Town’s Planning Staff Works Towards Development Ideas
BAR HARB0R—Michele Gagnon, Bar Harbor Planning Director, joked at the October 4 Town Council meeting that every member of her staff had Tums on the ready.
“We have recently completely shuffled our staffing and organization upside down,” Gagnon said and that the department had far more projects in the first half of the year than usual. “When people all have bottles of Tums in their desk, there’s a problem.”
Not just that, she said, they can tell you their favorite flavor of Tums. Lemon is Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain’s favorite.
Despite the need for antacids, Gagnon and staff are doing normal duties, multiple projects including a revision and update of the town’s comprehensive plan, and are now also looking into a recent report conducted by Steve Whitman of Resilience Planning and Design LLC the same man who is working with the Comprehensive Plan Committee, called “An Examination of Bar Harbor’s Development Process” (September 15, 2022).
Town Manager Kevin Sutherland said the report is part of the continued effort to deal with the housing policy plan approved in 2019.
“Housing needs to happen,” Gagnon said and added that ramping up housing production is harder to do than something simple like a water bottle’s production because of the multiple layers of labor, building costs, and the town’s current land use rules and requirements, but she added that the town can definitely look at this report and work on some things while also working on the comprehensive plan.
When asked by Councilor Gary Friedmann about her plan, Gagnon said that the actions need to be put in a timeline and then prioritized, which would be a next step. Councilor Erin Cough said that she wrote “amen, yes” next to one of the document’s points about working through the town’s land use ordinance’s inconsistencies and contradictions and worried that the term “area per family” was not included in the document.
The report was funded by both the town and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce and interviewed twelve people who, according to the report “have extensive experience in Bar Harbor as developers, business owners, or as design and permitting professionals assisting the development community.”
According to the report there are five main issues and ways to improve the development process in Bar Harbor. Findings included:
Portions of the report are excerpted below. The report can be read in its entirety between pages 55 to 71 in the packet, also linked below.
Our recent story on WHERE HAVE ALL THE STARTER HOMES GONE with some information about the development study in that context.
LINK TO DEVELOPMENT STUDY (begins at page 55)