Hollowing out

News that another year-round apartment complex in Bar Harbor is being converted to seasonal employee use is troubling. While individual property owners are well within their rights to make the conversions, the cumulative effect of such moves will be the steady sapping of the vitality of the year-round community.

Coupled with continuing to allow weekly rentals of non-homestead properties, this shift is eroding the availability of year-round housing stock and driving up the prices of the homes that remain.

The town needs to examine its zoning rules to see what changes could be made to make it easier and more cost effective for business owners to construct dormitories. Without dormitory availability, the economics of buying up existing year-round houses and apartment complexes will continue to push capital in that direction.

Year-round residents already are feeling the effects of fewer and fewer year-round businesses. Many former year-round establishments are closing for longer and longer periods each winter. Yes, market forces drive such dynamics. But without some kind of plan or innovative approach, Bar Harbor and other Mount Desert Island villages risk being hollowed out, becoming places where, in winter, the street lights remain lit, but far too many homes and apartments remain dark.

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