BANGOR, Maine — Despite predictions that the trial would last three days, testimony in a civil trial over 2010 zoning amendments to Bar Harbor’s land use ordinance is expected to come to an end on Friday.
The civil bench trial, which is being held at Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, began on Tuesday.
The lawsuit alleges that the town did not follow proper procedures for changing the town’s zoning ordinances before or during referendum votes in June and November 2010. There were not adequate public hearings and notifications about the proposed changes, the complaint indicates, and the changes that were approved are neither “pursuant to, nor consistent with” the town’s comprehensive plan, which is a violation of state law. One of those changes seems to allow large hotels to be built in the village of Hulls Cove, the plaintiffs’ attorney Bill Dale, has argued.
Much of the dispute has focused on Appendix C, a table that lists permitted uses in the town’s various zones. The appendix was attached to different proposed amendments for the June 8, 2010, vote in five different versions, according to the complaint, and contains “numerous internal inconsistencies” that nonetheless were approved by voters.
Plaintiffs in the case are seeking to have the relevant voting results from the two referendums declared invalid, according to the complaint.
Town officials have said that, though the amendments may have been confusing, the town did not do anything to violate state law, either in preparing the amendments or in holding votes about them.
Dale said Thursday evening that despite objections from the town and its attorney, Michael Hodgins of Augusta, Justice Ann Murray allowed Dale to question Anne Krieg on the stand on Thursday about why her employment as Bar Harbor’s town planner came to an abrupt end last summer. Krieg, who was hired as Bar Harbor’s town planner in 2002, was placed on administrative leave last summer and then resigned her post on July 27, 2011, as part of an agreement that included $84,500 in severance pay and a nondisclosure clause.
According to Dale, Krieg acknowledged on the stand that the confusion and alleged mishandling over the zoning amendments led to the separation agreement.
Dale and Hodgins said separately Thursday that, after testimony ends, they will have two weeks, or until Aug. 10, to file written final arguments in the case. Justice Murray is expected to render a decision within a few weeks after that date, they said.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.