May 21, 2019

School bond leads Bar Harbor referendum

BAR HARBOR — A $2.1 million school bond question leads the list of local issues to be decided by Bar Harbor voters next Tuesday.

If the article receives the support of a majority of voters, property taxes for the next 20 years would increase by about 48 cents per $1,000 of valuation, Town Manager Dana Reed said Thursday.

Townspeople will also consider a number of changes to the land use ordinance, including one which would allow the continued use of nonconforming signs erected prior to June 10, 1986.

State mandated changes to the town’s shoreline zoning ordinances are on the ballot. Having already cost the town $5,500 to make the revisions, future adjustments to those same ordinances have in recent weeks been mandated by the state. Town Planner Jonathan Lockman said recently that voters will probably be looking at additional mandated revisions at the next election as well.

The local school board has recommended that $2.1 million are needed to build an addition to the Emerson School and to make renovations and improvements to both the Emerson and Connors schools. No state funding is available to assist the town with the project. An additional $5,000 in operating costs is anticipated for the first two years.

The town’s warrant committee has added its recommendation that the article be adopted.

The proposed addition to the Emerson School would include a large multi-purpose room which would serve as a junior high school regulation-size gym. That room would have a stage and would be the school’s auditorium for musical performances and and could double as a community conference center.

In describing the need for a regulation-size gym, Superintendent Dick McFalls said recently that the Bar Harbor school’s facilities rate well below those of the other island elementary schools. McFalls said that other schools choose not to come to the Bar Harbor facility for sports events because of the limited size of the building.

The addition would include a computer room, a library with a work room, a music classroom, storage space and a lobby. The redesign of the parking lot and bus turn-around area would, according to school members, alleviate some of the parking problems.

Renovations to both buildings are planned. A study conducted three years ago by Krumbhaar and Holt Associated Architects of Ellsworth found that the present structures are sound but in need of repair.

That same study recommended that approximately 21,000 additional square feet were needed at the school to accommodate the programs and number of students. The proposed addition would add about 12,000 square feet and would reclaim four rooms for classroom space.

In outlining the reasons for the proposed expansion, McFalls has cited the projected increases in enrollment expected over the next several years, with about 600 students predicted for 1995.

Both the planning board and the warrant committee have recommended the passage of the warrant article which would allow non-conforming signs erected prior to June 1986 to remain in place.

Several business owners appealed to the Town Council this fall to place the issue on the warrant, claiming that the town should not require businesses to remove signs that are not offensive.

If the article passes, the 1986 land-use ordinance would be amended. That ordinance, which was passed by townspeople, included the stipulation that all signs in town would conform to specific regulations by June 1991. The town extended that deadline to January 1992 at this year’s town meeting to give additional time for non-conforming businesses to comply.

Many businesses did not comply with the ordinance, even though new businesses which have erected signs since June 10, 1986, have been required to obtain a building permit and to comply with the sign ordinance.

The “grandfather” ordinance to be decided next Tuesday would require that non-conforming signs be registered with the town office. If voters approve the change, a non-conforming business which changes ownership or use in the future, or makes a permanent sign change, would have to meet standards set by the 1986 ordinance.

Another article on the warrant would authorize town officials to borrow up to $250,000 to construct a road on property on Route 3 where an affordable housing project has been proposed. Those funds would only be borrowed if the project gains the required permits.

One article on the ballot calls for an amendment to the land use ordinance to allow a commercial boatyard as a permitted use in the Emery District.

Brought to the council at the request of a local boatyard owner who operates a legal non-conforming business in the district, the amendment would allow an expansion of the business as well as the establishment of other boat yards in the area after site plan approval by the Planning Board.

Townspeople may vote at the municipal building between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

comments for this post are closed

You may also like