The cruise ship Zaandam sits anchored in Frenchman Bay off the shore path in downtown Bar Harbor on Friday, May 10, 2019. Credit: Bill Trotter | BDN

Bar Harbor voters decided Tuesday to prevent anyone from building piers that could accommodate large cruise ships, a development that will ensure that large ships visiting Bar Harbor continue to drop anchor in Frenchman Bay and bring passengers ashore in smaller tender boats.

Voters weighed in on a ballot question that asked them whether the town should prohibit the construction or use of any pier large enough to accommodate a cruise ship that can carry more than 500 passengers or any pier longer than 300 feet.

The vote was 493-384 in favor of the ban.

The issue of cruise ship visits to Bar Harbor has been controversial, with the number of such visits steadily increasing over the past 20-plus years. While the town has welcomed summer tourists for decades, with hotels and seasonal stores and restaurants making up much of the downtown business district, critics say the size and increasing frequency of the ships are eroding Bar Harbor’s small-town feel.

When the town decided to acquire the long-idle Canadian ferry terminal on Route 3, where The Cat ferry is expected to return this summer after being gone for 10 years, many residents feared it might be converted into a berthing pier for large cruise ships. Town officials have said they are not interested in this kind of development, but a group of citizens successfully petitioned to have local voters decide whether to explicitly ban such facilities.

In local elections, incumbent Matthew Hochman and former councilor Jefferson Dobbs each was elected to serve another 3-year term on the Bar Harbor Town Council.

Hochman and Dobbs were among four candidates for two openings on the seven-seat Town Council. Also running were former councilor Peter St. Germain and Martha Searchfield, who until recently served as executive director of the town’s Chamber of Commerce.

Dobbs got 480 votes while Hochman received 440. St. Germain fell short with 356 votes, and Searchfield received 325.

Dobbs will take a seat vacated by Paul Paradis, who opted not to seek re-election after serving on the Town Council for 13 years.

Voters also approved a citizen’s measure to require members of the town’s many volunteer committees to reside in Bar Harbor in order to vote on any business that might come before the committee on which they serve. That proposal passed by a 590-291 vote. Nonresidents can continue to be appointed to and serve on town committees, but they will not be permitted to vote on committee business.

Voters also overwhelmingly approved a proposal to amend a town list of historic properties, but rejected a separate proposal to allow museums in part of the downtown village.

Of the town’s nearly 4,900 registered voters, only 888 cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, registering a turnout of 19 percent.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....