Town governments represent residents, property owners and voters. Of course it’s incumbent upon elected officials, appointed volunteers and professional staff to move their town in a direction wanted by those constituencies. Officials always must weigh when it’s time to seek and hear public input, and when it’s time to close debate and take action.
Our town meeting forms of government and state statutes provide ample opportunity for interested citizens and groups to weigh in on local government decisions. Most significant decisions require one or more noticed public hearings. Some require additional deliberation by warrant committees and town meeting votes.
The Bar Harbor Town Council created the Ferry Terminal Property Advisory Committee last fall at an unusual moment in town politics. Residents had lived through a contentious campaign over zoning for the property and a single large public visioning meeting failed to achieve its goals. So a group of qualified residents signed up for two months of intensive research and deliberation on options concerning how the town might use the property.
While many decisions about the property remain, the task for which the advisory committee was convened is complete. It was not established as a standing committee or task force of town government. No bylaws were drafted and no ordinance was proposed to create a permanent committee.
Individuals who served on the committee can and should continue to weigh in at meetings of the town council, planning board, harbor committee and cruise ship committee. But there should be no expectation that any new proposal for the property ought to be referred back to an advisory committee no longer in existence.