To the Editor:
I think several good things happened in our community this week, all of which were well reported on by the Mount Desert Islander.
Bermello and Ajamil’s visioning meeting potentially has given all of us, i.e., our town, island, bay towns, national park and MDOT, a golden opportunity to work together and develop the old ferry terminal into something we can all live with and enjoy.
At this meeting, many people expressed hopes to slow down the process to help make a more thoughtful plan. Many felt a professional planner or facilitator was needed to look at Bar Harbor and the community and whole coastal area to figure out what maritime uses would work at the old ferry terminal lot.
There were several good points that were applauded: preserve the pristine environment of the land and sea; have the community manage the cruise ship industry rather than let the cruise ship industry control us and ensure 24/7 public access, including a small watercraft lunching area. People talked about creating a transportation hub to manage traffic and congestion, and developing a small scale pier infrastructure that could tender boats and keep the large ships at anchor. Also mentioned was preserving the importance of people in our community, not just profits; building facilities for marinas, tour boats, etc.; and avoiding a mega-ship pier and terminal complex that would devalue surrounding properties and thereby result in reduced property tax revenues to the town.
I would add this comment as a positive: It was great to hear so many people, including those from neighboring towns around Frenchman Bay, talk in a forthright, open manner about a project that they know could decrease the beauty, the pristine environment, the peace, the safety and the economy of our town, park and island if done on a mega-pier scale with no careful planning with everyone involved.
Southwest Harbor’s process of involving the community first at a public meeting before even berthing one small cruise ship to unload passengers should be commended. I have suggested to the Bar Harbor Town Council and the Planning Board that they have public meetings as the first step in considering a large project for our town. This would save many years of wasted time and effort and resources if we find out where our community wants to go with any endeavor: traffic congestion, parking or rooming houses for seasonal workers.
At other respective public meetings in other island towns, I note that both Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor town officials listened to their citizens’ comments and obviously heeded them, as demonstrated by their actions and votes.
The recent lawsuit brought by William Ruger and James Blanchard will help our community uphold municipal and state laws and may also preserve the last of the historic waterfront of old Bar Harbor. It is good that they raised these legal issues as quickly as they did, so that we can have these important issues answered.
I find it courageous for these two property owners to take on the financial and emotional burdens of litigation. They are not only fighting to protect their beautiful old homes, both on the National Historic Register, but to preserve every other home, business, organization, building and plot of land that form our historic waterfront from West Street to Eden Street, both designated historic districts.
When I walk down Bridge Street and along the shore or out to Bar Island, I am troubled by the prospect of a massive cruise ship docking pier and terminal and retail/restaurant complex that would scar and degrade a shoreline now graced by all the old “cottages,” including the Seacoast Mission and the Turrets at COA.
Instead of small craft and lobster and tour boats, behemoth cruise ships would fill up the shoreline and tower over the homes and hotels, blocking their views of the bay.
It’s more than a visual degradation. There would be the noise, the fumes, the nighttime glare of ship and land lights and a nightmarish gridlock of buses and shuttles accessing and egressing Route 3.
I thank Blanchard and Ruger for doing so much to preserve the lawfulness, the beauty, the history and the integrity of our community. I also thank the many people who have worked so hard to promote better planning for a better Bar Harbor for us all.