May 26, 2019

Hotel firm vows better relations with Bar Harbor

BAR HARBOR – After souring somewhat during the summer, relations between the town and the hotel company Ocean Properties may be on the mend.

Robert Baldacci, vice president of development for the company, said in a letter to the town last week that Ocean Properties would make a better effort to communicate with the town and be more diligent about getting timely approval for work and changes at its local properties.

Members of the Town Council had voiced concerns about construction Ocean Properties is doing at the Bar Harbor Club on West Street after neighbors complained about congestion and noise at the site.

Built in the 1930s as a membership club for the wealthy, the building is now part of a larger complex that includes the adjacent Harborside Hotel.

Town staff had suggested that the company might not have received all of the proper permits for work it is doing on the club property and changes it had made to the adjacent Harborside.

As town officials and Ocean Properties had discussions about the issues, the Town Council decided to revisit a consent agreement it signed with Ocean Properties in 2005 to see whether the town should go back to court to get the firm to comply with local ordinances.

The council has met privately with the town attorney a few times in recent weeks to discuss its legal options in executive session, as is permitted by law.

Ruth Eveland, council chairman, said Friday that the town is drafting a letter in response to the one sent by Baldacci. She declined to say what the council’s inclination is on the issue but said the council has not scheduled any further executive sessions on the matter.

“He’s not in violation at the moment, as far as the code enforcement officer is concerned,” Eveland said, referring to Thomas Walsh, the primary owner of Ocean Properties. “There is no action planned because there is no violation.”

Among the issues that now appear to be resolved are:

. Whether the company has been permitted to build a small garage on the club property.

. Whether the club’s pool house is being built to its permitted specifications.

. Whether the firm had been approved to change an exterior restaurant sign and to make electrical improvements at the Harborside Hotel.

In his letter, Baldacci acknowledged Ocean Properties has been “less than perfect” in obtaining local permits before beginning work. He indicated the firm would like to restore the spirit of cooperation that existed previously between the company and the town.

“I believe the problems are behind us and that things will proceed much more smoothly as we move forward,” Baldacci wrote.

Ocean Properties, which owns and operates nearly 100 hotels and resorts in North America, is based in Portsmouth, N.H., but has its roots in Bangor.

Besides redeveloping the Bar Harbor Club property, it is trying to win a $100 million contract to redevelop the city-owned Maine State Pier in Portland. Twice, most recently on Monday, the Portland City Council has deadlocked on whether to award the job to Ocean Properties or to The Olympia Cos.

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