WASHINGTON DC –Maine Senator Angus King has introduced a bill that would transfer 40 acres of a 55-acre parcel of land in the Bar Harbor Village of Town Hill that belongs to Acadia National Park to the City of Bar Harbor for creating an affordable workforce housing.
Acadia would retain 15 acres to build housing for its own employees.
The parcel in question is not adjacent to any other land in the park and the park has no use for it. The 1986 law establishing the permanent boundary of Acadia stipulated that the parcel was to be ceded to Bar Harbor for use as a regional solid waste transfer station. But it soon became clear that, for several reasons, this was not feasible.
Park officials, together with officials from the four MDI towns, proposed last year that the park transfer 40 acres to Island Housing Trust (IHT) to develop affordable workforce housing. But Marla O’Byrne, executive director of the Island Housing Trust, said the Home Office had decided it would be best to give the property to the town of Bar Harbor, as provided for in 1986 legislation, and to modify only the proposed use of the property.
“It came to us at the end of last week and we spoke briefly with the city about it,” IHT chief executive Marla O’Byrne said on Tuesday. “IHT would like to work with the city on planning and creating housing for the workforce. We are pleased that the senator is moving forward with this bill.
King is chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“From National Park Service rangers to Bar Harbor hotel staff, Mount Desert Island workers play a vital role in our state’s economy and deserve access to affordable, high-quality housing,” King said. in a press release.
“This bill will help meet growing housing needs and support MDI’s continued economic success for years to come.”
If the bill passes Congress, the National Park Service would be responsible for working with cities and other stakeholders on MDI to develop a plan to use the Town Hill parcel for affordable housing for employees throughout the city. year and seasonal.
The bill is co-sponsored by Maine Senator Susan Collins, who said: “The dedicated staff who work at Acadia National Park and in the surrounding towns’ hospitality industry enable millions of visitors to experience Mount Desert Island’s stunning natural beauty each year.
“Unfortunately, the lack of affordable housing has contributed to labor shortages and created significant hardship for employees who must live nearby.”
O’Byrne called the housing shortage on MDI a “real crisis”. She said that every week IHT hears from people looking for affordable housing.
“Some have taken jobs here but just can’t find a place to live,” she said. “When workers cannot find accommodation, companies struggle to find workers, leading to companies reducing their working hours or even closing their doors permanently.
“This is why it is so important to make possible the housing of the workforce on the park plot at Town Hill.
Bar Harbor City Manager Kevin Sutherland said, Identifying and changing the use of these federal lands illustrates a truly wonderful partnership between the park and the surrounding communities.