To the Editor:
The Islander, in its coverage of the May 19 public hearing on two desirable citizens’ initiatives endorsed by near-unanimous votes of our well-informed warrant committee, did a disservice to the voters of Bar Harbor.
It quoted almost every opponent of the initiatives and only one proponent, even though more people spoke in favor of the initiatives than against. Moreover, the Islander never fact-checked some silly legal assertions made by opponents or actually quoted the language of the initiatives to put these scare tactics to rest.
First, the proposed substation on Prospect Avenue that Emera will build, after the efforts of dozens of citizens to dissuade Emera from building on Woodbury Road, will not be governed by these proposed changes, which apply to future substations only.
On the day that Justice Murray held that the town council had breached our charter and ordered the town to place both initiatives on the warrant, I informed Emera of the decision and discussed with its representative and its outside substation planner the need to get the Prospect application filed. They both assured me that this would happen. They have met with our code enforcement officer (CEO) who has told them to file before June 9, and they will shortly have a signed agreement in place to purchase the Prospect Avenue property.
Would Emera enter a binding purchase and sale agreement for that land if it really felt that the substation would be made illegal by these initiatives? Both my wife Donna Karlson and Mike Good referenced the specific section of the LUO that grandfathers pending applications at the hearing. Sadly, the Islander omitted this crucial detail.
Nor will these initiatives affect the town’s sewer treatment plant, town water, or phone and cable services. The town’s sewer services are not governed by the Public Utility Commission and the definition of Essential Services in the current LUO controls structures that are ancillary to the delivery of sewer, water, electric, phone or cable services.
Had the Islander covered the hearing before Justice Murray on April 29, its reporter would have heard our CEO, Angie Chamberlain, concede this precise point under my cross-examination.
The most egregious misstatement of the law was the claim in the story that a conditional use permit “basically allows projects only if neighbors agree to them.” This is demonstrably false. Neighbors may voice concerns, but the planning board has the final say.
Finally, the Islander claims that these initiatives must be approved by two-thirds of the voters because the planning board recommended against them and wrote that I “have initiated action in court seeking to have the two-thirds majority requirement nullified.” I gently suggest that the Islander read my two-page motion pending before Justice Robert Murray asking that he reaffirm his April 30 order that the “operative law at issue here is the town charter” not the contrary provisions of the LUO.
Four members of the planning board, acting at a hastily called meeting about which the public was never notified, cannot trump the will of the citizens of the town of Bar Harbor as long as we remain a government of laws and not men. Just like the warrant committee which endorsed these initiatives with but a single dissent, the citizens are too smart to be scared by misrepresentation of what the law requires.
The core question for voters is whether they wish to allow the possibility of future substations in residential neighborhoods or whether they believe the hotel industry, which drives the need for these substations, should bear the burden of these substations as well. Will we continue to privatize the gain and socialize the loss, or will we reaffirm that we are a democracy? Only the citizenry can decide. Follow the warrant committee and vote “yes” on Articles 3 and 4.
Arthur J. Greif