approved; the other is still in process.

The current definition of “vacation rental” in the Land Use Ordinance (LUO) has restricted some property owners from renting legally. The LUO defines vacation rental as “the use of a dwelling unit for rent to a family for a period of less than 30 days and a minimum of five days.”

Those who rent only part of their house, or an outbuilding without full services such as a kitchen, cannot be approved for a vacation rental permit under current regulations.

A public hearing at the Planning Board was scheduled for Wednesday on a proposed change to the LUO to allow such properties to rent, by altering the definition to say “ … dwelling unit or portion thereof.”

Meanwhile, two families that had been turned down for vacation rental permits in the past tried another route to rent portions of their year-round dwelling units.

They applied to offer bed-and-breakfast (TA-1 in the LUO) accommodations “in the private, year-round residence of the host family who live on the premises … Breakfast is the only meal provided.”

David LaValle and Cara Romano filed their site plan with the planning office in August 2018 after receiving two notices of violation from Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain for renting a small building next to their house without a permit.

The site plan application was for a Norway Drive bed & breakfast unit in an accessory structure sharing utilities with primary dwelling unit, and lacking a kitchen. LaValle and Romano met with the planning board twice, first for a completeness review, then for a compliance review and public hearing.

During the public hearing on May 1, resident Ellen Grover spoke against the proposed plan, arguing it was a “liberal reinterpretation” of a TA-1 bed & breakfast in a private residence. “It is an unreasonable stretch to include detached buildings as part of one’s residence,” Grover said.

In discussion, Planning Board member John Fitzpatrick said that since “residence” is not defined in the LUO, that gave “some leeway” to the board. However, he said, it was still a stretch of the TA-1 definition.

Town Planner Michele Gagnon said the application was “not clearly prohibited” by the TA-1 definition, and that usually in those cases the town would decide in favor of the applicant.

The Planning Board voted to approve the application 3-1-1, with Tom St. Germain, Basil Eleftheriou Jr., and Erica Brooks voting in favor; Fitzpatrick voting against; and Joe Cough abstaining because he had missed an earlier meeting where the application had been discussed.

Robert and Kate Jordan applied to provide bed & breakfast accommodations in a unit over their barn on Ledgelawn Avenue. The unit does not have a kitchen, and is adjacent to the couple’s year-round home.

The Jordans applied for a vacation rental permit for their guest room in 2014 and 2015, and were denied both times. Chamberlain served the Jordans with notices of violation in 2014 and 2015 for renting the property by the week without town approval.

Then Chamberlain wrote in a memo to town councilors last summer that she learned in July of 2018 that the Jordans were “once again offering this space for rent on a weekly basis.”

The Town Council voted in September to pursue legal action for the repeat violations. But by then, the Jordans had already submitted the TA-1 site plan.

In December 2018, the town reached a consent agreement with the Jordans stipulating that they would not engage in transient rentals again until the unit is approved by the town under the TA-1 definition.

Otherwise, the consent agreement stated, the Jordans would pay a civil penalty of $100 per day from Oct. 26, 2018 until the property “is brought into compliance.”

The Jordans met with the planning board on May 1 for their completeness review, and the compliance review and public hearing was scheduled for Wednesday. At that meeting, review of the application was tabled to the next meeting.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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