By Michael J. Good
Having watched and listened to the Planning Board meeting from April 6, here are my three main concerns pertaining to the Bar Harbor community solar project (SP-2022-02) being planned for the Knox Road in Town Hill by a corporate absentee landowner.
First, I am most seriously concerned about the role the Bar Harbor Planning Board is playing in allowing the corporate invasion of rural Town Hill. It is my concern and opinion that Planning Board Vice Chair Joe Cough has an inflated perspective on the board’s jurisdiction by suggesting that they keep this project as presented, on the books with a site plan application when it should have been tabled and the applicant sent back to the drawing board to reapply for town taxpayer review. (See Town of Bar Harbor Streaming 4-6-22).
It was also abundantly clear that Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) has not looked into any state regulations or local ordinances very deeply nor do they take the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) state regulations seriously. According to DEP regulations, the Bar Harbor Planning Board does not have the jurisdiction to waive the clearing of vegetation standards in a shoreland area and it is not possible according to the state regulations. The Bar Harbor solar project and BRI should have been denied the application on April 6, found not in compliance and forced to resubmit their application. By doing this, the Planning Board would protect the community. That is the role of a good planning board. This is where the Bar Harbor Planning Board should be protecting the community from corporate takeover; instead, they are acting like they have jurisdiction at the cost to the community. This is not the best use of this property. These waters are the headwaters for Northeast Creek draining all the water off Town Hill to the east into Frenchman Bay, and they want to clearcut 12 acres. I am most concerned about our Planning Board and its overreach into state and federal jurisdiction at the cost to the Town Hill Rural community.
Second, the corporate invasion of Town Hill, first with Hammond Lumber destroying critical shoreland protected wetlands and now another corporate entity in the form of the Bar Harbor community solar project (SP-2022-02), using a corporate mouthpiece to come into a small rural community and start making comments like BRI Executive Director Dave Evers in a recorded local meeting saying that “there will be winners and losers.” This is corporate speak that totally shocked me coming from a Maine biologist who seemingly should be concerned about forest fragmentation. During this recorded meeting, we were talking about our local ecology on that property. It seemed to me that Dr. Evers and BRI did not really care about a 10- to 15-acre clearcut in the middle of a fully functioning forest, with at least 130 documented species of migratory and local birds that utilize this habitat and the impact of heating the filtered water flowing through this forested habitat to the ocean.
Third, Lower Knox Road and this 57-acre Knox Road property is an important bird and wildlife area. It acts as a corridor for a tremendous number of neotropical migrants during spring and fall migration and local intact forest resident birds like northern goshawk. We have a healthy large and small mammal population in Town Hill and our properties are wildlife corridors to and from Acadia National Park. The rural Town Hill site is not appropriate for this development. These may be the unintended consequences of a planning board not fully understanding the complexity of the land they are making critical decisions about at the cost of our Town Hill Rural community. The LUO solar standards stated clearly are to “ensure that the project is sited and designed to maintain aesthetic quality, visual character, and compatibility with surrounding uses.”
The Planning Board is not protecting our community. The Bar Harbor solar project should never have been allowed to get this far, as it is totally out of our rural character and does not meet state and local standards. Please stop the corporate takeover of Town Hill.
Michael J. Good lives in Town Hill.