Comp Plan Sessions: What Is Your Vision For Bar Harbor?


MAY 11, 2023

BAR HARBOR—The case against the town’s new cruise ship limits is currently scheduled for July with the final video pre-trial conference scheduled for 9 a.m. on June 7. Magistrate Judge Karen Frink Wolf is scheduled to preside. The case Associate P (APPLL) vs Bar Harbor is on the July 2023 Civil Trial list.

The original group’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court,  Association to Preserve & Protect Local Livelihoods aka APPLL (a recently formed nonprofit) and includes the Golden Anchor L.C. (Harborside) and Bar Harbor Pierce, LLC as plaintiffs, alleges that the cap on disembarkations is not constitutional. It also states that Bar Harbor’s economy will suffer. The plaintiffs do not ask for damages other than for attorney’s fees and expenses, but that the ordinance be overturned.

The plaintiffs also include BH Piers/Harbor Place, BHWW (Bar Harbor Whale Watch),  495, 493,  and 492 (ferry/cruise ship tenders).  The suit speaks to how the change would impact the harbormaster’s duties as well. 

The petitioners wrote that, “Although not expressly stated, the Initiative’s purpose―and actual effect―is to bar virtually all cruise ships that have safely visited Bar Harbor for decades and to bar the passengers who patronize those cruise ships from entering the Town.”

The plaintiffs argue that the ordinance violates three provisions of the United States Constitution:

1. Supremacy Clause

2. Commerce Clause

3. Due Process Clause

They are asking for a declaratory judgement that it violates federal law and asks the town not to enforce it. The town and the lead petitioner, Charles Sidman (who is running for Town Council) disagree.


The ten-year plan for Bar Harbor is taking shape, and the Comprehensive Planning Committee is hoping that locals will be a part of it during one of four public workshops May 23 and May 24.

According to a new website created by the town specifically for the plan,

“The purpose of the new Bar Harbor Comprehensive Plan is to reflect and respond to the needs, values, and priorities of the community while safeguarding Bar Harbor’s sense of place, history, and natural resources.”

via town website

The plan is a broad policy document that sets the foundation for Bar Harbor’s land use regulations, and the last plan was adopted in 2007. This next plan is meant to span until 2035. There is meant to be synchronicity between the town’s land use ordinances and the insights and town goals outlined in a comprehensive plan. Basically, it’s meant to guide changes to a town’s land use ordinances.

At the committee’s May 10 meeting, a lot of time was spent discussing the visioning workshops’ structure and advertising.


Liz Kelly of Resilience Planning (the company guiding the process for the town) said that the goals of the upcoming outreach sessions is to test initial draft content and involve the public in the process. There will be a presentation and people will learn about what has happened so far as well as a draft vision. Then there will be group round table discussions. Each group will then report out. A volunteer at each table will facilitate and also report back to the group as a whole.

via Kelly’s presentation

Steve Whitman of Resilience Planning said they want the participants to know that earlier public input, most of which occurred in October, has become a part of the process and how the committee is focusing on the big issues and how the town is framing them.

They are creating an online survey tool, but not a Zoom session, for those who want to be involved but can’t attend. One committee member said last night that she believes that people not on the committee are hungry to provide input about details rather than high levels of planning such as a vision statement. Committee Chair Kyle Shank (who is running for Town Council) said he believed they will get some detailed feedback at the sessions despite the high-level focus on vision.

There was some discussion, led by member John Kelly (chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee), about having the event at the Atlantic Brewing Company where alcohol is sold. There was precedence for this in the fall with an event at Lompoc. Allison Sasner, a member of the committee and the Warrant Committee, works at the Atlantic Brewing Company, which she was open about during the meeting. The goal of that intown, evening event is to reach people who can’t come during daytime hours, but also, to hopefully engage a younger group of voters and those who might be intimidated or not enthused about coming to the more sterile environment of the Bar Harbor Municipal Building.

via Whitman’s presentation

There was also discussion about two draft maps of future land use areas. These were tweaked during the meeting.


via Kelley and Whitman’s presentation

The vision originated from the outreach and drafts and input that the committee received and created as well as the 2007 vision statement. Resilience Planning then created the draft vision. At the last meeting there were some worries that the first version of the draft vision wasn’t inspiring enough. Jim Mahoney and Town Council Chair Val Peacock (who is running for reelection to Town Council) and an unnamed writer created a vision. They then thought about the impact of the verbs and adjectives being used.

It stresses the phrases of “of our place” by including it at the end of both the opening sentence and end sentence, both power positions. It also uses the adjective “diverse” twice to describe a “mix of people” as well as “economic strengths.” It’s written in the first person plural and uses the possessive “our” multiple times. One committee member asked to remove one of the instances of “diverse,” suggesting that it be taken out of the first sentence.

Comprehensive Planning Committee and Planning Board member Elissa Chesler focused on the phrase “sufficient equitable housing.” She said she knows the intent, but it reads awkwardly.

Using the first-person plural is what John Gardiner calls “town speak,” and others refer to as a groupthink that creates a shared experience, or a perception of one. Similarly, it creates a feeling of “we’ll do this together” according to a comparative study by the National Library of Medicine by Kinsman, et. al.


Town Planning Director Michele Gagnon updated committee members, telling them that she met with other people doing comprehensive plans on the island and on the Route 3 corridor toward Ellsworth. They went through the status of where the various comprehensive plans are. She spoke toward more regional coordination and planning issues that cross municipal boundaries like transportation and housing. Another meeting of those towns and representatives will likely be in three weeks.

Shank talked about his visit to the Marine Resources Committee. He said its members were interested in talking to them more. Zoom council candidate forums also talked about the comprehensive plan, Shank said.

Cruise Ship Court Case Links

Charles Sidman Supports His Desire To Be Part of Cruise Ship Law—Adopted-August-2021

Town Attorney Expects APPLL Lawsuit Will Be Settled By August


Bar Harbor’s Comprehensive Plan Website

To email them, or Planning Director Michele Gagnon

Meeting agendas and minutes from the Comprehensive Planning Committee, on the town’s Agenda Center

Comprehensive Planning Committee’s other webpage lists meeting schedules, committee members and related information

Polco results from July 4, 2022

Registration for May Visioning Workshops

RSVP is recommended, however walk-ins are welcome! Please view the RSVP form for more information on parking, food, etc. 


Editor’s Note: The writer of this story applied for the Comprehensive Planning Committee and was not selected. It’s a major reason why I do the Bar Harbor Story. I wanted to give back to the community in some way. So, basically, this is all their fault. 🙂 Just kidding!

Correction/Update: I foolishly included jury trial info in this story. I’ve corrected that.

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