BAR HARBOR, Maine — The Town Council voted again Tuesday in connection with a proposal by Hannaford to build a supermarket in the village of Town Hill, and the result was the same as it was last month.
The council discussed on Feb. 10 whether it should schedule a public hearing on the controversial proposal but ended up with a split vote. Councilors Bob Garland, Julia Schloss and Greg Veilleux voted in favor of moving forward toward a possible moratorium, but councilors Rob Jordan, Sandy McFarland and Paul Paradis did not. Council chairman Ruth Eveland, whose son works for Hannaford at the company’s downtown Bar Harbor store, recused herself from the vote.
The same thing happened Tuesday night.
Many Town Hill residents have argued that a 35,000-square-foot supermarket could have an adverse effect on Town Hill’s rural character. Others have said, however, that the store would fill a need, would create local jobs and would generate needed tax revenue.
Schloss argued again Tuesday in favor of scheduling a public hearing. She said a 180-day moratorium is needed for commercial buildings 10,000 square feet or larger in the Town Hill business district because local residents and officials need time to update local zoning ordinances so they are consistent with Bar Harbor’s re-cently updated comprehensive plan. She also said local residents, whether they favor or oppose Hannaford’s plans, should have the chance to voice their opinions at a public forum.
“Are you afraid of hearing from the public?” Schloss asked her fellow board members.
Paradis countered that the public would have plenty of opportunity to weigh in on the proposal as it goes through the planning process, if and when Hannaford submits a permit application to the local planning board.
“In the planning process, there are multiple public hearings,” Paradis said. “I think all the public concerns can be addressed [through the planning board review].”
After the moratorium discussion, Town Hill resident Perry Moore said he and other neighborhood residents have formed a nonprofit committee called Town Hill Friends. The group is collecting residents’ signatures so the moratorium proposal can be voted on by referendum at Bar Harbor’s annual town meeting in early June.
Moore said the group has collected 220 signatures so far and needs to collect at least 234 by March 10 to have the moratorium proposal placed on the town meeting warrant. The minimum number of signatures needed represents 10 percent of the local voter turnout at the most recent gubernatorial election.
Moore said if voters approve the moratorium proposal at the town meeting, it will be retroactive to March 18 and would expire in mid-September. The reason the Friends group wants local voters to consider the proposal at the town meeting in June, rather than at the annual ballot vote in November, is to hold a public forum where people can debate the merits of the Hannaford proposal face-to-face. If the moratorium is voted on in November, he said, the primary debate about it would be conducted through advance media coverage about the ballot vote.
“We want to be at [the] open town meeting so there can be a discussion,” Moore said. “It shouldn’t be resolved in the press.”
A forum on the Hannaford proposal has been scheduled for 7 p.m. today in central Town Hill. The neighborhood’s Village Improvement Society plans to host the meeting on the supermarket proposal at the VIS hall on Route 102, across the highway from the western end of Crooked Road.