Zoning rewrite back on track

BAR HARBOR — The proposed repeal and replacement of a rearranged land use ordinance (LUO) is once again on track for a town meeting vote, after the latest round of errors were discovered and fixed.

The proposal has been in the works for several years. The issue had been set for a vote at the June town meeting this year, but was pulled at the last minute after citizen watchdogs discovered that a number of provisions conflicted with a 2013 court ruling against the town concerning the Appendix C table of uses.

Those provisions, including the addition of child care centers in a number of districts, the allowance of slaughterhouses in five districts and the allowance of government facilities and grounds in multiple areas, have now been corrected, interim planning director Angela Chamberlain said this week.

The proposed new LUO will be the subject of a public hearing before the planning board on Wednesday, Dec. 3, in the municipal building beginning at 6 p.m. The document is available for review in the planning department office, also located in the municipal building.

Those who discovered the errors back in the spring are satisfied with the corrections, according to town attorney Mike Hodgins.

“I’m glad to say that after review by (attorney Bill Dale) and his clients, we are in agreement on the changes I sent to general code and all other parties recently,” Hodgins wrote to the town manager this fall.

Other than the recent corrections, the proposed LUO is the same as the one presented in the spring. The proposed slate of revisions is aimed at making the document clearer, more concise, better organized and less ambiguous, town officials have said. The proposed changes were developed by land use attorney Mary Denison in concert with town officials beginning in 2012. The document is not to allow any new uses nor disallow any existing uses.

The errors discovered this spring were not made by Denison. The errors were the result of an improper reworking of Appendix C by Hodgins following the 2013 court decision.

One of the biggest changes separates the process for residential subdivisions and site plan review. Further, appeals of residential subdivision approvals would go directly to Superior Court rather than the town’s board of appeals. The reasoning for this is that the court will look only at the record of the planning board, making the action of the appeals board superfluous.

Another change removes the Appendix C table of uses. This hard-to-read table, which lists the activities allowed in each district and the permitting process for each, would be integrated into the ordinance text. In the old version, users were required to flip back and forth between the appendix, sections and maps to get complete information.

The proposed new LUO is divided by zones, with each section listing the allowed uses and permitting mechanisms for each. Each zone also features its own map, with 40 new maps in the document overall.

The ordinance repeal and replacement is largely considered by town officials to be the first phase of a multi-phase approach to improving and simplifying zoning regulations here. Future proposed changes would likely include more controversial proposals, such as changes in use or reorganization of districts.

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

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