Warrant Committee Mostly Recommends Council’s Proposed Budget

Recommends Wayfinding Service Be Fully Funded

Carrie Jones

BAR HARBOR— The Warrant Committee almost completely agreed with the Town Council’s recommended budget from its March 21 meeting, recommending to the Bar Harbor voters adoption of the Town Council’s budget for Fiscal Year 2024.

Voters approve or tweak the budget in June.

The council unanimously voted to adopt the budget as presented at its March 21 meeting, which means a budget that’s 11.1% more than this current fiscal year’s budget.  The amount that the town needs to raise via property taxes is $22,119,229.

During their own March 29 meeting, Warrant Committee members recommended to recommend section after section of the budget. The only hitches to the process, led by Warrant Committee Chair Seth Libby and four subcommittee chairs, were a few conflict of interest votes, and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s request for wayfinding funds.

The committee’s focus Wednesday night was on the Town Council’s adopted budget of March 21, 2023. Libby explained that where committee members disagreed with those council numbers, it then becomes an issue for the town voters to decide in June. Voters can also potentially change bits of the budget on the floor of the town meeting. The budget itself is for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins in July 2023 and ends in June 2024.

The only variance from the Town Council’s adopted budget was the line item concerning the wayfinding funds.


Jeff Young motioned to put the $17,000 back in the line budget for the Bar Harbor Chamber’s wayfinding needs. Kevin DesVeaux seconded. It does not affect the taxpayers, Young said, because the money comes from the cruise ship fees. The chamber received $42,600 in the March 21 budget, the same as the previous year.

Carol Chappell asked why the $17,400 wasn’t put in the budget, which would fund the chamber’s full request. Town Council Chair Valerie Peacock, who attended the meeting said that the council didn’t really have any discussion about it. There is money in the cruise ship account to support the increase, interim Town Manager and Finance Director, Sarah Gilbert said.

Speaking on behalf of the chamber of commerce, Nina Barufaldi St. Germain said that the service includes helping visitors know where to park, the dissemination of town information via app and social media as well as hard copy and manning a kiosk on West Street and at the town’s visitor center. The chamber employees and volunteers deal with tourist questions via phone, email and in person. The service is not just for the cruise ships, she said. And when the cruise ships weren’t in town during COVID-19, there was still record visitation. The $60,000 brings the service’s funding back to its pre-COVID levels. DesVeaux said that Bar Harbor was unique because most other towns provide the service themselves and fund it themselves through the town’s own parks and recreation department.

Libby, Chappell, and Cough voted against increasing the amount to $60,000. Salvatore did not vote.


Committee member Eben Salvatore did not vote on the wayfinding item because he is a member of the chamber’s board. He also did not vote on a line item about the YMCA because of the same issue. Caleb Cough questioned this because he was found to not have a conflict of interest earlier though his stepfather also serves on the YMCA board. Most members believed he did not have a conflict because there was no fiduciary interest. There was a quick question of whether or not there was influence from kitchen table discussions. The town’s ordinance also has language about appearances of a conflict of interest. That ordinance is currently being reviewed.

Cough was determined to have a conflict of interest (12-1), which he, like Salvatore, disclosed, because his stepmother, Town Councilor Erin Cough, is the head of the MDI Historical Society. The vote on Salvatore regarding the chamber’s wayfinding request was an 11-2 decision.

The town launched a Polco survey last week specifically about the town’s ethic ordinance. Conflicts of interest and how those are dealt with are part of those rules.


Also at the beginning of the meeting, Salvatore brought up concerns about cost of living increases to staff and whether or not those were mandated.

Libby said this should be the second to the last meeting. He believes the process went more smoothly than the year before. The next Warrant Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for next Wednesday.

There was no discussion of land use ordinance amendments though there were presentations. Town Planner Michele Gagnon, Code Enforcement Officer Angie Chamberlain and Gilbert attended. These changes have to be approved by voters in June to be enacted. The committee will discuss them and make recommendations at its next meeting.

They include:

Double Setback Distances

Buildings have to have twice the setback distance within a subdivision without lots. The requirement can reduce the maximum number of buildings in a subdivision. It’s a requirement that the Planning Board has waived several times because it is often impossible to meet.

Floor Area Ratio

This measurement controls the size of building and is only applicable in one zone. It’s a constantly changing standard which makes it hard for property owners to determine the standards.

Chamberlain explained that if a homeowner wanted to build a 10 by 10 addition to house on Ledgelawn Ave., she would have to calculate all buildings within 300 feet. If someone demolished a building, that calculation would change and impact all the surrounding properties. Cough said that this makes property owners’ plans at the mercy of their neighbors. Gagnon said this ratio is usually used as a lot-by-lot measurement in other towns, not for an entire district.

Conversion of a Building to Multifamily Use

“I’ve never understood this one,” Chamberlain said. Each dwelling unit has to be at least 500 square feet, which is already covered by the building code and more restrictive, however those stipulations are not there for new use.

It prohibits tiny homes being built in converted structures, because tiny homes in Bar Harbor are no larger than 499 square feet.

Underground Utilities

Overhead utilities reduces the cost for developers and also reduces the underground disruption. It is often waived by the Planning Board, Chamberlain said. This would get rid of the requirement of underground utilities.


Conners Emerson Principal Heather Webster said that on Monday, April 3, the school board meets and there will be a presentation from Harriman’s, the firm that created the plans for the school’s potential rebuild. For this to happen, voters have to approve a school bond that’s approximately $53 million.

There were no current questions about the school bond or the project. The meeting is set to be in the Conners Emerson Library and begins at 4:30. She encouraged committee members to attend.

To read a fuller story about those proposed land use ordinances that were presented, click here.

To stream the meeting.

To read more about the budget itself, click here, and also check out the town’s webpage for primary sources.

To read more about the town’s ethics ordinance, click here.

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