Warrant Articles 1-10 on Bar Harbor’s written ballot for this year’s town meeting all deal with parking.
After years of hard work, the Bar Harbor Planning Board has voted unanimously to recommend passage of this important package of amendments. None of these measures will allow the unfettered creation of sky-high parking garages. There is no “shovel-ready” project awaiting a change in the law so that it can be built.
Amendments will add “parking lot” and “parking garage” to downtown districts, where they used to be allowed, but mention was inadvertently omitted when the regulations were redrawn in 2010. The definition of “parking deck,” a two-level structure much smaller than a full, multi-level garage, also is being added to the ordinance.
Few question the need to address the lack of parking opportunities in Bar Harbor, although there seems to be little agreement on how to make that happen. Right now, in the downtown, even if a business wants to create additional parking on private property, it is precluded from doing so.
The changes also would require parking structures in any zone to undergo Design Review Board oversight, even those not located in a design review district. This opportunity for a new layer of needed oversight would be wasted should the amendments be rejected.
Even as it expands in the Ellsworth area and in Connecticut, The Jackson Laboratory has ambitious plans to transform its central campus in Bar Harbor. Those plans should help the institution maintain traditional employment levels here, with associated economic benefits. Part of that master plan includes additional parking structures and lots. Defeat of the proposed parking zoning amendments could derail those plans, creating unforeseen consequences.
Progress on a possible parking garage downtown on land owned by the town and Ocean Properties still would need to pass numerous political, legal and regulatory hurdles, including Planning Board site plan review and town meeting oversight. Voters need to know that a separate plan to charge for parking in downtown Bar Harbor is not included in the proposed zoning amendments. That charge plan will come up as a separate budget line item during the open town meeting. The needed zoning amendments involve neither of the issues concerning parking charges or the possibility of a parking garage downtown.
At the polls on June 13, we urge passage of all 10 parking-related zoning questions.