BAR HARBOR — If the views of Warrant Committee members are representative of the town’s voters, the two parking-related land use ordinance (LUO) amendments set to come before voters in November are not likely to pass.
Voters will see a mixed recommendation on the ballot questions. The Planning Board recommended approval of both amendments. The Warrant Committee recommended that both be rejected.
At a committee meeting Monday, the 15 members present voted 11-3 (with one abstention) to recommend voters reject Article 2, “an amendment to parking regulations.”
That article adds definitions of “parking deck” and “parking garage” as uses, adds “parking lot” and “parking deck” as allowed uses in several districts and makes provisions in the site plan approval process for developers to build required parking on nearby but not adjacent lots (“off-site.”)
Article 3 adds “parking garage” as an allowed use in five districts, including the two Downtown Village districts. It was unanimously rejected. Chairman John Dargis originally abstained, but then said, “I’ll add my vote to make it unanimous.”
Jake Jagel said the General Government Subcommittee was concerned about the bundling of the five districts into one article, saying voters would have more meaningful choices if each district was a separate ballot question.
The council and Planning Board had planned to present several separate questions, following a joint workshop in May. However, after a public hearing July 6, the Planning Board decided in a split vote to recommend combining the questions.
“Whose idea was the parking garage?” committee member Michael Good asked. “Why is it so important to somebody to get it into the LUO?”
Some committee members expressed concern about a proposal for the town to build a parking garage in partnership with hotel company Ocean Properties, especially if any municipal debt or tax increases could be involved.
“There are no numbers in any of these amendments,” committee member John Kelly said. “We have no idea how this tool is going to be used. It’s not about numbers tonight.”
The group debated whether passing the amendments is necessary for the town’s new Parking Solutions Task Force to do its work, or whether to wait for their recommendations before passing zoning changes.
“If the tools aren’t there, how is the task force supposed to come up with a solution?” Erin Early Ward, a member of both the Warrant Committee and the task force, asked. “It seems backwards to say, ‘Hey give us a report, we don’t really care what it says. We’ll do the LUO afterwards.’”
“An architect doesn’t need carpentry tools to do a design,” Kelly responded. “It’s putting the cart before the horse if we do it now.”
The Town Council held a public hearing on the proposed amendments Aug. 16 and voted to put the amendments on the November ballot.
Copies of the text of the proposed amendments are available on the “Land Use Information” page of the town’s website or in the planning office.
The town’s Parking Solutions Task Force had its first official meeting Tuesday. Ron Beard is serving as facilitator, as he did for the former Backyard Parking Committee.
According to the group’s bylaws, their mission is to “make recommendations to the Town Council to implement the Bar Harbor Backyard Parking Study Final Recommendations presented March 2016.”
The multiyear study was commissioned by the Town Council from consultants Desman Design Management and Bermello Ajamil and Associates.
Member Early Ward asked if the group could take a straw poll to gauge support for elements of the proposed parking program including street meters or kiosks, residential parking permits and a parking garage.
Beard said it’s not the group’s job to decide the relative merits of each piece of the program.
“If you’re opposed to a piece of it, the town should register that opposition,” Beard said. “But our job in this group is to say to the council, ‘If we were to implement the recommendation, these are all the things the town should consider.’”
Beard also presented a draft timeline for the committee’s work over the next few months. They’ll meet the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 4:30 p.m. and aim to present a recommendation to the Town Council in early December.
The task force elected Eben Salvatore, general manager of Ocean Properties’ Harborside Hotel, as their chair; Martha Searchfield of the Chamber of Commerce as vice chair and Sherry Rasmussen as secretary.
Other task force members are Early Ward, Mary Booher, Liz Case, Jill Goldthwait and Dick Cough. Matt Hochman is a Town Council representative. Kelly is an Acadia National Park representative.