Shared-Use Path Plan Approved
BAR HARBOR—A full Town Council met on Tuesday night before heading into an executive session that was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. The executive session was to discuss the ongoing lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Association to Preserve and Protect Local Livelihoods, et al. vs Town of Bar Harbor with Charles Sidman as the defendant intervenor.
The last document filed on the case was U.S. District Court Judge Lance E. Walker’s denial of the town’s and Sidman’s motion to dismiss.
The case involves the constitutionality of the daily cruise ship disembarkation limits that was brought before town voters this past November via a citizens’ petition led by Sidman. The voters approved the changes, which have not yet gone into effect. They are pending the results of the lawsuit.
YMCA AND AN RV
The YMCA has submitted an application to the Design Review Board to allow an RV at its Park Street property. The town has to sign off to allow the application because the town owns the YMCA property. Gilbert said she wasn’t comfortable signing that herself, but felt it had to be a council decision.
An RV at the location would have to be approved by the Design Review Board and other aspects of the town government. According to an April 7 memo by Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain, she has seen an increased request for the use of RVs as housing. The town’s land use ordinance doesn’t have specific language covering this, so her office has done it on a case-by-case basis, she wrote.
The site is behind the Y’s main building. It will require a connection to the town sewer, an electrical installation, and possibly access to water.
In her memo, Chamberlain said she strongly discouraged the use in the downtown area “to avoid potential adverse impacts to abutting properties in the denser areas of town. Allowing RVs to be used for housing in all areas of town without limitation could have unintended negative consequences.”
During the discussion, it was mentioned numerous times that the YMCA does not have immediate neighbors. That term is not defined in the land use ordinance. The Y is sited at the end of School Street and along Park Street. It has neighbors on the opposite side of School Street, Edgewood Street, and directly abutting neighbors on Main Street.
The YMCA CEO Ann Tikkanen told the councilors, “I’d rather not have to do this. We’re licensed for 50 children for the summer. We take care of 150 children (throughout the year). More than half are members of the MDI community.” She said she’s personally been trying to find camp counselors to find housing and that the RV’s placement would just be for the summer, May through the end of September.
“It would hold one person or a couple,” she said. The person she originally hoped to house there has found a room on the other side of the island.
Last year, because of housing, the child care director stayed at Tikkanen’s house. She said she knows how unusual the request is.
Goldthwait said she had nothing negative to say about the YMCA. The site has some unique characteristics that made her feel like she can support this. She said there are no immediate neighbors and that she has the vaguest of anxieties about if they are starting something here.
Minutolo said the issue showcases the housing problems that the town has. He said he had concerns. “If we do this, what’s the ripple effect down the road?” he asked. Could it be a temporary or pilot solution as a one-off, he wondered.
Hochman also said he was concerned with the precedent that is set. “Once you open the floodgates, it’s very hard to close them again.”
Peacock said that they as the council when voting aren’t voting to allow the use, they are just giving the YMCA permission to apply. These sort of things aren’t normally coming before the council, she said.
When Chamberlain looked at the applications on a case-by-case basis, one of those cases was that it was allowed but not for a seasonal rental, Cough said. If the town said it was okay for the town to do, it creates a precedent and slippery slope. She said it was too slippery a slope for the town to say that it’s okay for the town to do it.
Tikkanen said the Y isn’t profiting from it. Peacock asked if she was charging rent. Anne said if the town didn’t want her to, she wouldn’t.
Friedmann said that the ask reflects that there is a housing crisis in the town that’s not being dealt with quickly enough. He said he strongly supported it. Hochman said that it seemed as if the Code Enforcement Officer was encouraging the council to not approve it. Hochman said that the tacit parameters that the council might put in place might not hold up legally. Those parameters included that it be one person or one couple, not to be driven, no immediate neighbors, no external lights, no fire pits. At one point, Friedmann moved to call the question, but the motion failed with Minutolo, Friedmann and J. Clark Stivers voting in favor.
Cough asked if the council would support this if the public works department or another department wanted to do this and is this a path that the town wants to go down for town property?
Friedmann moved to authorize the town manager to allow the YMCA to apply for installation. Goldthwait seconded and it passed unanimously.
BALL FIELD USE
The council also unanimously approved the YMCA to use the ball field for its camp this summer.
During the Tuesday meeting, councilors unanimously voted in a consent agenda, which approved the annual town meeting’s hearing schedule and notice as well as the renewal of vehicles for hire (Y and P Taxi Service, Cadillac Mountain Summit Shuttle, and Sunrise 2 Sunset Taxi), the small balance write-offs for taxes, and workers’ compensation safety incentive program resolution. It was voted on as one item.
SPECIAL AMUSEMENT PERMITS
Salt Cottages on 20 State Highway 3, the Bluenose Inn at 90 Eden Street and the Bar Harbor Inn at 8 Newport Drive all received special amusement permits. There was no public comment, but according to councilors, three neighbors of Salt Cottages had complained that outdoor amplification would disturb the peace.
Councilor Jill Goldthwait said it’s a bit of a dilemma because the application is legal in the location, but neighbors say it will disturb the peace. “It seems to me when residents of the area are complaining, just saying it’s legal in the area is not very satisfactory.”
Vice Chair Matthew Hochman said he doesn’t like to presuppose a problem and prefers to fall back on the ordinance. If there are issues, there are procedures to fall back on, he said. He also said that the email complaining wasn’t signed and he wasn’t thrilled about acting on an anonymous request.
A representative from Salt Cottages said that the business wanted live jazz music once a week and it would be done by 9 p.m. in the evening and usually involve only one musician. The business applied for three or more musicians at a time for flexibility for special events such as the Fourth of July barbecue.
The council unanimously approved all the special amusement permits.
For the discussion of a potential shared-use path on West Street, Councilor Erin Cough stepped down. It was determined at a previous meeting that Cough had a conflict of interest because she heads the Bar Harbor Historical Society, which is situated at the beginning of the proposed path.
Councilor Joe Minutolo asked if he also had a conflict because it’s a shared-use path and he’s in the bicycle business.
Hochman moved that Minutolo did not have a conflict of interest. Goldthwait seconded. The council unanimously voted that he did not. Minutolo and Cough did not vote on the conflict of interest issue.
The possibilities are focused on a stretch of West Street by Eddie Brook and the connection to Eden Street. A goal of the project is to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety as they enter the downtown area via West Street.
Hochman moved alternative number four of Public Works Director Bethany Leavitt’s possibilities for the path. It passed unanimously.
Minutolo said the town needs these types of projects and appreciates the effort to save as much of the tree canopy as possible. Council Chair Valerie Peacock also praised Leavitt’s breakdown and analysis of the choices. The project is already budgeted for.
According to the original early April presentation,
“Discussions initiated within the Parking Solutions Task Force to look into options to extend the Eden Shared Use Path (SUP) from it’s ending point at the corner of DeGregoirePark and the crosswalk near the entrance of West Street.”
SENIOR TAX PROGRAM
The council had 10 applicants for the town’s local tax assistance program, which was created last fall. Of those applicants, seven qualified for the rebate. The council unanimously voted to take the $3,000 that will be used to give those people rebates from the town’s contingency account. Goldthwait said it was less than a drop in the bucket from the town’s budget and is meaningful for those who benefit.
The program was not budgeted for FY2024, but will be for FY2025, interim Town Manager and Finance Director Sarah Gilbert explained after a question from Minutolo. Next year it will likely come from the contingency fund as well.
When Gilbert presented the financial report, Councilor Gary Friedmann asked why the vacation rentals line is half of last year’s total. The line he is referring to is the yearly permit fees. Gilbert said that last year several scrambled to get their permits in on time. The renewals must be done before the end of May. Gilbert believes the difference has to do with timing. There was also $10k in refunds, she said.
Cough asked if the town was expecting a flood of permits prior to May 31. Gilbert said that they were.
Disclosure: My home is one of the neighbors of the YMCA.
LINKS TO LEARN MORE
Potential Shared Use Path Ideas Presented
An earlier article about grant for pedestrian safety
111KB ∙ PDF File
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