Town Looks For Adaptable Plan for Potential Public Marina, Including Potential Cruise Ship Tendering

Plan for the CAT Site Meant to Be Finished in December

BAR HARBOR—Stakeholders with an interest in the town’s property at 121 Eden Street, should be hearing from consultants this month Harbor Committee Chair Jeff Miller said at the committee’s Monday night meeting.

The consultants, GEI, have held a site visit, kick-off meeting, and have told Miller that they are gathering stakeholder input, which will be compiled and presented at the committee’s February 13 meeting. Miller polled committee members, many of whom are stakeholders, and none had yet been contacted. GEI representatives told Miller that they intend to reach out to as many stakeholders as possible.

The town purchased the location in 2018. It was first built for the Bluenose ferry in 1956. Miller’s update was about GEI Consultants (the company working with the Harbor Committee on the town’s master plan for the former ferry terminal).

Next up would be a demolition concept plan for the town-owned site which is partially leased to Bay Ferries, which runs the CAT, and that would also be presented to the committee in February. 

Though there are some preliminary concept sketches there is  no plan yet, Miller said, but there is supposed to be one by December of this year. “That’s already less than a year away,” Miller said. “Time marches on pretty quickly,” he added, especially during the season. Miller and other committee members stressed that it’s also important to have a plan for the part of the site that’s currently a parking lot. Miller said that the upland part requires equal consideration for the 5,500 people who live here. “A majority of them don’t have boats. And are still very much interested in seeing what happens up there.”

Harbormaster Christopher Wharff encouraged Miller to contact GEI and keep him in the loop and if the committee members have questions to send them to Miller who would then collate the questions and ask for a response from GEI.

GEI also asked the Harbor Committee for guidance about how the town’s land use ordinance changes brought on after the town voted in favor of limiting cruise ship disembarkations should be considered in regards to the master plan.  Committee member Micala Delepierre had also asked a similar question. Wharff said he would defer to the town manager for those questions. Town Council Chair Valerie Peacock said that the question of tendering at the ferry terminal is something that should be considered as draft plans for the area are created. Currently cruise ship passengers tender to private property.

Peacock said that if tendering occurred at the site, there would also have to be a secured, approved facility and that would impact other uses at the marina, but that the possible use should be looked into and it would be good to have the option in the plan concepts. There would also have to be screening, a way to segregate cruise ship passengers from other users, and bussing infrastructure.

Wharff said years ago the town had a plan that showed tendering at the location.

Miller wondered if the pier currently being used by the CAT could also handle cruise ship tenders since the ferry has a set schedule and tenders could potentially use that pier on the off times. Despite fears that the ferry service may shut down, it is currently selling tickets for the upcoming season.

Delepierre stressed that it is important to look at all the options for the site.

“The Cat is up in the air and cruise ship tendering is up in the air. There are a lot of moving pieces,” she said.

Wharff said, “Any plan that you develop has to be built so that it’s easy to add on to or change in the future if the CAT doesn’t come back or if there is tendering in the future. So, it needs to be adaptable.”

The CAT is a high-speed ferry that moves passengers from Yarmouth, Canada to Bar Harbor.

“It certainly didn’t do the numbers that it was counting on or projecting and the Canadian government could decide to stop funding it,” Miller said at a December Town Council meeting. The space is relatively small as it is, without the CAT there, it’s bigger, but Bar Harbor would lose the income from the Cat’s lease if the CAT were not there, he said.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston has pushed back at Bay Ferries, the company that operates the CAT. His government subsidizes $17 million for the ferry service and has ordered an economic impact study on the service this fall. The study is said to be a “broad overview” of the Cat’s impact for Yarmouth and the region.

In his Manager’s Memo, a part of the Town Council December 20 packet, Town Manager Kevin Sutherland wrote,

“As a recap, the Town of Bar Harbor was awarded a SHIP grant last spring to develop concept plans and the Town hired GEI to work with the Harbormaster and the Harbor Committee to see that plan through. GEI is just starting the December 2022 to May 2023 draft concept plan development and continuing the stakeholder/public input outreach process. Included in the packet is GEI’s scope of work and schedule for Council’s reference.”

OTHER BUSINESS

House Representative Lynne Williams (D) has resigned from the committee, but she is now the chair of the transportation committee. Rep. Williams is a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation, which handles, according to the legislatures’ website,

“Department of Transportation; Bureau of Motor Vehicles; motor vehicle registration and license plates; drivers’ licenses; driver education; Maine Turnpike Authority; Highway Fund; transportation policy; public transportation; aeronautics; highway and bridge construction and maintenance; highway safety; traffic regulation; waterways; railroads; Department of Public Safety, State Police; and motor vehicles and motor carriers.”

Edward Monet was at his first meeting after being appointed to the committee by a unanimous council last week.

Harbormaster Chris Wharff said the pilons are in. There will be a hydraulic hoist (also known as a heist, according to some committee members, when referring to water operations) with a 500-pound lifting capacity. That work should occur by May 15 of this year. He said that he went to a training about mooring orientation and that the tow is in the early stages of tracking the mooring catalog of the Bar Harbor.

Wharff said cataloging the moorings, scouring the bottom of the site and then recreating a system of mooring placements is “a huge project, but there is professional help out there” when the town is ready. Since boats are bigger now than when the moorings first went in, it has changed the way things fit and there could be better ways to use the space, he said.

The December 23 storm filled the town’s parking area by Agamont Park with seaweed, which has been cleaned up. Monet thanked the town for that. Some bricks were also dislodged from the sidewalk and granite pieces were dislodged by the ramp.


LINKS TO LEARN MORE 

For more information about the Transportation Committee’s schedule of committee hearings or to sign up for advance notice of public hearings click here.

https://legislature.maine.gov/housedems/williamsl/index.html

Committee Worries Over Communication About Town’s Plans at Former Ferry Terminal

Town Council Receives Update on Ferry Terminal Plan


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