By Angela Chamberlain
I write this letter as a Bar Harbor property owner and abutter to this project, not in my capacity as the code enforcement officer. The Bar Harbor Planning Board is currently reviewing a proposal for a ground-mounted, large-scale solar energy project located on the Knox Road, directly adjacent to several residential homes and subdivisions. The project is named the Bar Harbor Community Solar project, but there is nothing “community” about this project except the name.
The developer, Midcoast Solar, is located in New Harbor and they don’t appear to have any connections to this community or to Mount Desert Island.
This developer purchased a vacant 53.7-acre parcel with the plan to remove over 10 acres of existing forest and vegetation and install 10.5 acres of industrial, commercial solar structures. The remainder of this property is land that they cannot develop because it’s either protected wetlands, vernal pools or streams. I have no doubt that without the protections in place for these sensitive areas, this project would have been much larger.
This developer is using this land to develop a commercial project for their own financial profit, with no benefits to Bar Harbor or the community. This project won’t provide any jobs, this developer won’t become part of our community or give back through community involvement, and the developer won’t even be required to pay property taxes on the structures. Bar Harbor residents don’t need solar developments to be located in their residential neighborhoods to take advantage of the benefits of solar power.
How is this project good for Bar Harbor? How does this project fit into our residential neighborhood? How does it meet the purpose of Bar Harbor’s solar regulations which state that the standards are to “ensure that the project is sited and designed to maintain aesthetic quality, visual character and compatibility with surrounding uses”? This project is not compatible with the surrounding areas and residential neighborhoods, nor is this site appropriate for this commercial development. The idea of clearing all the trees, the destruction to the land, and the habitat loss is disheartening and completely unnecessary.
Land on Mount Desert Island is limited, and land suitable for residential development is scarce. Land here sells at a premium and it’s in high demand. The town of Bar Harbor has acknowledged that there is a housing crisis here and is taking steps to increase housing availability through organized strategies and approaches. We are moving in the wrong direction by allowing large-scale, ground-mounted solar developments to be located in our residential areas resulting in the loss of valuable land that could instead be used for housing.
Angela Chamberlain is a resident of Bar Harbor.