What Will Bar Harbor’s Future Be and Who Will Make Sure It Happens?

Comprehensive Planning Committee Sets May Workshop For Public Input


BAR HARBOR—The town’s Comprehensive Planning Committee met Thursday night to work through a draft map on land uses as well as a visioning statement, intending to get feedback on a set of workshops with the public in May. The Thursday night meeting was in person, on Zoom, and streamed and featured input by Resilience Planning Group’s (RPG) Steve Whitman and Liz Kelly. The company is helping guide the town in the creation of its newest comprehensive plan. The last was in 2007.

There are currently four workshops that will be scheduled during the course of two days in May. One of those workshops is in the morning and members of the business and nonprofit community will be solicited to attend that one, but all are open to all members of the community.

After a draft vision statement was presented by RPG for feedback, the committee decided to form a group to whittle down the language a bit, making it more active and present tense, and to use Bar Harbor as the subject in more of the sentences.

During the public comment period, Ruth Eveland wanted to ask for discussion for who is in charge or responsible for making it all happen. Town Council Chair Val Peacock said she’s been thinking about it a lot. She said that the council changes as it goes along and who is in charge of the plan and how it is managed can’t just be the council because of that. She said the question is: What is the constant vision holder of the town?

Comprehensive Planning Committee member and Parks and Recreation Chair John Kelly said it’s the residents of Bar Harbor that are the vision holders and the Council works as their proxy.

The plan becomes the guide that creates the vision.

Peacock said the question becomes in terms of the town holding the vision for the town’s residents and plan, what does it mean to be the vision keepers for the town and how is it explicit in the process of how the town does things and makes changes and decisions in the future.

The map that was discussed and will be changed for the May workshops.

A map that RPG created tries to show population density through color and the potential for more density. It created two distinct areas that the committee focused on during its discussions, Bar Harbor Gateway (the northern portion of town about Route 3) and Rural Residential and Sensitive Resources (below Town Hill’s center). Discussion centered on how the areas are more similar than different, where there should or shouldn’t be mixed-use commercial development, and whether “gateway” is an off-putting name. The committee decided to get rid of the distinction in those areas for the workshops in May.

Committee Chair Kyle Shank said that the commercial activity of Route 3 is targeted for people who don’t necessarily live in Bar Harbor. The commercial activity of Town Hill is more for people who do live in the town.

Planning Director Michele Gagnon told the committee that as development increases, so too does traffic. The idea is to create depth off the main corridor, she said and added that this is exactly what Bar Harbor has not done in the past.

Committee member and Planning Board member Elissa Chesler said that the expansion of residential and hospitality can’t all occur downtown. Everything the town wants, she says, can’t all fit. And decisions have to be made, as well as priorities.

The workshop sessions in May will also focus on these areas. There was discussion about whether or not to have an online component as well for people who couldn’t attend in person.

During the Thursday night discussion, there was some discussion about the vision for the future in regards to things like allowing the tourism industry to continue its growth as it has in the past or allowing housing to “catch up.” Gagnon mentioned that the committee has had little discussion about other types of businesses. There was also small discussions and/or mentions of sprawl, cluster development. Chesler mentioned that the people who fish out of the downtown area are not mentioned in the vision statement currently, and she believes that they should be. School Board member, committee member and former Vice Chair Misha Mytar mentioned the unintended consequences if the town doesn’t give commercial and residential interests specific places to grow. 



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.

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