Letter to Editor: Vote no

To the Editor:

The Bar Harbor Chamber Board of Directors encourages residents to vote no on both Articles 4 and 5 on the June 11 warrant. After careful review of both citizen’s petitions, the chamber believes that they will be a great disservice to the Town of Bar Harbor if enacted.

Article 4 creates policy for all town boards and committees that will prevent them from adequately incorporating the knowledge of non-resident experts. We believe that the Town Council benefits greatly from the wisdom of technical experts on committees as they vote on issues of importance, such as communications and technology infrastructure or cruise ship operations in our port. Disenfranchising these experts and/or creating an environment that makes them less welcome is not a good way to ensure that the town receives the best advice.

The chamber recognizes that some residents have expressed concern specifically over the Cruise Ship Committee. This intentionally unique committee is comprised of 15 people representing eight types of membership: town residents, Acadia National Park, maritime industry, law enforcement, scientists, the harbormaster, local businesses, shore excursion providers and more. These special seats were created specifically because of the representatives’ expertise and industry knowledge. The committee deals with issues ranging from water quality, repair of the breakwater, scheduling of cruise ships, piloting issues, safety and tendering.

It would be unfortunate if the town were to de-value the expertise of people working in the marine environment simply because of the geographic location of their houses. The chamber believes that regular contact with these experts enables Bar Harbor to effectively communicate with the cruise industry, thereby improving safety and long-term planning for our port and shoreside activities.

The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce recommends you vote no on Article 4.

Article 5 is intended to prevent large piers that could accommodate cruise ships from being constructed in Bar Harbor and limit water-related development. Currently pier width and length in tidal waters is regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers, not the Bar Harbor Land Use Ordinance, which is specific to land and structures upon the land itself. If enacted this will be a significant change in Bar Harbor and could create legal ambiguity with interpretation of the ordinance, increase non-conforming structures in town, and inhibit future marine use and access.

The wording within Article 5 refers to a total length of 300 feet, and this includes all water-related structures like floats, fingers, pylons, and potentially even upland access structures. This will likely prevent all new piers from being built whether they are commercial or private.

The Ferry Terminal Property Advisory Committee’s plan for the development of the ferry terminal will be greatly hobbled by this change in land use. The chamber strongly believes this to be unfair to the residents of Bar Harbor.

Additionally, the proposed amendment to the land use ordinance will make most of the current piers in Bar Harbor non-conforming. The Town Pier, Ferry Terminal, Bar Harbor Inn, College of the Atlantic, Harborside, Regency, and the Atlantic Oceanside piers all currently exceed this length.

The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce recommends you vote no on Article 5.

Bethany Reece

On behalf of the Bar Harbor Chamber

Board of Directors

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