Vacation rentals, LUO amendments to have public hearing

BAR HARBOR — Several potential new land use ordinances, including on vacation rentals, will have a public hearing next month ahead of going before voters in November. 

The Town Council voted Tuesday to schedule a public hearing on Aug. 17 for ordinance amendments on the rentals, signage, solar photovoltaic systems, bonus dwelling units, nonconformity and accessory dwelling units.   

The proposed amendments also recently had a public hearing before the Planning Board, which had robust attendance and comment, especially related to rental amendments. 

There are currently 518 registered vacation rentals out of the 2,795 residential units in Bar Harbor. Of those vacation rentals, 167 are connected to primary residences in town and 351 are non-primary residences.  

The regulations were proposed to try and slow the conversion of year-round housing to shorter term rentals, such as Airbnbs.  

The new regulations would put vacation rentals into two categories, known as VR-1 and VR-2.   

VR-1 would be rentals that are the owner’s primary residence; a VR-2 would be rental properties that are not.  

VR-1s would have a two-night stay minimum and VR-2s would have a minimum rental period of four nights. An owner would not be allowed to have more than two VR-1s in their primary residence.  

There is currently no distinction between the two types of rentals and they all require a four-night minimum stay.   

Under the new proposal, the total number of VR-2s in town would be capped at 9 percent of the total number of dwelling units in town, and the transfer of any vacation rental registration would be prohibited.   

Anyone who owns an existing vacation rental would be able to continue operating as long as the registration was renewed annually.   

VR-1s would be allowed in all 34 districts they are currently allowed in, and new VR-2s would be limited to districts zoned for commercial and lodging. 

Ethan Genter

Ethan Genter

Former reporter for the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, Ethan covered maritime news and the town of Bar Harbor.

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