Rooming house rules are revived

BAR HARBOR — Proposed rules meant to ensure safe living conditions for summertime workers and others living in group rental housing could finally be put to voters by next fall.

Town officials on Jan. 30, dove into a three-hour work session on the topic, eventually reaching a consensus. Their solution to where such lodgings should be allowed is now on track for a November town meeting vote. It will be the 17th draft of the proposed ordinance, which has been stymied by split feelings on where rooming houses should be allowed.

The most palatable solution, planning board members and town councilors agreed, would be to allow the use in commercial areas and one or two districts with known rooming houses downtown. The law would offer grandfather status to any rooming houses that currently exist, while any further use in residential and rural districts would be prevented.

Under current law, the rooming house use is not allowed anywhere in town. Officials have framed the idea of licensing and inspections as a way of responsibly treating the seasonal residents who live in such housing. Much of the housing is employer-owned, making it difficult for tenants to complain about or change sub-standard conditions.

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