What’s Land Got To Do With It?

Comprehensive Plan Committee Looks Toward Bar Harbor’s Future

Carrie Jones

BAR HARBOR—On Wednesday, Town Planner Michele Gagnon helped the Comprehensive Plan Committee journey through a workshop about the town’s land use, trying to envision what they would want the areas of Bar Harbor used for and not used for in the future.

The state mandates that municipalities update their comprehensive plans and the plans are meant to guide the town and help officials implement plans for Bar Harbor’s future, including development, protection of natural resources, and other pieces that the town deems important.

The last plan was in 2007. The plans are meant to guide the town’s priorities and goals for about ten years from its start date, Gagnon has said.

via Town of Bar Harbor website

The committee looked at the existing land uses, on Wednesday, and then watched a mapping presentation and looked for emerging themes before breaking into small groups and reporting their thoughts. The committee looked at maps like the one below to see what land is potentially in play for things like housing and what is in easement or part of Acadia National Park.

series of maps showing current layers of constrained land in Bar Harbor via Resilience Planning & Design

Public Works Director Bethany Leavitt also briefly spoke about what the current infrastructure was for supporting development and what capacity exists.

Committee Chair Kyle Shank said, “The meeting last night was really productive. We used maps to help us visualize where exactly development would be allowable to better contextualize what kind(s) of development we’d like to prioritize, deprioritize, or leave be. It really sparked great conversations around how to design this next Comprehensive Plan in such a way so as to maximize the ability for council, the Planning Board, and citizens to actually use it as a north star versus having it be entirely prescriptive: i.e., much more of a ‘why’ document than a ‘what,’ which I think is exactly what people want from our plan.”

“From the information gathered over the last few months, coupled with last night, the consultant will prepare a draft vision for the town and for the future land use plan,” Gagnon said.

That vision for land use is not a new zoning map, she stressed.

The next step is to hold public sessions in May and/or June to present and gather input on the ideas that were generated so far in the comprehensive plan process. In December, the town voted to extend the contract and increase the amount paid to Resilience Planning & Design, the firm leading the work. It also lead the Wednesday workshop.

“Honestly, hats off to the consultancy that we’re working with as well. They’re doing a fantastic job of working with our committee (which probably has a sum total of 50+ years of planning experience in it!) and keeping up with us, as well as keeping us focused on community engagement and outreach,” Shank said.


Comprehensive Plan page

Website dedicated to Bar Harbor’s Comprehensive Plan project.

Existing Conditions Analysis Report

Our December 15 story about the last Comprehensive Planning Committee meeting and discussion.

Calistra Martinez has been hired by the town’s planning department and no longer serves on the committee.

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