To the Editor:
On July 14, Bar Harbor will vote on Land Use Ordinance (“LUO”) amendments. Some Articles on the ballot concerning the LUO amendments are of particular concern:
Article 3 would shift decision making power from the Planning Board to the Code Enforcement Officer, thereby eviscerating our right to be notified of development plans for Multi–Family 1 Units that can house up to 20 unrelated people. In contrast, Planning Board decisions currently allow Bar Harbor residents to have input and voice concerns.
Article 4 would allow high density, seasonal employee living quarters in 14 districts, which would house both on– and off-premises employees within or adjacent to residential districts. Intent to create high density accommodations is apparent, as evidenced in the January 9 Planning Board’s Employee Living Quarters and Shared Accommodations final report, which states, “[if] the employees have … shift meals, a community kitchen shall be provided for every 45 occupants.”
Articles 5 (Shared Accommodations) DOES NOT put caps on the amount of allowable development of SA-2 (9-32 persons) and SA-3 (33 or more persons) buildings in the five designated districts. It DOES NOT put caps on the maximum amount of tenant/employee occupancy in SA-3 employee housing.
Proponents argue that these LUO Amendments will create affordable year–round housing sometime in the future. But this assumption relies on hoteliers and businesses putting their seasonal employee properties back into the local real estate market. First, there is no guarantee that said properties will go back into the market. Second, there are no safeguards from investors or current owners buying or tearing down houses and building high density employee accommodations in allowable districts. Third, even if properties are reintroduced into the market, will residents be able to afford them? According to a COA study, 80 percent of Bar Harbor residents could not afford to buy a house in Bar Harbor at current market values.
Bar Harbor needs year–round affordable housing and economic development to support both residents and seasonal employees; however, these proposed amendments do not create a concrete pathway toward these goals – they provide zoning loopholes for corporate developers.