Voters approve cruise ship limits

BAR HARBOR — Cruise ships with more than 500 passengers will not be allowed to tie up to piers, and piers longer than 300 feet will not be allowed, after voters approved citizen initiatives at Tuesday’s low-turnout town election. Also, only Bar Harbor registered voters will be allowed to hold voting seats on town committees.

The ballot measure limiting berthing “puts a marker in the ground,” resident Charles Sidman, who organized both citizens’ initiatives, told the Islander Wednesday. “It says that the citizens do not want large cruise ships berthing in our town.”

The article was approved by a vote of 493 to 384.

Jeff Dobbs was elected to the Town Council with 480 votes. Matthew Hochman, the current vice chair of the council, was re-elected with 440 votes. Council candidates Peter St. Germain and Martha Searchfield did not win seats, receiving 356 and 325 votes respectively.

“My first priority is getting up to speed,” said Dobbs, who last served on the council about eight years ago. “The ferry terminal is a priority, and I would like to keep the whole parking garage [idea] alive.”

Hochman said year-round housing will remain a focus for him during his second term. “We’ll be working closely with the planning board trying to find some solutions,” he said. He also mentioned “some clean-up issues” in ferry terminal plans and restructuring of town committees, following the passage of the citizens’ initiatives.

Voters approved Article 4, a citizens’ initiative to enact an ordinance to allow only registered Bar Harbor voters “to vote on any appointed board, committee or commission” with a vote of 590 to 291.

“All the same people can still serve and provide advice on boards, but only Bar Harbor voters will be able to vote on these committees,” Sidman said.

The change affects the Cruise Ship Committee the most, as many committee members will be non-voting, Town Manager Cornell Knight said Wednesday morning. “We’ll have a discussion about that and how to handle that in a future meeting,” he said.

Article 5 was a citizens’ initiative LUO amendment limiting the length of piers to 300 feet, and limit the size of berthed cruise ships to 500 passengers.

“We don’t want to get rid of cruise ships entirely,” Sidman said. “They can continue to tender in.”

The Planning Board had recommended rejection of Article 5. In most cases, that would mean the change would require a two-third vote, but that requirement does not apply to LUO changes presented through the citizens’ initiative process, according to a 2016 court decision.

Opponents of the measure had questioned whether the town has jurisdiction to regulate structures built out over the water.

Knight said he’s concerned that limiting piers to 300 feet will have a broader impact on the town than just banning cruise ship berthing.

“The most obvious problem is the ferry terminal property where the pier is now nonconforming, and we won’t be able to add to it,” Knight said, saying the new restriction “really ties the hands” of the Harbor Committee as they plan a future marina.

“It also affects a dozen other piers: they won’t be able to expand as well. It’s a pretty significant impact. It’s not just cruise ships. It affects all recreational boating.”

Kristi Losquadro and Alexandra “Lilea” Simis were both elected to Superintending School Committee in an uncontested race. Losquadro received 608 votes, and Simis received 607. Robert Webber was elected MDI School Distruct Trustee as a write-in candidate with 95 votes.

Voters rejected Article 2, a proposed Land Use Ordinance (LUO) amendment to allow museum use in the Downtown Village II district, with a vote of 576 to 286. The change was requested last year by the Bar Harbor Historical Society, which had plans to build a museum on Cottage Street. The group’s plans changed when the opportunity arose to purchase the West Street mansion known as La Rochelle.

Voters approved Article 3, a proposed LUO amendment to update Appendix A, the section of the LUO that lists historic properties in the Design Review Overlay District. This was approved 738 to 111.

Town Clerk Sharon Linscott said 888 of the town’s 4,594 registered voters, about 19 percent, cast ballots.


Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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