Bar Harbor councilors opened the floor to year-round residents Tuesday night at their town meeting.
A wide range off topics were addressed including paid parking and cruise ship tourism.
One of the last items on the agenda was the presentation of a citizens’ petition that gained nearly 400 signatures in ten days.
The purpose of that petition is to make sure voters have the final say.
“We’re a government of the people, by the people, and for the people and if we’re wise enough to vote for the council, then we’re wise enough to make this kind of decision,” said attorney Art Greif, who is representing the petitioners’ committee.
He’s at the meeting to make sure residents are heard, and ultimately, that their voice matters.
Nearly 400 signatures were collected in a citizen initiative to give voters control of the passenger cap and size of ships allowed to dock in Bar Harbor. The town council placed the topic on the June 13th warrant. Voting by town members will take place then.
“The question is, ‘Who should decide?’ The council on no notice without a public hearing? Or the voters with a notice with a full public hearing and a fully informed vote?” said Greif.
Barbara Fenderson is a former local business owner who says she’d like to see Bar Harbor stay a small town.
“It is not anti-business. It is pro town. It is pro island. It is pro Acadia national park,” she said.
The chair of the Cruise Ship Committee, Eben Salvatore, says they take a close look at tourism regularly. The passenger cap size will be raised by 500 people for four days next year (trial periods) to see whether or not the town can handle the numbers.
“I was born on this island. I’m from Bar Harbor. I care about it as much as anybody. I’m not gonna go charging into the night without a plan. We couldn’t go any slower in reviewing these things,” he said.
The parking is another issue as tourism increases. The town manager says paid lots and meters will arrive before garages can be built.
“We already have a shortage of land, space for residential use in the areas where we have town water and sewer. I think it’s very detrimental for the future of the community if we allow independent parking lots,” said one resident.
“These districts have requirements for off-street parking. They do not have a parking problem and I think that we should leave those districts alone…just leave us alone,” said another resident.
Councilors can now decide whether to place it on June’s ballot, table it, or decline it completely.
We’re told the petition will more than likely be sent to the planning committee to weigh the pros and cons.