Bar Harbor Hotel firm considers appeal

Posted March 16, 2010, at 9:04 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:46 a.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — A hotel and resort firm is weighing whether to appeal a decision by the local planning board to reject its proposal to build a $12 million, 110-room luxury hotel on West Street.

Eben Salvatore, local director of operations for Ocean Properties, said Tuesday the company has 30 days after it receives written notice of the denial to file an appeal. He said he expects to receive formal written notice of the denial today.

“We expect the clock to start tomorrow,” Salvatore said Tuesday.

After a year of biweekly meetings to review the project and to discuss whether it meets the town’s land use standards, the planning board voted 4-0 on Feb. 24 to reject the proposal. The proposed four-story hotel, which would have a rooftop pool that overlooks the harbor, would have taken up the entire south side of West Street between Main and Rodick streets.

According to Anne Krieg, planning director for Bar Harbor, the planning board felt the application did not meet the town’s requirements for stories allowed and housing units required in the district where the hotel would be located. The board considered the rooftop pool level as a fifth story.

If a developer wants to construct a building with a fourth story in the downtown business district, somewhere in the building it must include residential space that is equal in amount to the floor area of the fourth story, Krieg said recently. The town does not allow fifth stories in the downtown commercial district, she said.

Ocean Properties, however, interpreted the ordinance as indicating that fifth stories are allowed within certain height limits, according to Krieg. The firm was proposing to include residential space that is equal in floor area of the rooftop deck, which would have included bathrooms and an outdoor pool.

According to Salvatore, any residential space in a building more than four stories high in the downtown commercial district must add up to the same amount of floor space in the building that has an elevation higher than 35 feet. The proposed fourth-floor elevation in the building would have been below 35 feet, he said. As a result, the hotel firm proposed including residential space that adds up to the area of the rooftop pool deck, which according to Salvatore would be the only floor space in the building that is higher than 35 feet off the ground.

The proposed hotel would be 5 feet shorter than the Quarterdeck Restaurant, which now occupies part of the area where the hotel would be built, he added. Ocean Properties has purchased all of the land the proposed hotel would occupy.

Salvatore said that, to get approval from the town’s design review board, which has approval authority over aesthetic characteristics such as signage and building facades, Ocean Properties proposed to break up and build the facade to mimic smaller buildings elsewhere in the downtown district, such as Sherman’s Bookstore, Epi Pizza & Subs, and Acadia Country Store. The design review board voted 6-0 in February to approve the hotel’s aesthetic look, he said.

Salvatore said Ocean Properties made many revisions to its original proposal in order to address concerns raised by the planning board even though, he said, other similar commercial building projects in the same district have not been held to the same standards.

“It’s frustrating, especially in this economy,” he said of the board’s rejection of the hotel application. “We just want to [build] something nice.”

Salvatore said that if the company decides to appeal, the appeal likely would be heard by the town’s appeals board in April or May. Despite the rejection, the company still hopes to be able to construct the hotel next winter, he said.

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