Judge upholds 2010 Bar Harbor permit approval for four-story hotel

Workmen put up siding in March 2012 on the West Street Hotel in Bar Harbor.
Bill Trotter
Workmen put up siding in March 2012 on the West Street Hotel in Bar Harbor. Buy Photo
Posted Jan. 14, 2014, at 4:58 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — In the latest, and possible final round of legal wrangling over a four-story hotel on West Street, a state judge has ruled that the town of Bar Harbor did not err when it issued a construction permit for the project in 2010.

On Monday, Justice John Nivison ruled in the state Business & Consumer Court that the town planning board’s approval of the West Street Hotel application nearly four years ago was proper. The 85-room hotel overlooking the local harbor opened in the summer of 2012.

The dispute over Ocean Properties’ West Street Hotel is part of a rivalry between two well-known hoteliers — Thomas T. Walsh, whose family owns and operates Ocean Properties, and David J. Witham of the Witham Family Partnership. Ocean Properties owns and operates the Harborside and Regency hotels in Bar Harbor and more than a hundred other hotel and resort properties in North America. Witham, either on his own or through his controlling stake in the family partnership, is an owner of 11 lodging properties in Bar Harbor and four more in the Ellsworth area.

Witham originally filed suit against the town and Ocean Properties subsidiary North-South Corp. in the summer of 2010. He alleged that the town erred when it determined that the hotel did not violate the town’s height restrictions, and it had enough on-site parking to meet the town’s requirements for lodging properties.

After Witham was denied standing to file claim in Hancock County Superior Court, the case was appealed to the state supreme court, which then vacated the lower court ruling and remanded the case back to Superior Court.

The case then was forwarded to the state’s Business & Consumer Court, where Nivison determined that the hotel meets the town’s requirements for building height or parking spaces.

Witham did not reply to an emailed request for comment on Nivison’s decision.

Eben Salvatore, Ocean Properties’ director of operations for Mount Desert Island, said Tuesday that the company is happy with Nivison’s ruling. He said he hopes the decision means an end to litigation over the hotel’s approval.

“We’ve been at this so long, it’s got to be over at this point,” he said.

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