Bar Harbor Town Council Preview for its September 20 Meeting

Cruise Management Plan, Speed Limits, Demolishment at the Ferry Terminal and Long-term Rental Registration Program on Agenda

BAR HARBOR—Between the possible approval of the cruise ship management plan, a new long-term rental registration ordinance, a request to remove an old building at the ferry terminal on Route 3 where the CAT is located and speed limit review public hearing, Bar Harbor town councilors have a full agenda for their upcoming September 20 meeting. The public can attend the meeting in person at the Bar Harbor Municipal Building at 7 p.m. or watch or live stream it. A personnel matter and possible union negotiation with the public works department are scheduled for executive sessions at the end of the meeting.

Cruise Ship Management Plan

A draft memorandum of agreement (MOA) has been created between the town and the cruise ship industry and is in the town councilors packets for their Tuesday meeting. That packet was released on Friday afternoon and is open for public review. 

The three-page draft document would create an annual November review of that season’s data to review “the capacity of the town to manage the daily and monthly passenger capacities.” Any changes would be agreed on by the town and industry and take effect 18 months after the document has been signed.

It would not allow cruise ships between November 1 and April 30.

No more than three cruise ships could be at anchor on any day. Each month the harbormaster will only allow (first come, first serve) a certain number of visitations and will be counting via lower berth until the monthly cap has been met.

  • 30,000 May and June
  • 40,000 July and August
  • 65,000 September and October.

The plan would create daily lower berth capacity caps of 3,800 for May, June, September and October.  Those caps would be 3,500 for July and August. There would be no cruise ships allowed on July 4.

Prior reservations approved by the harbormaster before July 21, 2021 would still be honored even if limits are exceeded.

The council’s agenda includes possibly authorizing the town manager to sign that MOA with the cruise lines that visit Bar Harbor; the agreement that outlines the plan may be modified at the Tuesday meeting.

Harbormaster Chris Wharff said at a September 16 Cruise Ship Committee meeting that 2023 has just about twenty-eight ships scheduled to visit Bar Harbor. The caps for September and October were hit in July of 2021 when the process started, Wharff said. “May and June still have room. July and August as well.”

The memorandum and plan created by a working group that includes the town manager is not the same as the citizens’ petition brought forth by several citizens and the subject of debate amongst the Warrant Committee, Planning Board and Town Council. That petition would limit cruise ship disembarkations and rely on daily counts. It inserts the harbormaster into the town’s land use ordinance. Proponents favor deeper cuts to daily visits. The measure will be voted on in November. That petition is also in the council packet and is part of the town warrant to be approved.

Ferry Terminal

The request is for the second phase of demolishing the Bluenose building at the ferry terminal’s north pier and would cost $130,000. Town Manager Kevin Sutherland said that Bar Harbor would be responsible for $99,300.  Bay Ferries Limited would pay $30,700 and repair or replace some of the pilons on that pier. The funding in the town’s capital fund is currently over $440,000 but does not expressly say that it can be used for demolition. It does stipulate that it can be used for “other capital costs of immediate need,” Sutherland wrote in the packet.

A March 11 2022 letter from Bay Ferries Limited’s Mark Wilson creates a schedule of payment to the contractor and schedule of work and pricing. A September 1 memo from Annette Higgins of Atlantic Fleet Services Corporation requests proceeding with Phase 2 of the March 11 contract. If approved documents state that the parties expect the work to be completed by “the end of December 2022.”

The town purchased the pier in 2018 and it was the site of the former Bluenose ferry.

Long-term Rental Ordinance

The rental ordinance was tabled at the September 6 council meeting. The new ordinance was initially presented by Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain and Fire Chief Matt Bartlett on August 2nd.

The hope is to create a registry program for long-term rental properties. Changes in the ordinance that will be presented this time are outlined in a September 9 letter from Chamberlain to the council.

The council could potentially approve a public hearing for its October 18 meeting. Unlike short-term rental properties, inspections are not currently required for long-term rentals nor are they required in this ordinance. It makes renting a long-term rental without a registration a violation that the code enforcement officer would enforce.


For an article about potential plans for the Ferry Terminal discussed at the Harbor Committee, check out the Mount Desert Islander.

To read the latest council packet.

To read all the Council’s past agendas and packets click here.

Town Council Regular meeting information:

  • 7 p.m. (may change to 4 p.m. due to COVID, check individual meeting dates)
  • The first and third Tuesday of every month

You can contact all town council members and the town manager simultaneously by using Bar Harbor Town Council email. Sign up for automatic agenda updates online.

Bar Harbor Story

Town Council Weighs in On Rental Registrations, Parking Space, and Lowering Speed Limits in Local Neighborhood

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