New Land Use Changes Introduced

BAR HARBOR — Land use changes that would affect the Eden Street corridor, portions of Hulls Cove, Mount Desert Street, and a large swath of the residential area just outside of downtown were the subject of public hearings before the town council June 15.

The ordinances would set several new zoning districts, including the Gateway district, the Village Historic district, and the Mount Desert Street corridor. Councilors are prepared to approve the orders outlining the changes when they next meet July 6, setting the stage for a November vote.

At the June 15 meeting, councilors soundly rejected language that would have expanded the purview of the design review board (DRB) to commercial buildings on Eden Street, in the proposed Gateway district, and to the proposed Mount Desert Street district. While the DRB now has oversight on signs in the zones, councilors were repelled by the idea of giving the board power over building facades. Several hotel owners also spoke in opposition.

Councilors also rejected a proposal, brought forth by the planning board, to increase lot coverage in the Gateway district from 25 percent to 35 percent, claiming that the change would not be sufficient to encourage growth. Councilors instead ordered that a change in lot coverage to 50 percent be placed in the ordinance amendment.

Parking requirements in the Gateway district also was subject to discussion. Jack Russell’s Steakhouse owner Tom St. Germain pleaded with the council to eliminate restaurant parking requirements in the district, claiming that it would only be fair to do so.

The steakhouse is the only stand-alone restaurant in the district, and, thus, the only one that must, by town law, provide parking. Restaurants attached to hotels do not have specific parking requirements.

Following a vote earlier this month, restaurants and retail establishments downtown no longer have to provide parking either. According to Mr. St. Germain, his is, in fact, the only restaurant out of about 70 that is required to provide parking.

Councilors did not remove the parking requirements. However, the ordinance does allow the planning board to reduce requirements when certain provisions are met.

The Village Historic district ordinance would affect portions of Route 3 further outside of downtown than the Gateway district, as well as residential portions of Hulls Cove. It would combine the current Bar Harbor Historic Corridor and the Hulls Cove Historic district into one new zone.

The major change in the ordinance would be an expansion of how much land a house must be set on. Currently, in the Bar Harbor Historic Corridor, the minimum lot size is 1/2 acre with public sewer, and 1 acre without. The minimum area per family is currently 1/4 acre with public sewer and 1/2 acre without.

Under the new ordinance, all minimum lot sizes would be 1 acre, with a 1-acre-area-per-family minimum as well.

The Hulls Cove Historic district also would be affected, as the minimum area per family there is now 1/2 acre, but would become 1 acre under the new ordinance.

The DRB would gain oversight of commercial buildings in the new district, whenever such buildings are visible from a public way.

For more of the latest news, pick up a copy of the Mount Desert Islander.


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