Town has a variety of options and opinions when it comes to cruise ship possibilities as business owners and residents share views with Town Manager

Town Council could take action on cruise ship management plan at its Aug 16 meeting

The residents of Bar Harbor have a lot of potential possibilities when it comes to limiting or not limiting the number of cruise ship passengers who visit the town in the future.

There is a citizens’ petition that will be on the November ballot though some opponents’ lawyers who represent local businesses say that the provisions within it may not be legal. There is also potentially a cruise ship management plan created this year and presented to the Bar Harbor Town Council during its Aug 2 meeting.  

That plan could be tweaked and changed prior to its approval or disapproval and Bar Harbor Town Manager, Kevin Sutherland, solicited public comment via email about the plan that he, Police Chief James Willis, and Harbormaster Christopher Wharff presented at that August 2 meeting, and he included all the emails he received—47 pages of them—in the packet of information that is prepared for each town council and is available for public viewing here.

Those comments in the form of emails comprise pages 47-94 of the council packet and represent a plethora of considerations. Many of those emails echoed the Cruise Ship Committee’s thoughts at its meeting last week about continuing to allow April and November in the cruise ship season (they are not included in the management plan) to promote shoulder-season business for restaurants, shop owners, and other service, as well as keeping monthly passenger caps rather than daily passenger caps. Other emails worried about cruise ship sewage, ships idling in Frenchman Bay, restricting businesses, and also data that showed a 563% increase in sales in April by one business on cruise ship days. Another restauranteur said that his guest counts for April 2021 lunch sales (when there were no cruise ships) compared to April 2022 lunch sales (when there were two cruise ship visits) were $17,508 in 2021 and $41,815 in 2022, a 139% increase.

Another resident expressed that the cruise ships take the “brunt of overcrowding” issues in downtown Bar Harbor, stressing that “the problem is not the amount of passengers. The problem has been a mismanagement of flow with ALL bodies and vehicles.”

Another emailer cited that the numbers for Island Explorer riders, visitors to Acadia National Park and local businesses have decreased this year and that the state has made $12 million in the 6% sales tax. Another asked if the town could refuse foreign ships with bad environmental records. Another said their biggest issue is the busses along Newport Drive and the waterfront on days where there are multiple cruise ships and suggested staging passengers at the ferry terminal rather than at Ocean Properties site on West Street.  Ocean Properties also owns a site in Key West, Florida where cruise ship passengers are tendered on its private property. The town had originally tried to restrict large ships at its Pier B, but its town attorney said that restriction attempts “would result in a crippling lawsuit,” according to a story by Mandy Miles in the March 13, 2022 KEYSWEEKLY that is linked below.

Finally, a Town Hill couple asked the town manager to produce the management plan in a mailer so that all residents could see that as opposed to the citizen’s petition, which will be on the ballot in November. The petition calls for a more dramatic reduction of cruise ship disembarkations than the town’s cruise management plan, which has not yet been approved or modified by the town council.

The council has the cruise ship management plan on its agenda for the August 16, 7 p.m. meeting at council chambers in the Bar Harbor Municipal Building.



To read the comments sent to the town manager (and the rest of the council packet), click here. Public comment specifically about the cruise ships are from 47-94.

Our story about last week’s Cruise Ship Meeting is here.

The story by KEYSWEEKLY.

For more information about the Cruise Ship Committee.

To view all past agendas and minutes.

For a history of the cruise ship fees uses in town for the past eight years.

For information about the town’s cruise ship management presentation.

For an earlier article with more information about the citizens’ initiative to decrease cruise ship disembarkations.

To watch the Aug 2 town council meeting in its entirety, click here.

To watch the last town council meeting in its entirety, click here.

Agendas for past meetings are here.

Cruise ship information is here.

For more information on the Town Council, its meetings, agendas, or to contact its members, click here.

An article from Yale Law & Policy Review about the Dormant Commerce Clause.

For volunteer opportunities to serve on one of the town’s boards or committees, click here, and remember that applications are due by July 29, 2023.

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