BAR HARBOR — Land use changes that will go to voters during town elections next month, including the controversial Town Hill mini-plan, were the subject of a public hearing before the town council Tuesday.
Several residents, most of whom have become known through their vehement protest of the Town Hill plan, spoke at the hearing, roundly panning a number of the proposed ordinance amendments as shortsighted pro-business moves that would harm the entire town.
The most vitriolic comments were reserved for Article 4, which expands the allowance for commercial agriculture and enables the owners of agricultural properties to include restaurants and lodging establishments as secondary uses.
The article “is so deceptive in its writing and its intent, for increased business activity across the island at the cost of the rest of the island,” said Robert Phipps. “I would like every citizen of the town to know that this article is a grave deception. It is an insult to farmers.”
On the Town Hill plan, Article 7, Jake Jaigle said that the regular allowance for buildings with a footprint of 15,000 square feet would go against other language in the plan which calls for new development to be “similar in scale” to existing buildings. He further condemned the plan for allowing buildings in excess of that size, when certain discretionary conditions are met.
Article 13, which would create a Shoreland General Development III district in the area of the ferry terminal and thus change the use of the terminal from non-conforming to conforming, also drew protest. The zoning change would do nothing to protect the use of the ferry terminal, but would instead allow any commercial interest to get hold of the property and do with it as they wish, opponents said.
The town could be at risk of its top hoteliers purchasing the property and turning it into a hotel, said town council candidate Dessa Dancy. “If it goes immediately commercial, there may be a grab for it, and we have no control,” she said.
Two people spoke in favor of the zoning change at the terminal. Ellen Dohmen said that the zone is basically commercial already, and changing its standing is a needed action to protect the local economy. “I wholeheartedly urge everyone to support and vote for this,” she said.
Another ordinance change that came under fire was Article 3, which rezones downtown business districts. The article contains a provision that eliminates room restrictions for bed and breakfasts, which would take effect in all zoning districts. The change could have “immense impacts” for rural neighborhoods, Ms. Dancy said.
The public hearing has been continued to Thursday, May 27, because of a misprint in the meeting agenda for Tuesday.
A full review of all proposed ordinance changes will be included in future issues of the Mount Desert Islander.
For more political news, pick up a copy of the Mount Desert Islander.