By Michael McKernan
When Bar Harbor voters cast their ballots in the town election June 14, they will be asked to consider a land use ordinance (LUO) request to expand the Scientific Research for Eleemosynary Purposes District (shortened to Scientific Research for this article). This LUO request was made by The Jackson Laboratory to help us better fulfill our nonprofit biomedical research mission. We’re delighted to have earned, through the application and review process, the unanimous support of the Town Council, Bar Harbor Planning Board and Warrant Committee. We also heard voices of support from our neighbors and abutters, including Acadia National Park, when we gathered in a neighborhood meeting to discuss the details of the request.
The wording of the LUO question, as it appears on the ballot, may raise questions about the zoning request and JAX’s planned growth on the Bar Harbor campus. We’re happy to share additional information about the LUO request and current and future growth with fellow members of the community and, in doing so, we hope to garner your support for this ballot item.
The LUO request proposes to re-zone several existing JAX properties from “Village Residential” to “Scientific Research.” The properties in question include seven contiguous lots in the triangle of land between Schooner Head Road to the east, Route 3 to the west and the current JAX core campus, and a portion of one parcel that is landlocked between two JAX-owned Scientific Research zoned properties located farther south on Schooner Head Road. These properties were acquired by JAX over the last decade and include homes and apartments that now house graduate students, postdoctoral associates and full-time newly hired employees who are seeking permanent housing.
Why is JAX seeking this zoning change? The Bar Harbor Comprehensive Plan encourages development on institutional campuses, simplification of the land use map and limits to sprawl. The expansion of the Scientific Research zone aligns with these objectives and will enable JAX growth within the heart of its campus. This strategy will also facilitate the eventual return of natural vegetation and tree growth to the Schooner Head/Route 3 triangle currently occupied by JAX residential buildings.
The laboratory is also working closely with town officials to improve pedestrian and motorist safety on Route 3 by separating the parking lot entrance from the Route 3 crosswalk. In coming months, JAX will propose construction of a new research building and a 50-person childcare facility that will welcome new enrollees from JAX and the community as space allows. In August, JAX will celebrate the opening of the Hemlock Lane apartments, 24 units that will supply desperately needed family workforce housing and will increase town revenues through additional property taxes paid by JAX.
Through careful planning and the success of JAX research and operations, we are fortunate to be able to continue to grow and evolve. We are proud to be members of the Bar Harbor community and of our employees’ engagement with our schools, businesses, fellow nonprofits and town committees. We acknowledge and are grateful for the community’s support as we advance our mission to improve human health and hope you’ll vote in favor of Article 3 on June 14.
Michael McKernan is director of government and community relations at The Jackson Laboratory. He is a resident of Bar Harbor.