Letter to the Editor: Article 12 challenge

To the Editor:

On December 19, 2019, the Maine Supreme Court dismissed “without prejudice” Blanchard v. Town of Bar Harbor.

That lawsuit challenged Article 12’s rezoning of the ferry terminal property so as to allow construction of a mega-cruise ship pier and passenger terminal capable of berthing some of the largest cruise ships in the world. A dismissal “without prejudice” means the lawsuit can be brought again when the Town or a developer is granted Planning Board approval to build such a pier. Neither side can claim victory. Whether Article 12 is legal is still an open question.

The Town Council was offered a dismissal “without prejudice” by the Blanchard plaintiffs on December 13, 2017, but denounced this reasonable settlement proposal as “blackmail.”

As Islander readers may recall, the Town Council had, in November of 2017, accepted the Ferry Terminal Property Advisory Committee’s strong recommendation that a multi-use marine facility, rather than a mega-cruise ship pier, be built at the site. All the Blanchard plaintiffs sought, in exchange for this dismissal “without prejudice,” was a “sentiment of the current Town Council” vote that it had abandoned plans for a “mega-cruise ship pier” and a Bar Harbor Port Authority that would only make sense in the context of such a pier. The Town Council was asked to formally acknowledge what it had informally committed to just a month earlier.

Attorney Bill Dale stressed in his reasonable settlement offer that “the benefits to both sides are obvious: releasing the commitment of time, energy and money otherwise spent on the litigation.”

Stunningly, the Town Council made no counter-offer. It denounced this proposal as “blackmail” and voted to go full speed ahead with very expensive litigation that surely cost us taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Now, after this very expensive litigation has come to an end, the Town is left with the very same result it denounced as “blackmail”: a dismissal “without prejudice” and no decision as to whether Article 12 is legal.

When will the Town Council stop continuing litigation it could so easily settle? Hardworking taxpayers in the Town of Bar Harbor have surely been burdened by the Town Council’s willingness to spend their money so needlessly.

Arthur Greif, Bar Harbor

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