June 19, 2018
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Developer changes Mount Desert Island hotel, parking plans

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

BAR HARBOR, Maine — A development firm that hopes to build a new luxury hotel on West Street has scaled back its plans but still is in talks with town officials about whether its proposal meets local building codes.

Ocean Properties Ltd. filed its application to construct the hotel in March. Since then, it has been meeting regularly with the town’s planning board to review the application and the town’s building requirements.

The developer originally had proposed to build a five-story hotel with 121 rooms and 44 parking spaces on or adjacent to the property. As part of the original proposal, Ocean Properties indicated it would prefer to meet the town’s parking requirements with a public parking garage that it would construct, pending town approval, on town-owned property directly behind the hotel site. The town-owned property now is used as a parking lot.

The developer now is proposing to build a four-story, 110-room hotel and an 86-space parking deck on property it owns along Rodick Street.

Eben Salvatore, Ocean Properties’ local operations manager, said Friday that the firm still would prefer to reach an agreement to construct a parking deck on the town-owned lot behind the hotel site. The proposed 86-space parking deck on Rodick Street, he said, would be built if the town and the developer cannot reach an agreement about the town-owned lot.

A large parking garage on the town-owned property, which is tucked behind properties that front on Main, Rodick and West streets, would be better not just for Ocean Properties, Salvatore said, but also better for the town and for abutting businesses.

“The long-term goal is to work something out,” Salvatore said. “That’s just better for everybody.”

Salvatore said that the decision to reduce the number of rooms and floors in the proposal is aimed at addressing the town’s concerns about parking and building height. At 45 feet, the hotel would be shorter than the Grand Hotel, Atlantic Oceanside, and Bar Harbor Inn, all of which are local businesses owned by rival hotelier David J. Witham, he said.

“The Bar Harbor Inn is higher than the Criterion Theater, if you can believe it,” Salvatore said.

Anne Krieg, Bar Harbor’s planning director, said Thursday that the town still has some concerns about the hotel being 45 feet high, which Ocean Properties has been proposing since it first submitted its application in March.

That height is the same as Duffy’s Restaurant, which would be demolished to make room for the new hotel, but a building may be only 45 feet high in the town’s downtown business district if it contains affordable housing, she said. Without the affordable housing inclusion, the building height limit in the district is 35 feet, she said.

Representatives of Ocean Properties dispute the affordable housing requirement, saying that the wording of the town ordinance indicates that the inclusion of affordable housing is optional and is not required.

According to Krieg, the developer also is required to have one parking space for each room that would be in the hotel, but it can be given an exception for some required spaces if there is enough landscaped “green” space on the property. The town still is trying to determine how many green-space credits the firm may qualify for and whether proposed suites in the hotel would count as more than one room, she said.

“We still have a lot of review time to go,” Krieg said.

Ocean Properties also has submitted a traffic plan for the project that would widen part of lower Rodick Street and open that portion to two-way traffic. Only northbound traffic now is allowed on Rodick Street between Cottage and West streets.

The traffic plan and the proposed changes to Rodick Street are expected to be discussed by the developer and the local planning board when the board next meets at the municipal building at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4.

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