After years of debate, the city of Bar Harbor is considering competing proposals to limit cruise ship traffic.
One option is a citizens’ petition in the November ballot that would limit the number of cruise ship passengers entering the city to 1,000 each day.
After closed-door discussions about the legality of the proposal, Bar Harbor councilors decided Tuesday night to place the petition on the city’s mandate.
The second option – born of negotiations between the city and the cruise ship industry – would limit the number of daily cruise ship passengers to 3,800 people, with the exception of July and August, when daily caps of 3,500 people would be in effect.
“I think this is a significant reduction and we actually have the support of the industry, which is one of the main players in making these decisions,” said the city manager of Bar Harbor, Kevin Sutherland, who presented the proposal to City Council on Tuesday evening.
The to plan would also set monthly caps for cruise ship passengers – 30,000 each in May and June, 40,000 each in July and August and 65,000 each in September and October. The combination of setting daily and monthly caps would create days when no ships would visit the city, Sutherland said.
The proposal would also limit the number of ships in town to three per day, with some exceptions. No cruise ships would be allowed in April or November, which would shorten the season.
“Our community has spoken about the situation in no uncertain terms,” said councilor Jill Goldthwait, who served on the task force that negotiated the new plan with the cruise ship industry. “Our struggle was to get something passed on our side that would pass an unemotional test in the community.”
She hopes the residents of Bar Harbor will accept this plan.
“If we can persuade our community that it’s far enough, I don’t know,” Goldthwait added. “The advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches, the petition and [our proposal], will emerge over the next two months. But I think it at least passes the franchise test.”
Sutherland said he would seek council support so the city can sign formal agreements with cruise lines in time to complete booking for the 2023 season.
City Council will collect public feedback on the proposal and decide on next steps later this month.