Vacationland Coffee Roasters, New Business Next To Siam Orchid, Presents Vision To Design Review Board


MAY 1, 2023

BAR HARBOR—The proposed RV for seasonal housing behind the MDI YMCA on Park Street moved a bit forward last week after a Design Review Board meeting Thursday, April 17, at the Bar Harbor Municipal Building. The application, according to Code Enforcement Officer Angela Chamberlain on Monday, is still incomplete.

At the Thursday meeting, Andrea Lepcio had an excused absence. Barbara Sassaman, Pancho Cole, Kate Macko, and Mike Rogers were present. The seven-member board has two vacancies.

During its meeting, the board allowed the MDI YMCA to have two hook-ups so that it could potentially use an RV for temporary housing this summer.

There was some confusion about what was before the board, but members quickly discerned that they were only looking at two utility connections for the building and not approving the vehicle’s placement itself in the downtown zone behind the building.

“We’re not dealing with the vehicle at all, are we?” Sassaman asked.

The proposed site for the RV is behind the Y’s main building. It will require a connection to the town sewer, an electrical installation, and possibly access to water. The Y said it intends to use a hose to supply water. The RV is currently parked on Edgewood and was originally owned by Max Linn, a former politician, who is now deceased. The vehicle is currently parked on his property behind a fence.

Interim Town Manager Sarah Gilbert had to sign off to allow the RV’s potential placement to proceed before the board because the town owns the YMCA property. She asked the council to allow her to do so. The council voted unanimously at an April meeting to allow the request to proceed.

Originally, the RV’s placement was presented as if an RV at the Park Street location would have to be approved by the Design Review Board and other aspects of the town government. It would have to be approved by the code enforcement office, not the Design Review Board.

According to an April 7 memo by 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.

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.”

Chamberlain memo to Town Council and also given to Design Review Board

At the Design Review Board meeting, Town Planner Michele Gagnon explained that the Town Council said that as owner of the property they are allowing the applicant to apply for this project to this board and also to the code enforcement office. The board members’ packets included Chamberlain’s memo about how the planning and code enforcement offices have traditionally dealt with RV requests for short-term or seasonal housing within the downtown districts.

per YMCA application to Town Council, meant to depict placement of the RV
per Tuesday application

“We’re not comfortable with those in the downtown,” Gagnon told the board. “I don’t know how you’re going to deal with this.”

Cole said he didn’t think the RV being used as temporary housing in a downtown district fell into the board’s purview. Sassaman agreed. Rogers agreed as well.

The application before the Design Review Board, Rogers said, didn’t have anything to do with the RV. It was only for the conduit and outlet to connect an RV.

Macko said that the board is not the governing body for a decision for temporary housing on a town-owned lot.

Brad Stager, representing the YMCA, said the utilities are in the most hidden corner of the building. The board unanimously approved the utility hook-ups. It is believed that Chamberlain would be the one to approve the RV itself via the issuance or denial of a building permit.


per application

The restaurant on 34 Rodick Street requested the replacement of its current fence with a new prefabricated fence, installation of three retractable awnings over windows to shade the patios, adding pavers, a seating area with a free-standing propane fire pit, new sign, and that the staircase from Lompoc change its orientation. Those requests were tabled until the next meeting.

Heather Pellegrin represented Siam Orchid, which hopes to have an outdoor waiting area. This necessitated the request of the orientation of stairs on the right-hand side of the property.

Rogers asked for more detailed and consistent plans. There was also discussion about the safety of the staircase steps and heating area.

per application


per application

Also at 34 Rodick Street, Hatsana Phanthavong requested changes to the building’s exterior to put in decking, pilasters, planters, a sign, and an outdoor bar at a new coffee shop and roaster.

Emily Dwyer represented Phanthavong and his partner Christopher Romero. The decking would be gray composite decking with a six-inch rise. The location would have a nautical, wooden-boat feel with flowers on top of the decking.

Rogers asked about wheelchair access, which is not a design review issue but a building code issue. He worried that simple things for code are not being addressed before design review presentations.

All applicants can talk to Chamberlain prior to submitting designs to the board.

A good majority of the discussion dealt with ramp design and wheelchair access. Building materials and colors were approved. The board approved the application with the following modifications: an ADA ramp at the front right corner acceptable to the code enforcement office, with a potential step down that wouldn’t interfere with Siam Orchid’s awning, a bracing system may be applied to support the window, and the bottom of the sign needs to be ten-feet above the sidewalk or swung inwards over the patio.


On Friday, Phanthavong explained that a window that was mentioned at the Design Review Board meeting would not be a take-out window but would be able to swing open and out. Phanthavong also clarified that a fire pit that was mentioned at the same meeting was a propane heating unit of the same style commonly used on restaurant decks throughout town except that it would be in a horizontal position rather than the more standard vertical position.

He said that he’s excited to collaborate with and support Romero with his vision. They hope to open in July and will have some food as well as alcohol and coffee blended drinks. Romano will be roasting coffee on site as well. Interior construction has begun and Romero has been in their multiple nights getting ready, Phanthavong said.


Buildings and structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places are considered historic via the town codes. That means that they can be added to the Appendix A of the town’s land use ordinance. Assistant Planner Cali Martinez presented the extensive work she’d done on the topic. The board members also want to talk to owners about this potential change.  

Next steps in the discussion per Martinez memo




Disclosure: I am a neighbor to the YMCA.

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