Editorial: Trust and verify

The property at 121 Eden Street in Bar Harbor that housed the former ferry terminal has sat idle since 2010. For at least six of the eight years since then, town officials, representatives and residents have been debating what to do about it.

Pressing in on the debate from the outside are concerns about overcrowding, the influence of cruise lines and other powerful outside forces, a sense of too much changing too fast. People here are fiercely fond of and protective toward their town. That’s a wonderful thing.

The planned return of a Yarmouth-Bar Harbor ferry service is also a good thing. A lease of part of the property, which the town will soon own, is set to be signed in the coming weeks and to take effect Dec. 1.

Some residents are concerned that the lease didn’t receive enough public scrutiny; that Bay Ferries or its agent, Marine Atlantic, will fail to uphold their obligations or that the Coast Guard or Customs and Border Protection will swoop in and make unreasonable demands.

If the guarantee from the Province of Nova Scotia is not forthcoming or unacceptable, if embarkations fall short and lease and fee payments are not made, the lease could be terminated. Bay Ferries’ plan to use the existing terminal building rather than reconstructing it, and to use ramps and other structures that they can take with them in the event the lease is terminated or not renewed only makes sense. The town won’t be any worse off than it is now.

Much has been made of a possible “security zone” to be imposed by the Coast Guard around the area the ferry will be using. Participants at public meetings suggested including a “kill clause,” allowing the town to terminate the lease if too large a zone were imposed. The company’s representatives pointed to a lease provision that “tenant confirms that approval of such Facility Security Plans is a legal requirement for the conduct of ferry service.”

That does not address the concern, but what are the reasonable alternatives? The town can’t tie the Coast Guard’s hands by requiring it to agree not to interfere with marina plans that haven’t even been drafted yet.

And the lease is for only five years. Even the very fastest development of a marina in the public portion of the property will take at least half that time. So, the security zone is a topic for another day.

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