BAR HARBOR, Maine — By a 3-2 vote, the appeals board has overruled the planning board’s rejection of a proposal from Ocean Properties to build a $12 million hotel at the corner of West and Main streets.
Anne Krieg, town planner, said Monday the appeals board determined on April 22 that the planning board had erred in denying the application based on the proposed building height. Board members Donald Bell, Ellen Dohmen and Michael Sikloski voted in favor of overruling the planning board, Krieg said, while Paul Devore and Roger Samuel sided with the planning board decision. The board then voted 5-0 to direct the planning board to approve Ocean Properties’ site plan proposal.
On Feb. 24, the planning board voted 4-0 to reject the proposed hotel because it would have five stories, the topmost of which would be a rooftop pool. The planning board indicated the town’s land use ordinance prohibits buildings with more than four stories in the downtown zone. Ocean Properties, which is owned by Tom Walsh and his family, argued that local zoning allows a fifth story if the overall height of the building is 45 feet or less.
The planning board and the developer also disagreed on how much long-term residential space would have to be included in the proposed building.
Krieg said the appeals board has two weeks to issue a written order of its April 22 decision, which likely means the planning board will not act on the appeals board decision until its regularly scheduled meeting on May 19.
But David J. Witham, a rival hotelier, is contesting the town’s actions. Witham, who owns the nearby Bar Harbor Inn and several other local hotels, is opposed to Ocean Properties’ plans but believes the project was rejected for the wrong reasons. Witham has appealed the planning board’s Feb. 24 decision not over the height issue, but on the grounds that the proposal does not include enough parking and that a planned hotel driveway would not meet the town’s standards.
Ed Bearor, Witham’s attorney, said Monday that in addition to pursuing his appeal of the planning board decision, his client also might file an appeal of the appeals board decision in Hancock County Superior Court.
“That would be my expectation,” Bearor said.
The appeals board is expected to take up Witham’s appeal of the planning board decision on May 11.
Eben Salvatore, Ocean Properties’ director of operations, said Monday that he is pleased with the appeals board decision and is not concerned that Witham’s arguments will delay the firm’s planned construction schedule. He said the company plans to start work after Columbus Day.
“It’s all about stalling,” Salvatore said about Witham’s appeals. “We have questions about his ability to even bring an appeal.”
Salvatore predicted that, when the hotel eventually is built, it will be well-received by most residents.
“When people see it, they’ll wonder what the fuss was to begin with,” he said.