One Step At A Time

Design Review Board Hopes To Refine Its Duties

Carrie Jones

BAR HARBOR—The head of Bar Harbor’s planning department had three nights of back-to-back meetings this week beginning with the town council meeting Tuesday and ending with a Design Review Board Meeting on Thursday.

Four members of the Design Review Board, Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain and Planning Director Michele Gagnon continued discussion on proposed amendments to Chapter 125,  which is the part of the town code that organizes the Design Review Board.

Pouring over the language of the chapter and diving into the responsibilities of the board and the planning department, all present discussed the multiple proposed changes. Chamberlain is going to finalize the document and bring back the potential changes to the board. If the process continues to move forward, those changes would be on the town ballot in November.

The discussion was a continuation of talks in December and January where conversations covered potential changes to the board’s design overlay; whether or not the board or the Code Enforcement Office should cover sign approval when not illuminated; town-owned buildings and projects; and whether or not the board should have design purview over the Shoreland Maritime District, which is where the ferry terminal is. Thursday’s meeting was more of a refinement of potential language with some discussion on possible tweaks and bigger changes and discussion over what to call the area where the current international ferry docks.

Because there are so many refinements and needs to fix the issues with the town’s language governing the board and even tweaks to the placement of that language within town codes and the land use ordinance, Committee member Mike Rogers asked, “Is there a way we can start from scratch? Because it’s pretty goofy.”

This began a discussion about whether or not it made sense to go through the changes more slowly or rapidly. Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain advised that putting too many changes in at once and in a bulk package often results in failure at the polls because voters might dislike one change and therefore vote against the entirety of the changes. Recently multiple changes to the Warrant Committee resulted in a lawsuit because of how they were presented on the town ballot. The town lost that lawsuit, which was specifically about changes to the town charter, not the land use ordinance.

“We don’t want to have too many balls in the air before we’re sure where they’ve landed,” Gagnon said, also advising against a big swoop of changes rather than going through the changes step by step.


In other business, the board quickly and unanimously approved the MDI YMCA’s request for a new sign on its building at 21 Park Street. The sign would be above the entrance door.

Chair Barbara Sassaman asked Bradley Stager of the MDI YMCA to double check on the amount of square footage of total signage at the site, and give that to the planning department when he goes to get a building permit.

via application


Ralph Jones of RFJ Caretaking, who had cracked a hip the day before, was there representing the building’s owner and said that the plan is to replace existing railings and deck, which are rotting. The project was approved unanimously.

via application


There was a brief discussion of a deck built at 321 Main Street (Salt and Steel) which was allegedly not what had been approved by the Design Review Board. The restaurant owners will now have to file for the changes.


Judge Rules 2020 Changes to Bar Harbor’s Town Charter Should Be Set Aside

The Purview of Bar Harbor’s Design Review Board Could Change

Click to access BA1953-125d%20Appendix%20A.pdf

Bar Harbor Story is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s