To the Editor: A landlord’s view

Maggie’s Farm does not work in Bar Harbor. It does not work anywhere.

I bought Higgins Terrace, which is situated off Roberts Avenue, in 1978. It is comprised of two duplexes and two three-bedroom houses.

In 1977, after some years of absentee landlord neglect, the Roberts Avenue neighbors were ready to buy Higgins Terrace and have it torn down. It was in shambles and was unsupervised. It devalued the whole neighborhood. The neighbors complained that the tenants were disrupting the peace and tranquility of their neighborhood.

Since 1978 my wife and I lived in one of the units and raised our family there. My tenants complied with my rules on everything from parking, noise, amount of people per unit, etc.

They appreciated my oversight and they appreciated that I lived right next door. I have always rented month-to-month and have never had a vacancy and have never lost one month’s rent in 40 years and have only been forced to evict one tenant.

That was the only time in 40 years the police have had to come to Higgins Terrace and they did a heroic job of removing this threat from the neighborhood. I gave a lot of people the chance to mount the ladder of success and never raised someone’s rent while they lived there.

I have housed HUD rentals, college kids, seasonal workers, families, and many who now have good jobs and own homes on the Island. Higgins Terrace, once called Slum Packustand, once the scourge of Roberts Avenue, became an asset to the neighborhood because it has been under owner-occupied control.

People, even young workers, respect a safe and quiet place to live. Over the years I have found the happiest people live in a sound-controlled environment with a responsive owner living on the premises.

I tell my tenants, if need be, if I hear them making too much noise or causing a disruption to the neighborhood. They have three strikes and they’re out. It works. No police involved. Years later people stop in and tell me how they loved living here.

What I see happening in back of Betsy Mills’ property is a disaster for that or any neighborhood. A business owner, who is desperate for housing for his imported seasonal workers, will not be in control.

Look at what happened on Roberts Square with restaurant worker housing. One year a fellow died falling off the roof. Years later, in the same house, a fire destroyed the place. People were hurt and one fellow was rescued just in time off the roof of that house. The owners of the West Street Extension property cannot possibly think that they can pack 80-200 transient seasonal workers in a situation like that.

The hotel company’s workers would be under control by the company if their noise and disruptive behavior were to occur on the same property as that business. Look at how a cruise ship houses their workers. Over a thousand workers living in the same structure as the customers.

But the fact will always remain that you cannot warehouse working people. From my experience housing more than two transient seasonal workers living in one unit is a constant party. Put five in a unit and it’s unhealthy. I recommend at least 300-400 square feet per person per apartment.

Even units with two young year-round tenants need soundproofing between them. Dormitory-like housing for workers is simply inhumane, never mind putting them in a residential neighborhood. The Planning Board needs to nip this idea in the bud.

It appears to me that we are on the verge of harming Bar Harbor by circumventing the intent of the Planned Unit Development requirements. Personally I have no sympathy for Ocean Properties’ need for seasonal housing. This kind of undefined housing has no precedent in Bar Harbor. It is nothing short of Maggie’s Farm.

It’s community I have sympathy for. The year-round residential community. My neighbors. We should be putting community housing needs before any undignified imported seasonal housing.

Jim O’Connell

Bar Harbor

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