Council errors

To the Editor:

Although more than 300 Bar Harbor voters petitioned the town council to add two definitions to the Land Use Ordinance to clarify the meaning of “public utility installation,” the council did not insert these citizen amendments in the June 2015 regular annual town meeting warrant.

Equally troubling is the fact that citizens have not been allowed to explain or speak in support of these proposed amendments. Citizens could not speak about the citizen petition amendments at the Feb. 17 council public comment time because that item was on the agenda. Citizens expecting to speak when this agenda item was addressed were not allowed to do so. Instead, chairman Paul Paradis repeatedly and emphatically explained, “This is not a public hearing.”

During the March 3 public comment period, Paradis again would not allow anyone to speak about the citizen petitions announcing that “the petitions issue is in litigation” and “on advice of our counsel, we’re not going to entertain comment on this subject.” Not only was no one allowed to comment then, but in addition, no one was allowed to comment on it during the LUO Rewrite Public Hearing.

Because I was not allowed to speak, I wish to share with Islander readers the gist of my March 2 letter to the council. It suggests a simple way to correct the problem, which would avoid any lawsuit. A timely correction is still possible.

The town council erred by placing the citizens proposed amendments on the wrong town meeting warrant! November 3, 2015 is not the regular annual election. I attended the Feb. 17 council meeting, and I was shocked to hear councilors take this action. Town attorney Rob Crawford brought up the concern of possible inconsistencies regarding Appendix C if the LUO Rewrite and Repeal passes. I want to point out that the petitions deal with our current LUO where Appendix C does exist. There is no inconsistency with our current Land Use Ordinance.

What most shocked me was the explanation that if the vote on the citizens’ amendments is delayed until November and the proposed LUO Rewrite gets approved in June, the citizens proposed amendments would be removed from the November 2015 warrant, because they refer to ordinance provisions in effect today. If the LUO rewrite passes, the citizens’ initiative amendments on a November warrant would then be dead on arrival! The proposed article amendments for public utility installation and public utility facility definitions would never be voted on at all!

Citizens have the right to vote on these two LUO initiatives in June.

Fortunately, this error is quick and easy to correct. The council can vote to reconsider and can simply change the date from November to the June 9, 2015 regular annual town election warrant and ballot.

This is a matter for the voters to decide. If voters have any issues with either of the two petitions then they have the choice and the right to vote against it. If both the LUO Rewrite and the citizens’ initiatives pass then it will be a simple matter of transferring the information from Appendix C to the designated districts.

Even a small delay by council to take action on this matter would prevent a timely correction.

Barbara Fenderson

Bar Harbor

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