Bar Harbor theater pays $4,000 fine over marquee

Posted Feb. 14, 2010, at 8:01 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:47 a.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — After months of negotiations, the Criterion Theater has paid a fine levied by the town over the theater’s reconstructed marquee.

By paying the $4,000 fine and signing a consent agreement with the town, the theater will be allowed to keep the marquee as it is and there will be no ongoing permitting issues for the property as a result of the existing marquee, according to Rob Jordan, president of the theater’s board of directors.

Town officials issued the fine late in 2009 because the new marquee hanging over the theater’s entrance on Cottage Street contained certain elements that had not been approved by the town’s design review board. The word “The” and the year “1932,” which refer to when the theater was built, and two strips of neon lighting were installed on the marquee though they were not among the design elements approved by the board in December 2007.

The theater subsequently received town approval to keep “1932” and the strip of green neon on the bottom of the marquee, but was told it still would have to remove the word “The” and the strip of blue neon on the marquee’s top edge.

Theater officials had told the town that because the marquee cost more to rebuild than they had expected — an expense reported to be $150,000 — they had no money with which to pay a fine or to have the unapproved marquee design elements removed.

Jordan said Saturday that two anonymous donors gave money to the theater so it could pay the $4,000 fine.

“The fine we paid was basically the cost the town incurred,” Jordan said. “Everything is going to stay the way it is now.”

By signing the consent agreement, there will be no outstanding violation issues over the marquee that could hold up permits for the theater or for its business tenants on Cottage Street, he said.

Jordan also is a member of the Bar Harbor Town Council but recused himself from discussions about the theater marquee whenever the council discussed and took votes on the matter.

The marquee is not the only issue with the theater building that Criterion officials have had to deal with in recent months. In December, backstage pipes froze and burst, causing water damage to the stage floor, Jordan said. The damage, which he said has been covered by the theater’s insurance, was limited to the stage floor, which has to be refinished.

The theater has been closed down for the winter, as many local businesses do when tourists aren’t in town, but plans are to reopen it again next month. Jordan said the theater is looking for events for when it reopens for 2010.

“We’re planning to reopen around St. Patrick’s Day,” he said.

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