May 26, 2018
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Bar Harbor struggles to fill planning board

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

BAR HARBOR, Maine — The five-seat Planning Board, which has been operating for months with only four members, is about to lose another member.

Buck Jardine recently accepted a job that requires him to travel between three and six months a year, which will inhibit his ability to serve on the board, Jardine informed town officials in a recent e-mail. Because his new job starts in July, he has tendered his resignation to take effect at the end of June.

The issue came up Tuesday at the Town Council meeting, when councilors decided to advertise for Jardine’s position and the existing vacancy and to fill the positions next month.

Former Planning Board member Barbara Fenderson was at the meeting to answer any questions about her application to serve on the board again. Councilor Jane Disney, noting the trouble the town has had in finding people willing to serve on the board, expressed interest in letting Fenderson fill the existing vacancy right away.

But Councilor Paul Paradis said he would rather wait — a position that fellow councilors Ruth Eveland, Rob Jordan and Greg Veilleux supported. The councilors indicated they would prefer to seek out a wide pool of applicants, and to review the applications all at once.

“I’d rather consider all the appointments at the same time,” Eveland said.

This did not sit well with Fenderson, who told councilors she would feel insulted if they did not at least consider her application then and there. Regardless of their decision that evening, she said, she planned to maintain her interest in serving on the board.

None of the councilors responded to Fenderson. In a 6-1 vote, with Disney dissenting, councilors voted to table Fenderson’s application until June 15.

“I wish you had been honest enough to try to discuss it,” Fenderson told the council before she angrily left the room.

Later in the meeting, Planning Board Chairman Kevin Cochary told the council he hopes the town can find willing and able candidates to serve on the board. He pointed out that he recently had to spend considerable amount of time in San Francisco because of his job as a ranger with the National Park Service, which temporarily reduced the number of active board members to three.

Some have suggested that controversial planning board issues — such as its recent rejection of a proposal from Ocean Properties to build a hotel on West Street or its decision not to change the zoning of the former CAT ferry terminal to make it a conforming use — have discouraged people from coming forward to volunteer.

“There doesn’t seem to be a large response,” Cochary told the council. “The last thing I want to see is projects being delayed because we don’t have a quorum.”

Paradis and other councilors assured Cochary that they have heard from people who say they are interested in serving on the board.

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