Comprehensive Planning Committee Gears Up & Solicits Community Input

Even back in the 1800s Bar Harbor properties cost a lot.

BAR HARBOR—As a parking lot and older houses were demolished on upper Cottage Street this past week, many people in the comments section of a Facebook post about the project (a 45-room, 29,929-square-foot bed and breakfast with some underground parking) bemoaned the loss of the old Bar Harbor and how money and greed were changing the town. The project will be next to the Black Friar Inn & Pub and is at 77 Cottage Street. It was approved by the town’s code enforcement officer on July 28. Since it is a bed and breakfast under town code, Planning Board approval isn’t required.

This is because of the definition of bed and breakfast in Bar Harbor’s ordinance. Growth and definitions have been a hot topic in Bar Harbor for well over a century.

An article from 18 July 1885 Sunday edition, (p 38-40) of the Chicago Tribune illustrates how change has often shaped the landscape, roads, and buildings of the town, which in the 1885 edition was called “the Queen of American summer resorts.”

Photo Courtesy Chicago Tribune archives

The Tribune piece by an uncredited journalist extols “the scenic advantages of Bar Harbor” calling them “unexcelled.” It also goes into a litany of summer residents after writing, “Up to 1850 the few inhabitants farmed, fished, and built boats. That summer the artist Church passed several weeks here. By 1855 several Bangor people and a few artists had got into the habit of spending the summer at Bar Harbor. An unpretentious hotel or two were put up. Alpheus Hardy of Boston, now dead, was the first non-resident property owner. He bought Birch Point in 1868 for $300 from Stephen Higgins and built the first Bar Harbor cottage. The Ogden property at Cromwell’s Harbor, now George Vanderbilt’s place, was the next purchase of any amount.”

During that time Bar Harbor’s residents and economy changed and grew. And it grew exponentially. The rising value of property is not just an issue for the 2000s, but was notable at the end of the 1800s.

Image from the 1885 Chicago Tribune.

Unlike the 1800s, current Bar Harbor town officials hope to steer the future of the town a bit more via its comprehensive plan. According to a new website created by the town specifically for the plan,

The Comprehensive Planning Committee has been working throughout the summer.  The plan is a broad policy document that sets the foundation for Bar Harbor’s land use regulations, and the last plan was adopted in 2007. This next plan is meant to span until 2035. There is meant to be synchronicity between the town’s land use ordinances and the insights and town goals outlined in a comprehensive plan. It’s meant to guide changes to a town’s land use ordinances.

“While in the public view, it might seem like a slow start to the work, the committee has been working with the consultants to create an “Existing Conditions” report that will be the foundation of our upcoming engagement and outreach,” Council Chair Valerie Peacock said of the committee’s work this summer.

“We’ve also been working on organizing the first two big community engagement events to be held on the 25th and 26th of October (folks should plan to attend one of the nights). We have been creating stations with data, questions and activities to get folks thinking about topics such as demographics, housing, transportation, economic activity, open spaces and recreation, and zoning/land use,” Peacock said.

Bar Harbor Comprehensive Planning Committee outreach effort at the Sept. 11 Farmers Market. Photo by Carrie Jones

To get public feedback and an understanding of what citizens want and need, a comprehensive plan open house series is slated for October 25 at MDI High School (6 to 8 p.m.) and October 26 from 4-6 p.m. at Conners Emerson Elementary. There is also a project website for email updates.  There is also a five-minute video about the plan and its process on that same website.

For a comprehensive plan to be representative of all the citizens of the town, the town needs input from as many different people as possible. To that end, the committee has scheduled the open houses, has a place for input on its website, and also has set up a table at the farmers’ market at the YMCA on Park Street on Sunday mornings, dispersing information and soliciting information.

Comprehensive Planning Committee members were appointed by the town council after meeting with the Appointments Committee, which was made up of Peacock, Councilor Jill Goldthwaite and Councilor Jeff Dobbs. The members are Elissa Chesler, Jacquie Colburn, Greg Cox, Kevin DesVeaux, Cherie Galyean, John Kelly, Jim Mahoney, Calistra Martinez, Mike McKernan, Kristin Murphy, Misha Mytar, Valerie Peacock, Allison Sasner and David Woodside. Kyle Shank chairs the committee.

The regular monthly meeting of the Comprehensive Planning Committee takes place on the second Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m..


Bar Harbor’s Comprehensive Plan Website

To email them, or Planning Director Michele Gagnon

Meeting agendas and minutes from the Comprehensive Planning Committee, on the town’s Agenda Center

Comprehensive Planning Committee’s other webpage lists meeting schedules, committee members and related information

Chicago Tribune 18 July 1885 Sunday edition, (p 38-40)

Polco results from July 4, 2022

Editor’s Note: The writer of this story applied for the Comprehensive Planning Committee and was not selected.

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