A hotel company that owns and operates several hotels in Bar Harbor is seeking voter approval to change restrictions on oceanfront motel property so it can redevelop the parcel into a lodge and cabins.
If voters agree to amend part of property’s zoning and the land-use ordinance that applies to it, Ocean Properties Ltd. would demolish the Park Entrance Motel and in its place build a lodge, approximately two dozen shorefront cabins, and some camping sites. If the requested changes are rejected, the company still would formulate a plan to redevelop the site in a similar fashion, but with a different layout, according to an Ocean Properties official.
“We don’t believe large-scale development is needed” in Hulls Cove, Eben Salvatore, the firm’s head of operations on Mount Desert Island, said Thursday. “We don’t want a big hotel resort out there.”
Salvatore said that the Park Entrance Motel now has 58 rooms, all of which have been used in recent years as seasonal housing for employees who work at other local Ocean Properties hotels. The company’s goal is to redevelop the 8-acre waterfront site between Ocean Avenue and the shore so it has a maximum of 75 rooms split between a lodge building and cabins, not including camping or “glamping” (i.e., glamorous camping) sites that also may be located on the property.
The proposed half-acre zoning change — which Salvatore called a “minor adjustment” — and ordinance amendment would enable Ocean Properties to build a lodge with about 50 rooms in the middle of the property, at the top of a hill overlooking Frenchman Bay, and then roughly two dozen cabins plus additional camping sites between the lodge and the shore. Without the land use changes, he said, the cabins would have to be located farther from the water and closer to Route 3.
A public hearing on the proposed land use changes has been scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Bar Harbor municipal building on Cottage Street. The vote for changing the zoning of roughly a half-acre of land will be held in conjunction with Bar Harbor’s annual town meeting in June.
Salvatore said the company has not yet drafted site plans for the project. He said he hopes to draft and release some conceptual sketches of what the renovated property would look like so voters will have an idea of what Ocean Properties has in mind prior to the June vote.
Ocean Properties acquired the property at auction in 2001, after the prior owner went into default and a bank foreclosed on it. The motel buildings on the property are more than 50 years old, having been built in 1967, according to information in the town’s online property assessment database.
The age of the existing motel buildings, and the firm’s recent acquisition of the former Sonogee nursing home in Bar Harbor, are why the company has decided now is the right time to redevelop the property, Salvatore said. Ocean Properties does not want to continue maintaining the dated motel buildings, and instead can provide housing for its employees at Sonogee or, if it can prevail in its ongoing efforts to get the town’s approval to expand Acadia Apartments, at that apartment complex off West Street Extension, he said.
“We can’t leave that old building there forever,” Salvatore said, referring to the Park Entrance Motel.
In Bar Harbor, Ocean Properties also owns the 193-room Harborside Hotel, the 114-room West Street Hotel, and the 280-room Bar Harbor Regency hotel. The firm, founded by the late Bangor native Thomas T. Walsh, also owns more than 100 other hotels and resorts throughout North America, including the Samoset Resort in Rockport and The Sagamore and Lake Placid Lodge resorts in New York.