Warrant Committee hears presentations about retail marijuana proposal, potential two-thirds majority rule change, and historic properties
BAR HARBOR—At the August 23 Bar Harbor Warrant Committee meeting, members heard a little bit more about the proposed amendment to change the two-thirds-majority rule for certain land use ordinance changes and also about adult-use marijuana retail stores. The committee will deliberate on these issues as well as changes to an appendix concerning historic properties and the citizens’ initiative for cruise ship limitations at its September 1 meeting, which is at Bar Harbor’s municipal building, beginning at 7 a.m. and open to the public to attend.
For some amendments to the land use ordinance, the Bar Harbor Planning Board initially hears the proposed change, holds a public hearing, and then recommends its adoption or to not adopt it. If the board does not recommend adoption, there is a two-thirds vote requirement when the change goes before voters. If the planning board does recommend adopting the change, a simple majority vote is needed.
Town Manager Kevin Sutherland told the committee during an eight-minute presentation that was mostly a question and answer period that the two-thirds amendment is not common in the state.
Committee member Ezra Sassaman asked the town manager and attending council members if the proposed change originated from a member of the public, the town council or otherwise.
Town Clerk Liz Graves said that the minutes do not mention a member of the public originating the change.
“It was a town council request of the planning board,” to support the change Graves said.
Council Chair Valerie Peacock said that the change came after the vacation rentals process last year. She said that process took years to enact and encompassed her entire time on the council and began before she was elected to the council.
The council doesn’t vote on land use ordinance questions. The planning board had a tie vote about whether to recommend the amendment or not, which made the motion a tie, triggering the two-thirds conversation at the council level.
The council asked the planning board to look at abolishing that two-thirds requirement, which is often called a super majority. It is not two-thirds of all voters, but two-thirds of those participating in the election.
Sutherland said that there are other communities that have two-thirds requirements, but that it is pretty rare. Councilor Matthew Hochman told committee members that he was on the fence about the amendment.
MARIJUANA RETAIL STORES
The first citizen’s petition to amend the land use ordinance would allow retail marijuana stores in four/five districts within Bar Harbor. A second citizen’s petition involves the licensing of those adult-use marijuana stores
The setback standards for the two potential retail stores would only follow state guidelines rather than town guidelines. State law says that the recreational-use retail store would have to be 1000 feet from a school.
A proposed retail store in Downtown Village 1 would not need planning board approval and review, but only code enforcement officer approval.
UPDATE AND EDITOR’S NOTE ABOUT THE TWO-THIRD’S RULE
Council Chair Valerie Peacock had a slight misstatement at the meeting, which she later realized, but which we reported as is. Many thanks to her for the correction. Because the tied vote was not a recommendation from the planning board, it did not trigger the two-thirds vote, but it did cause the council to discuss the two-thirds rule.
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For a global historical analysis of supermajorities, click here.
The council agenda and packet of information for the August 16 meeting. This includes the full text for potential warrant items at the November town meetings.
To check out the town zoning map, check here.