UPDATED: Planning Board Sets Public Hearing For Campground Shift Toward Cabins Instead of RVs

Land Use Ordinance Changes So Farms Can House Workers On Their Land Unlikely This Year


MAY 4, 2023

BAR HARBOR—The Bar Harbor Planning Board conducted a completeness review of the site plan of Bar Harbor Oceanside KOA at 136 County Road on Wednesday. The application is to upgrade the facility by adding five cabins in an area where nine RV/camper sites are currently located. The sites that are not going to become cabins will become landscaped areas. There will also be a three-stall bath house.

Jim Kaiser represented KOA.

Board member Earl Brechlin asked where the workers were going to be. According to Kaiser, they are all going to be across the street off Old County Road, which Kaiser said happened prior to this year.

“There’s no net loss of worker housing?” Brechlin said.

Kaiser assured him that there wouldn’t be.

Planning Board Chair Millard Dority asked the applicant to label the contours on the plan, label the rest of the exhibits from this point forward, show the 75-foot-shoreland consistently on the plan, doublecheck the tabulations of water, and also check the sewer systems and buildings. “I really think that sewer is going to be an important issue,” he said.

Kaiser said that they plan to continually monitor the septic fields for use and capacity. It’s right about where it needs to be capacity wise, but he said that they don’t have a good understanding of what’s going to each of the fields. They’ll be putting monitors on it this summer.

Planning Board Secretary Elissa Chesler proposed a motion to find the plan incomplete because its missing capacity letters from the public works and fire departments, as well as a ‘letter of no violation,’ and the site plan requires additional labelling. A public hearing and completeness hearing will be scheduled for June 7. It passed unanimously. Multiple waivers were also approved.


Assistant Planner and former Planning Board member, Cali Martinez has been doing research where in town employee living quarters and shared accommodations are currently allowed and showing uses of comparable scales. She is also including commercial uses and district characters for her data. She’s trying to organize the data into tables in a way that’s useful and intuitive. Martinez doesn’t think that to do the project meaningfully it can be done before the November ballot.

Vice Chair Ruth Eveland suggested letting the farm folks know ahead of time that it probably won’t be done by then for changes for next summer. There had been hopes by those that own farms that changes would happen soon so that they can have employee living quarters or shared accommodations on the farms.

“We just want to make sure that when we stand in front of a room and we’re asked questions that we can answer showing a thought process that is solid,” Planning Director Michele Gagnon said.

Eveland said that level of detail will give people confidence that the decision is based soundly.

There is a great list of things that need attention, Gagnon said. “We are still pulled all the time in all different directions.”

Shoreland zoning, lodging, state legislative changes, employee living quarters, and shared accommodations are all being worked on by the staff as well as the Design Review Board’s appendix a and zoning overlays and the Comprehensive Plan.


Chesler gave a quick update about the Comprehensive Planning Committee’s work and said that the plan is moving away from walkable neighborhoods, which was an emphasis in the 2007 Comprehensive Plan, and toward where development is accessible to transportation and capable of being developed.

She later clarified what she meant in that quick statement to the board.

“What I was referring to was that the previous comp plan was built around a concept of Bar Harbor’s villages and their unique characteristics and how they provided what could be central gathering points that could be accessed on foot or bike. In contrast, the draft future land use pattern up for discussion in the upcoming forums highlights global land use patterns and areas where increased population density places people in closer proximity to existing infrastructure. This could reduce habitat fragmentation, place people near better existing walking/biking routes, and generally reduce the costs and impacts of developing residential housing accessible to these areas.  I absolutely was not suggesting that we are turning away from walkability and bikeable communities, just trying to identify realistic ways of making it happen, and not necessarily around the organizing concept of our multiple villages. 

“The previous comp plan embraced a concept called ‘Great American Neighborhood.’ It’s a great concept, which clusters housing and provides ready access to open spaces, and was a movement away from national land use patterns featuring large subdivisions with few outlets that separate housing from small businesses and other services. In Bar Harbor, the populations of our villages is such that few could support their own centers, e.g. with small neighborhood bars, restaurants, cafes and stores. Places like Town Hill Village are not readily walkable or bikeable to many of the residents of subdivisions off the Crooked Road, but with heroic efforts could be made more so. The requirements and allowances for clustering and open space embodied in sections of the LUO such as PUD-O don’t fit well in the constraints of most developable land, and despite good intentions were not ideally suited to promote a range of attainable housing price points. Therefore, while the plan proposed the type of community many people aspire to have, it was not a practical fit for implementation within the scope, timeline, or resources available.”

There is a series of workshops where the public has a chance to give input on the plan’s draft vision statement, which is a state-mandated part of the plan.

“We’re going there with something so people can think about and bring in their own thoughts on it for us to take back,” Gagnon said. “It really represents the intention that we have of really getting true and meaningful feedback.”

There will be food at all events and all people with a Bar Harbor address will be getting mailed invitations. Working with a younger age group pushed them to try a new venue of Atlantic Brewing. “We’re really excited trying this new venue,” she said. The flyer and RSVP form are also on the website, and the link to rsvp is below.

Planning Board member Joseph Cough asked if the committee had thought about the high school’s need for a new septic field, which will likely cost about $4 million and if the town could create a sewer station nearby, hook it into the high school’s septic field and possibly help spur denser residential development along a portion of Norway Drive because individual houses wouldn’t need leach fields.

Gagnon said the expansion of wastewater has not been talked about in that manner. However, they did talk about how things can happen, but it’s a matter of funding. “That’s an interesting concept. It changes a lot of things quickly.”




Here is the link to the RSVP form for the free discussions: LINK

This story has been updated so that Elisa Chessler could expand upon her statement at the meeting.

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