Bar Harbor residents voted Tuesday in favor of a zoning plan that could allow the town to develop a pier to accommodate large cruise ships.

They voted 945-658 in favor of Article 12, a zoning plan proposed by the town that allows the development of an abandoned ferry terminal and possible pier outside of downtown Bar Harbor.

Voters rejected Article 13, a competing citizens referendum that would have limited the size of ships that could dock at the terminal and required a town vote before raising daily caps for cruise ship passengers in town. Residents voted that article down 925-679.

The terminal hasn’t been used since a ferry service to Nova Scotia was canceled in 2009. The Maine Department of Transportation purchased the property in February for $3.5 million and will sell it to the town for $2 million if it has a business plan in place, or $2.5 million without a plan.

In a 2012 report, Bermello Ajamil and Partners, a Miami development firm, said the best use of the property was a ferry terminal and cruise ship pier, and estimated Bar Harbor could more than double the number of cruise passengers. Approximately 180,000 cruise passengers came to Bar Harbor last year, according to town records.

Without a pier, traffic could decline because cruise lines are avoiding ports like Bar Harbor that ferry passengers to shore, Ajamil warned. Bar Harbor caps the number of passengers allowed to land in town – 3,500 a day in the summer and 5,500 in the spring and fall.


Town officials have said a cruise terminal would ease traffic congestion in downtown Bar Harbor, make passenger transfer more efficient and give passengers more time in town and Acadia National Park.

Any proposal for the terminal will be developed with community input and voters will have to approve a bond for the purchase in 2018, according to Town Manager Cornell Knight. The town’s aim is to develop the site with existing passenger caps, he said in an interview last week.

The proposal alarmed some residents of Bar Harbor and nearby towns, who worry a “mega pier” will bring thousands more tourists a day, ruin scenic views and create pollution.

Some have accused the town government of working for the cruise industry, not the citizens. Article 13 was an effort to give citizens control over the terminal redevelopment and possible passenger cap increases, not an attempt to stop cruise ship traffic, said Barbara Fenderson, a campaigner for Article 13, in an interview last week.

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