Staff Brings Planning Board Potential Land Use Changes

Shovel-Ready Amendments May Go Before Voters in June, Assistant Planner Resigns for New Position

BAR HARBOR—The town’s Planning Department presented three potential amendments to the town’s Land Use Ordinance to the Planning Board this week and if enacted, some of those changes could potentially impact housing and development in Bar Harbor.

“Excellent, just excellent,” Board Chair Millard Dority said before the discussion began.

Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain presented a December 7 memo outlining three potential changes concerning double set-back distances, underground utilities, and multifamily use standards. Member Earl Brechlin asked if they could add in floor-to-area ratio in the Downtown Residential District to the short list of things to get rid of in June. Chamberlain said she was willing to do that.

All four issues will be up for a public hearing at the Planning Board’s January 2023 meeting.

“Our biggest barrier to housing in Bar Harbor” is the overly restrictive requirements of the town, Planning Director Michele Gagnon said.  “We’re looking to extricate Shoreland Zoning out of Chapter 125.” Without that extrication, when the state updates rules, it makes it complicated for the town to also update the rules.

Because of that issue, Chamberlain went line by line through the Land Use Ordinance looking for shoreland references.

“In doing that there were lots of other things that I saw,” she told the board. 

via Chamberlain memo

These three sections could be removed in their entirety if approved by voters at the spring election.


Via Chamberlain memo.

The setbacks for buildings vary according to where the buildings face and having double setbacks (between buildings and not just from property lines) ends up spreading the buildings far apart from each other. Gagnon said she has never seen it create a good project and it creates lots where people can’t build to the maximum.

“It’s part of our overly strict regulations,” Gagnon said.

“It’s definitely in conflict with the idea of cluster developments,” Dority said.


Via Chamberlain memo.

Currently Bar Harbor requires that utilities be installed underground unless the Planning Board modifies the standard on an application. It’s considered an added cost to development.


Via Chamberlain memo.

Chamberlain said that eliminating the entire section was a finite process in a complicated Land Use Ordinance.


In the Downtown Residential District one of the dimensional standards is a maximum floor area ratio that is “the greater of either the median or the mean value of the FARs for all of the lots within the district within 300 feet of the subject property.”

via Bar Harbor Land Use Ordinance, highlighting ours.

The Land Use Ordinance defines floor area ratio as follows:

Via Bar Harbor Land Use Ordinance


Steve Fuller announced at the end of the meeting that he had accepted another position and would no longer be the assistant planner in Bar Harbor. He also expressed that he didn’t feel comfortable in the open meeting stating what or where that position was. Fuller had been a staff planner for the City of Ellsworth; news reporter for the Ellsworth American; and editor and reporter at The Republican Journal prior to his time at Bar Harbor. He said that he’d be in Bar Harbor for at least part of January.

The town is now looking to fill Fuller’s position as well as the town’s assessor position and a position for a police officer.


The board approved the calendar for next year’s meeting.

via Panning Board packet


To watch the meeting.

To read the full memos and agenda.

Bar Harbor Story is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Thank you so much for being here!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s