Reversed priorities

To the Editor:

What are our priorities? What are some of the important elements in our town of Bar Harbor? For example, William Ruger spent millions to bring his estate, East of Eden, back to its glory. He paid $55,638.27 in property taxes in 2016. East of Eden is one of the last mansions from the golden era of Bar Harbor.

His investment of a ton of money into the property is now threatened by the very real possibility of a cruise ship pier being constructed less than half a mile from his home.

Ruger is being kicked in the teeth for restoring an architectural masterpiece and paying an enormous amount of money in taxes to the town. I’m horrified by some of the comments written by individuals on the Facebook group “Citizens for a Better Bar Harbor.” It is pure ignorance to insult the man for being wealthy.

Nobody forced Ruger to come to Bar Harbor and to spend millions of dollars to bring that property back to its former glory. I’m certain that he employed and paid many local craftsmen and contractors very well to work on the mansion and its grounds.

While Ruger is the first-place winner when it comes to taxes paid on privately owned ocean front properties on that side of town, others join him in paying a lot in property taxes. In fact, the grand total in private and commercial shorefront property taxes from Bridge, West, and Eden Streets and Harbor Lane that I counted from the town website totals well over $900,000.

Property taxes are critical in keeping our schools open. The cruise ships pay the town between $700,000 and $800,000 a year.

Cruise ship fees can be used only for certain projects. These fees cannot be used to fund the schools. Instead, they are used for projects that enhance the visit of the cruise passengers.

Examples include construction of public bathrooms near the town pier and landscaping work at Grants Park. Are we willing to sacrifice the education of the youth in our community in order to please the cruise industry?

What will likely happen to the value of these ocean front properties if a mega pier is built? Who wants to spend a lot of money to have a view of that with mega ships and mega noise and air pollution?

I feel very bad for the Seacoast Mission. They help so many people in need in Down East Maine, and the money from the sale of La Rochelle will greatly increase their ability to help more people.

But who in their right mind is going to pay the price that they are asking at this point in time? If nobody wants to buy these properties, then their values will drop significantly.

Anyone who spends any time on the shore path or at the town pier when cruise ships are in the harbor knows about noise pollution. Extremely loud horns blow constantly when the fog is in. In addition, one can hear the loudspeakers from the ships making announcements. They are so loud that you can often make out what the person is saying.

Who would want to spend millions of dollars to buy a place on the water and then listen to that? Sadly, some of the leaders of the town are not looking at the big picture.

I also fear that property tax reductions will create a ripple effect that will move to the other side of West Street and into other parts of town. West Street will most likely not be such a great place to have a home.

West Street is the last real glimpse of what Bar Harbor was in the gilded era. Like Ruger, some new owners have recently moved in and poured huge amounts of money into bringing some of the cottages back to their former glory. We should be thanking them for employing locals and making West Street an even more beautiful and charming place. These beautiful houses are what tourists want to see. This is part of what makes Bar Harbor an extraordinary destination.

Instead of treasuring these magnificent architectural masterpieces, some of our town leaders are supporting policies to denigrate the very things that attract visitors.

Instead of preserving and cherishing the history and beauty, we are going to take it and flush it down the toilet in order to serve the cruise industry. We are going to lose property tax revenue that supports our schools and trade that for cruise fees that go to enhance the cruise passenger’s visit.

Our town is sending the wrong message that we don’t want people who value important things that make Bar Harbor charming and unique. It also is indicating that we don’t value the very people who invest in the community. It’s time to examine our priorities.

Katherine Whitney

Bar Harbor

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