Viewpoint: The unintended consequences of change 

By Mike Olson 

Bar Harbors Planning Board, like that of the town of Mount Desert, has always been fortunate to have wellqualified individuals donating their time to do what’s best for their towns.
In the early 1980s, Mount Desert went through a Land Use Zoning Ordinance (LUZO) update in order to preserve the town, much like Bar Harbor is considering today.  

In the early ‘80s, Mount Desert tried retaining its local population by rewriting the LUZOthe opposite occurred, and locals started selling out. 

The outcome of the LUZO change in Mount Desert was a reduction in homes. The fallout of fewer homes was less people. This was a broad, sweeping rule; summer people who wanted secondary dwellings for their fulltime help were not allowed to build them on their large estates. Locals who needed the secondary income were no longer able to pay the bills. The outcome was that summer people started buying the local housing stock for their hired help.
Residents of Mount Desert started questioning the LUZO change in the early 2000s. It took at least 10 years of debating, and employing municipal planners, engineers, lawyers and philosophers, to abolish this manmade debacle. 

I grew up under the roof of a teacher’s income. The teacher’s pay scale seems to lay just about smack dab in the middle of the bluecollar workforce. The teacher’s salary is a great way to get insight into where the affordable housing is, and how to survive if the housing is not affordable. In the early 80s, as the value of homes climbed from three teacher salaries per house to well over six teacher salaries today, the Yankee ingenuity of some Mount Desert Island teachers was to rent their house in the summer for half their yearround salary. It was not ideal for some of these teachers to be moving in or out of their houses when their summer jobs were starting or wrapping up, or they had grades to finalize or school years to prepare for. Like most people, teachers like their homes; they would rather be in their homes with their stuff.  However, survival must sometimes take precedence over style. Fortunately, with that Yankee ingenuity, many teachers were able to buy boats or campers to live in. It ceases to amaze me how many locals live at the local campgrounds in the summer so they can enjoy the significant salary created by renting their homes. 

With the ballooning cost of municipal infrastructures, the talk of pooling these resources among the municipalities, the research into a common middle school, the success of the islandwide high school, and the success of merging the Mount Desert and the Bar Harbor police departments only show that whether we like it or not, we are in this together, which makes me question the current Planning Board intentions of limiting rentals to just a small number of Bar Harbor residences. I can think of many examples where a family is fortunate to have two homes on this island. I don’t think it fair that the Bar Harbor Planning Board is pretty much telling anyone who has one house in Bar Harbor and another somewhere else, particularly on this island, that they need to live in the Bar Harbor home if they stand a chance of preserving their financial integrity. 

If the majority of the Bar Harbor Planning Board, and more importantly the town of Bar Harborgo through with the current LUZO change, they will be going against history and their neighbors. 

There is not a board, committee or local government that can artificially preserve affordable housing when billionaires set the market value. However, the local housing authority has done an outstanding job at creating some affordable housing. 

Mike Olson is a resident of Otter Creek 

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