Sewer Rates Increase 18%
BAR HARBOR— The Bar Harbor Town Council voted 5-1 to deny a special amusement permit to Pat’s Pizza during its meeting Tuesday night. Vice Chair Matthew Hochman voted in favor of the permit. Councilor Jeff Dobbs had an excused absence because of a health issue.
The application for musicians with mechanical amplification had been tabled after the December 20 meeting and continued to this meeting so that people in abutting properties who might have been confused by the wrong address that was on the original public notice could attend. The town sent new notifications to those abutters that had Pat’s correct address on Pleasant Street. The applicant for Pat’s Pizza was Jason Fowler.
Fowler said that when they applied for a permit it wasn’t to disturb the community, but to give locals a place to unwind.
“We’re just trying to have a little bit of fun,” he said. He added that they are mindful of what they are asking for and would work with their neighbors.
During the public comment, one woman said she lives three blocks away from Pat’s Pizza.
“We want to dance. We want to sing. We want a spot to be able to enjoy ourselves after work. We are the fuels and bones of this town,” she said, the people who make others want to live here. She said they wanted a place with a full band and karaoke.
Another Pleasant Street neighbor said that she was excited to have something like Pat’s: a place with a band and karaoke and potentially dancing. She added that she’d like to support the businesses that make an effort to stay open all year.
Kemiesa Pinnock on behalf of Breakwater Management LLC, which is the owner and landlord of the property where Pat’s is a tenant said her company opposes the permit. The subject building contains multiple residential units whose occupants would be disturbed. Mechanical amplification and dancing also breaks the lease, she said. At the first part of the public hearing at the council’s December 20 meeting, a man who lived on Edgewood Street (behind Pat’s) objected to the amusement and said it would disrupt his enjoyment of his property.
Hochman said he didn’t like to presuppose problems before they happened and that there are steps and ordinances in place for special amusement permits. “I’m always a little nervous about rejecting an application about what might happen.” He said a landlord/tenant issue is not grounds for the council to approve or deny an application that meets the town’s rules. There are measures in place in the ordinance to deal with any problems that come up.
Councilor Gary Friedmann said he thought at the last meeting that the council would be more favorably disposed for a permit without amplified music. Town Clerk Liz Graves said the applicant can reapply for a non-mechanical amplification permit if this one is denied.
“This is a tight neighborhood. You can still have music and dancing that’s not amplified in that building,” Friedmann said. Pat’s is in the downtown transitional zone in the town. That zone is currently primarily residential but allows and contains other uses.
Councilor Erin Cough said she’d like for the applicant to come back with an application for a different permit. Hochman asked if Havana or other restaurants had amplified music and dancing allowed at their site. Graves said she wouldn’t hazard a guess without verification.
The town’s ordinance doesn’t allow noise levels over 71 dB for musical instruments, sound modification, and amplification devices. Graves said that if Fowler wanted to come and apply for a less encompassing permit, she would help him through the process. According to the town code, an applicant can reapply for a permit after 30 days of a denial, but the Town Council can consent to an earlier application.
WATER BUDGET ORDINANCE AND SEWER BUDGET ORDINANCE
The Town Council unanimously passed both the water and sewer budgets for January 2023 through June 2023.
The sewer budget has a rate increase for those who use the town’s sewer. That increase is 18%.
The water budget does not have a rate increase for the remainder of fiscal year 2023 because the town would use some of this year’s savings to cover operating expenses.
Town Manager Kevin Sutherland wrote in his memo to the council, “On June 21st of 2022, the Council approved a Continuing Resolution for the Water budget. This provided staff the time needed to develop a budget for your approval. The FY23 budget was introduced at the Dec. 6 meeting.”
“What does this mean for the home owner? The residential minimum would go from $48 to $56 for the last two quarters of the fiscal year. This anticipates expenses related to operating and treatment including an interest payment related to the infrastructure bond,” Sutherland wrote.
There were no public comments for either budget. For the water budget, Councilor Erin Cough applauded the small net increase and efforts of Public Works Director Bethany Leavitt and Finance Director Sarah Gilbert. Friedmann said there are significant increases and the town was fortunate to have a fund balance that allows for those increases without a rate increase.
“I don’t usually take the role of the fiscal hawk,” Friedmann said when discussing the sewer budget, but added that it’s the council’s job to pay close attention to budgets.
He added that the sewer rate increase plus any property tax increase is a hefty burden for many taxpayers. The water and sewer rates are like hidden taxes because they don’t go to public meeting, he said.
He added that this council is a fiscally responsible group. “It’s never easy to approve a substantial rate increase like this.”
MLK DAY MARCH
The council unanimously approved with no discussion a request of the MDI High School Civil Rights Team for the use of High, Cottage, Main and Mount Desert Streets for a Martin Luther King Day March, January 16.
The march is expected to begin at the Village Green, proceed down Mount Desert Street to High Street, then go right onto Cottage Street, right onto Main and then terminate on the Village Green or the MDI YWCA.
COMMUNITY RESILIENCE GRANT
The council unanimously approved with no discussion Sutherland’s request to sign a Community Resilience Grant, which brings $50,000 to the town to support local climate action efforts. The grant is meant to improve the Municipal Building’s energy efficiency and electrify it. The town’s Sustainability Coordinator Laura Berry would implement the grant. The 1911 building was once a school and a courthouse. It currently uses a 22-year-old Weil-McLain model 578 boiler and a 2020 Crown model FW-6 hot water boiler. The Crown was a replacement after an 18-year-old Weil-McLain hot water boiler failed to work. The current system burns #2 heating oil to heat the building.
Ed Monet was unanimously appointed to the town’s Harbor Committee. The Appointments Committee (Councilors Matt Hochman, Jill Goldthwait, with Jeff Dobbs excused) unanimously supported the former harbormaster and man known to many as Diver Ed to the committee. The Town Council agreed.
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