Editorial: Choose your future 

Bar Harbor voters have the unique opportunity on election day next week when they consider local ballot Question 4, which would cap the number of non-homestead vacation rental properties in the community at 9 percent. Currently it is more than 25 percent and climbing fast. Nearly 700 homes are permitted or have applications pending. 

As written, all current permit holders will be grandfathered – their investments unrestricted. The permits won’t transfer in perpetuity to future owners as otherwise the total will never return to a reasonable level and the situation will never improve. 

Recently one of the town’s largest hotel owners applied for permits to potentially use more than 70 units of employee housing as vacation rentals. On television, the organization’s representative urged “everyone” to do it. Supporters of voting yes suggest there’s no better example of the need for the cap than that kind of attitude. 

The argument that this is a question where “homeowner rights matter,” a particularly tone-deaf affectation in these times of social upheaval, is a cheap attempt to ring some kind of political Pavlov’s bell with conservatives. Zoning is a long-standing check on antisocial practices at every level and this would be no different.  

If the question does not prevail then the pace of conversion of formerly year-round homes into investment properties will likely accelerate exponentially. If you are comfortable with a majority of the town’s housing stock eventually being unavailable for people who want to live, work and be a part of the community year-round, then vote no. 

If you think that powerful commercial interests are blind to the combined effect of their actions and that the preservation of a sustainable, year-round community is a priority, then vote yes. 

Bar Harbor, already bearing the brunt of hundreds of cruise ship visits and nearly 4 million visitors a year, has a choice to make. Either way, we all need to vote. What the community looks like for future generations, its livability and sustainability, will be up to you on Nov. 2. 

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