Town Promises To Enforce Cruise Ship Disembarkation Limits After Court Decision
Original Petitioner Demands Removal of Cruise Ship Information From Website
BAR HARBOR—After meeting with a town attorney in executive session last night, the town council released a statement about the court case against the town that deals with the cruise ship limit cap voted in last November. The town is defending the changes against the Association to Preserve and Protect People’s Livelihoods (APPLL) et. al, which contends that the daily disembarkation caps of 1,000 are unconstitutional.
The statement reads verbatim:
“Motion made and unanimously supported by Town Council on Tuesday, March 21, 2023
“The Bar Harbor Town Council has participated in mediation for the motion for a preliminary injunction and are pleased to share that after several rounds of negotiations with all parties, the Court has issued an expedited scheduling order that achieves the Council’s goals of getting an early and efficient trial so that we can get a final answer from the Court as to whether the ordinance is constitutional.
“If the case remains on track for a trial by July, the Council plans to enforce the Cruise Ship Disembarkation amendments to the Land Use Ordinance after the Court issues a final decision. Not enforcing the Ordinance while we continue to make rules means that we will operate under the published existing schedule for 2023 and the existing SOPs to manage ship visitation until a decision is reached. The 2023 schedule represents a 30% reduction of visitation from 2022 seasons.
“This enforcement approach is consistent with the Council’s goals of getting certainty from the Court that the Ordinance is constitutional as soon as possible, preserving the Town’s home rule authority to regulate cruise ship disembarkation, and minimizing the potential financial liability of the Town.
“We see this as an efficient, responsible, and pragmatic way to execute the will of the voters. In the interim, the Council has directed the staff to continue the rulemaking process so that we are in a position to enforce the Cruise Ship Disembarkation ordinance the day after the Court declares it constitutional—an outcome that we are working hard to achieve.”
Last week, various parties involved in the lawsuit filed documents about their preferred schedules and Charles Sidman, the lead petitioner for daily cruise ship limits in Bar Harbor, filed a 20-page motion to dismiss the case, March 14.
Prior to the council meeting, the councilors received an email relating to the case.
“We all received an email today basically—I took it—as somewhat threatening, as do what I want or we will rule by citizens’ initiative,” Town Council Vice Chair Matthew Hochman said.
That email was sent by Jim O’Connell, one of the seven original cruise ship petitioners, who advocated for the daily limits. O’Connell often speaks to cruise ships, health hazards, and the environment at town meetings and in letters to the Mount Desert Islander.
Hochman encouraged anyone who feels like they have to run the town via citizen’s initiative to run for office, and he said that a citizens’ initiative is meant to be a tool that is a scalpel, not a broadsword.
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