Curb Cut Request Sparks Short-Term Rental Discussion

Bar Harbor Town Council News

A request for a curb cut became a discussion about the impact of short-term rentals in a residential Bar Harbor neighborhood during the Bar Harbor Town Council’s August 2 meeting at the Municipal Building when a neighbor complained about the property’s use as a short-term rental.

The Cough Family Trust’s curb cut request was for its 2 Mountain Avenue property. The plan for the property would move the current driveway to a different part of the street, which a neighbor, Susan Paulsen, said would impact traffic. The cut was approved 5-1 with Councilor Gary Friedman voting against and Councilor Erin Cough abstaining.

Photo submitted by applicant.

Prior to the meeting, the cut was approved by all the relevant department heads. One councilor likened the council’s process to a rubber-stamp approval because of the work other town departments do to the application prior to the request coming to the council. Still, there were many comments about short-term rentals as a neighbor of the property complained about the degradation of her neighborhood because of the transition of many homes from year round residences to weekly rentals.

“Living where I do, when is enough enough? All of our neighborhoods are being impacted. We’re being overrun with rental properties,” Susan Paulsen asked the council. She and her husband own a home across the street from the Cough Family Trust’s property.

Paulsen asked how many people can stay at the property’s short-term rental and said that the potential increase of traffic is unknown if the 16-foot-wide driveway/curb cut would allow more people to rent the property.  Currently, there is active construction on one of the buildings on the property.

Application material submitted by property owner for curb cut approval.

“Everyone has been driven out of this town,” Paulsen said, referencing short-term rentals. “Bar Harbor is the laughing stock of this island.”

Friedman called short-term rentals the “scourge of the town.” And he asked councilors if “we see our town as a commodity or a community.”

Council Chair Valerie Peacock said she empathizes with Paulsen’s feelings, but that the policy governing council’s decisions on curb cut applications doesn’t have anything to do with short-term rentals. Therefore, the council couldn’t determine approval or disapproval of the curb cut because the property is currently being used as a short-term rental or not.

The clear cut for 2 Mountain Ave would be in the foreground on the right side of the photo. The Paulsens’ property is on the left. Photo by Carrie Jones.

Councilor Jeff Dobbs said that the buildings are already permitted as weekly rentals and that hasn’t changed with this curb cut application. Dobbs said that in his years on the council, he doesn’t recall weekly rental discussion ever coming into the curb cut approval process.

Councilor Jill Goldthwait said that she understands how the Paulsens feel, and reiterated a portion of Peacock’s earlier comments, stating that curb cuts are part of one policy and short-term rentals are another policy, and if the council has an application for a curb cut and that application meets all the approval it doesn’t fall under the purview of the council to look at the application through the lens of short-term rental policy. Any worries about the use of a building and if it is complying with short-term rental rules would go to the code enforcement office, she said.

“But if you have questions about the use of the property that would be another discussion that council or officials could have at another time,” Goldthwait said.

“There are definitely challenges in Bar Harbor” when it comes to vacation rentals, Peacock said.

The current driveway at the Cough property is angled onto the end of Mountain Ave, close to the intersection with the Eagle Lake Road. The curb cut would allow a new driveway. That driveway is at the far end of the property and circular. It would be almost directly across from the Paulsens’ drive.

Current driveway at 2 Mountain Ave. Photo by Carrie Jones.

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Additional Information

To see the application for the 2 Mountain Ave curb cut, check the town council packet for Aug 2.

To see the town’s one-page curb cut policy, click here. The four-page application form is here.

For a plethora of information about Bar Harbor’s short-term rentals, click here.

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