Letter to Editor: Who decides?

Who should have control over the berthing of large cruise ships, the 4,454 registered voters of Bar Harbor or majority vote of the seven-member Town Council?

On June 11 the voters of Bar Harbor will decide whether or not to support ballot question Article 5, which asks whether “An Amendment to the LUZO to Prohibit Berthing Piers for Large Cruise Ships” should be enacted.

Voting yes on Article 5 would place limits on the length of cruise ship piers and prohibit the berthing of large cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers.

It is important to vote “Yes” on Article 5 because the Bar Harbor Land Use Ordinance [LUO] has no limits at all on the size of cruise ship piers or the size of cruise ships that could dock.

Voters need to understand that the town’s lease with Atlantic Fleet Services for the use of a portion of the Ferry Terminal property gives Atlantic Fleet Services the right to sublease, or assign its rights under the lease any time during the next five years with the written approval of the Town Council and this approval may not be unreasonably withheld.

A mere majority of the Bar Harbor Town Council could give permission for the property to be sublet to a cruise ship company for a period of up to 15 years without any voter approval. If this happens, a cruise ship berthing pier of any size could be built on the property.

I have been told that the permitting process would be complicated, that the price of the project would be cost prohibitive, and there are no current plans for such a berthing pier project. All of those opinions may be true, but the fact is, town councilors have the sole power to make such a decision without the voters having any say.

On May 21 the Town Council passed, with a 4-3 vote, a motion to direct the Planning Board to develop a LUO amendment to prohibit the berthing of large cruise ships. This is a good-faith effort on the part of some of the councilors to codify the public’s wish for no berthing of large cruise ships in Bar Harbor.

But there are no guarantees this LUO amendment will be developed by the Planning Board, which is already working on vacation rentals, employee housing and more affordable housing. There is no guarantee that a yet to be developed LUO amendment prohibiting the berthing of large cruise ships will be supported by future members of the Town Council.

The voters of Bar Harbor already have the opportunity on June 11 to prohibit the berthing of large cruise ships by amending our Land Use Ordinance. Please vote yes on Article 5.

Carol Chappell

Bar Harbor

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