Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Parkadia Intersection

In recent months there has been considerable controversy over plans by the Maine DOT to improve traffic flow at the head of the island by creating a new intersection on Route 3 past Parkadia toward Bar Harbor and changing traffic flow on and off Route 102.

This is one of those situations where everyone agrees there is a problem but few have been able to agree on a solution. The issue is complicated by the presence of a two-lane bridge and causeway over conservation land that limit the options for expansion of the existing intersection, as well as traffic flows that vary widely both by time of day and season of the year. In addition, there are two businesses at the existing intersection that are promoting their own self-interests.

Living on an island, even one connected to the mainland by a bridge, means that getting on and off inevitably will require both compromise and patience on the part of residents and visitors alike. Because any long term fix at this intersection will be of considerable magnitude, it is extremely important to get it right the first time, as was suggested by a thoughtful writer in this week’s Bar Harbor Times. We believe that all stakeholders - the Town of Bar Harbor, the MDI League of Towns, Acadia National Park, the Maine DOT, and the businesses - should work together to come up with a creative solution. There is time to do a proper job, but the clock is ticking as traffic on and off the island increases every year and as state funding may be diverted elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Local Control

The concept of “local control” has been very much in the forefront of political discussion in Maine recently as a result of the Governor’s proposal and the Legislature’s action to consolidate school districts from roughly 250 to 80 in order to achieve potential cost savings.

But just what is “local” control? Is it control by individual neighborhood? Or by village? Or by community (whatever that means)? Or by town? Or by county? And what does “local control” cost - or does cost even matter at all?

Here on MDI, the school district consolidation plan mostly involves town funding issues, but otherwise seems to require much less change than in some other parts of the state. Still, there are a few loud voices on the island decrying the loss of “local control” and rattling the sabre of a possible lawsuit.

Most people living on Mount Desert Island think of other residents of the island as “locals”. There are only 10,000 of us living in a clearly defined and contiguous area of approximately 10 miles by 12 miles - much smaller in population and generally more compact than many governmental units around the country that are considered to be “local”. We identify with each other as having a common bond resulting from living on the same beautiful piece of real estate. Yet, we have four town offices, four Town Managers, four Boards of Selectmen, four planning boards, four public works departments, three police departments, four fire departments, etc.

In the “old days” towns on the island were much more separated by such things as poor transportation and lack of easy communication, so “local control” at that time could reasonably have meant “town control”. But what is the excuse today? Sooner or later, we are going to have to realize that Mount Desert Island is, in fact, one community, that continuing to fragment and duplicate public services is prohibitively expensive, and that consolidation of island affairs is both economically sound and very much consistent with the concept of “local control”.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Development Issues

Despite the "slow" housing market nationwide, here on MDI we have recently been seeing a flurry of new subdivision applications. Among them are high profile proposals such as the Acadia Mountain project along Somes Sound in Mount Desert and the Hamilton Station project in Salsbury Cove (Bar Harbor). In addition, the large Singh shore front property in Seal Cove (Tremont) is back on the market with all of the uncertainty that brings. And a 9 lot subdivision was just approved on significant wet land in Pretty Marsh (Mount Desert).

While these applications almost always are reviewed by Planning Boards comprised of talented local residents who volunteer their time, the applicants frequently have a team of skilled professional attorneys, scientists and engineers available to argue their position. Sometimes these professionals travel from out of state to participate in scheduled hearings. It is becoming apparent that the playing field in these cases is no longer level, and that towns need to take some action to bolster the efforts of their planning boards as they attempt to evaluate and sometimes challenge increasingly sophisticated development proposals.

One approach might be for the four island towns to jointly retain professional expertise in real estate law, land use planning, civil engineering, hydrology, and environmental protection. The retainer fees for these individuals would be shared by the towns, and their services would be available "on call" to any town planning board as needed. The hourly usage charges would be paid by the town using the service, but those charges could be recouped from the developer through impact and/or application fees. This would put local planning boards on a much more even footing with developers, and there would be the added advantage that each of the professionals would be familiar with development island-wide, not just in one town. Mount Desert Island really is not very large, and what happens in one town invariably affects residents of the other towns in sometimes obvious and sometimes not so obvious ways.

If you have thoughts on this issue or other ideas to propose, please post your comments.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Give it a try

So far, no comments - but hopefully that will change as the source website mountdesertisland.net continues to receive more and more hits.

Certainly, there are deterrents to posting here. In some ways it would be more attractive if those with ideas did not have to sign in to share their ideas. However, allowing totally anonymous comments would open the blog to pranks, spam, and perhaps even more undesirable entries from posters who have no knowledge of or interest in MDI. It also is somewhat intimidating to be the first to post comments, but someone has to break the ice! And finally, the suggested topics, and others that have not yet been mentioned, are very difficult and do not lend themselves to quick or easy solutions.

Despite all of these obstacles, a forum like MDI Blog can have profound benefits for the entire Mount Desert Island community IF enough people are willing to participate in a meaningful discussion here. An online blog is a very convenient way to have a dialog among many people from all of the island towns on the same big, island-wide issues at a time that is most convenient for each of them. Give it a try - it won't hurt, and you actually may be helping to start something very important!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Slow But Sure

After a hiatus of a few weeks, I finally have the website online that is intended to serve as the primary access point for this blog. The new site is mountdesertisland.net, and among many other things of daily interest to those living on MDI, it contains a direct link to MDI Blog.

I have been asked for some additional information about the kinds of topics that might be discussed here. Of course, there are a great many of them, but here are 3 or 4 to get things started (although I know it will take some time for people to find this forum).

1) How can we best protect and build a viable, year-round community of working families on Mount Desert Island in the face of soaring property values caused largely by demand "from away"?

2) What can be done to help new residents and native "Mainers" better understand each other?

3) Acadia National Park does a great job protecting the environment on their half of the island, but how do we protect the other half?

4) MDI presently is governed by 4 towns with almost all municipal services duplicated 4 times. How do we combine these services to achieve cost and operational efficiencies while at the same time overcoming strong resistance to the loss of "local control"?

See how easy and fun this can be? Weigh in and let's hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Beginning

This is the first post in what I hope will be many over upcoming months and years. You are invited to suggest issues for discussion and to add your comments to issues suggested by others. We hope that you find this blog useful and informative.