To the Editor:
If Bar Harbor voters want a Town Council truly dedicated to making our town a thriving year-round community, they must vote for real change at the Council election on June 14.
For more than five years, the current council has focused mostly on helping the large seasonal hotel resorts maximize their profits, rather than finding ways to increase year-round employment and make housing more affordable for residents.
In 2010, the council then in office helped put forth a massive zoning change that, unbeknownst to the voters, snuck large hotels into Hulls Cove and eliminated any size restrictions on B&Bs anywhere in town. Both changes increased the likelihood that residential lots or homes would be converted into seasonal accommodations. Thankfully, a handful of citizens fought these unnoticed changes and the court set them aside.
Sadly, the council then in office spent more than $60,000 of taxpayers’ money unsuccessfully defending this bait-and-switch tactic.
The council next tried to legalize rooming houses for seasonal workers everywhere in town. Once again, such a change would have led to year-round homes being turned into seasonal housing. The voters soundly defeated this proposal.
Next, the council vigorously defended the placement of a huge electrical substation in a quiet family neighborhood rather than downtown close to the large hotels that need this electricity.
While Emera Maine listened to the citizens and downsized and relocated the substation, the council refused to place two petitions on the June town meeting ballot that would have ensured that no residential neighborhood would ever be asked to bear the burden of a substation made necessary by large hotel resorts.
A successful lawsuit followed, and 58 percent of voters backed initiatives the council had opposed. The council next ignored the charter and claimed that only two-thirds of the voters could enact petitions the Planning Board, selected by the council, had opposed. A third successful lawsuit followed, and the court ruled that both the charter and the LUO required only a majority vote. While voters wished to preserve neighborhoods, the council didn’t want to burden large hotel resorts with future substations nearby.
There are more examples of this council spending taxpayer money to benefit the large hotels and burden the citizenry. Now, the council wishes to build a large parking garage behind the West Street Hotel, knowing that such a seasonal behemoth cannot support itself and suggesting taxpayers bear the risk of a multi-million dollar bond and fund it through parking meters and paid parking lots downtown.
As I look for new blood to redirect the council, two names come to mind: Matt Hochman and Nate Young.
Both were born and raised in Bar Harbor and have sent their children to schools here. Hochman runs a small year-round business and is interested in making Bar Harbor a better place for other year-round businesses. His service on the Warrant Committee and other town-focused organizations has been exemplary. He is committed to open discussion, further investigation and workable compromise solutions.
Young is dedicated to equal treatment of all citizens, not special breaks for the large hotels. He is dedicated to making sure that the Town Council protects everyone’s rights, as his current lawsuit against the town demonstrates.
As a lawyer, I can assure voters that there is no conflict of interest because of that pending claim. Should the town’s insurer seek council approval to settle, Young would merely have to recuse himself from that one vote. Young will be a valuable voice in all other decisions by the council: he will make sure that the council abides by the charter, the constitution and basic rules of fairness.
Young and Hochman together can lead the council towards finding ways to increase both year-round businesses and year-round affordable housing. While they will listen to large hotel owners, they will give their voices no greater weight than the voices of the rest of us. They will lead the council away from its pattern of the last nine years of being a government of, by and for large hotel corporations.
It is time for a change.