Councilors eye Harbor Hill options

BAR HARBOR — Whether or not it is possible or even advisable to try to keep the Harbor Hill Estates apartments as affordable housing was explored by town councilors Tuesday.

The building owners are under a purchase and sale contract with College of the Atlantic, where officials want to turn it into a private school that would include a student dormitory. It recently came to light, however, that the seller must grant rights of first refusal to both the Maine State Housing Authority and the local housing authority, and that this action had not occurred.

Town councilors on Tuesday asked Bar Harbor Housing Authority (BHHA) head Terry Kelley if there was anything that could be done locally to maintain the affordable housing program at Harbor Hill. Kelley responded that the matter was largely out of the town’s hands. And as far as his group, he said, “At this point…I’m sure it’s nothing we’d be interested in.”

While the current residents of Harbor Hill are unhappy about the prospect of moving, Kelley said he anticipates enough room within his downtown apartments to place them. Because of their status now they would receive preferential treatment with regards to the waiting list.

Councilor Paul Paradis added that with current zoning regulations, the process a potential builder of affordable housing would have to go through “is mind-boggling and a disincentive.”

Harbor Hill owner Pam Gleichman may not have followed the proper process with regards to notifying state and local groups of her intent to sell, but that is likely only to slow down the process, not prevent it altogether, Kelley said.

College of the Atlantic has received much criticism lately for what some residents of Harbor Hill Estates claim is an insensitive approach to the welfare of the people that live there, despite assurances from college officials that the residents would be taken care of.

Kelley said Tuesday that college officials should be commended for reaching out to the housing authority early in the process to explore what housing and help would be available should their plans for the building get approved.

“The college is the only people that we’ve dealt with during this type of transition who have actually said they would like to help the residents,” Kelley said. “So, kudos to the college for offering to be part of the process, not the end result.”

Councilors took no action on the issue.

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Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]