BAR HARBOR — A group of residents has launched a citizen initiative to allow town voters to decide whether to limit the number of cruise ship passengers allowed to disembark in town on a given day.

The group presented the language of a land use ordinance amendment to Bar Harbor Town Clerk Liz Graves seeking to limit the number of cruise ship passengers to no more than 1,000 per day regardless of the number of ships in port. Three hundred signatures are required to put the question to town voters.

Rules and regulations to oversee the daily limits would be developed by the harbor master, and the code enforcement officer would enforce those regulations. Each disembarking passenger over the limit would be subject to a fine.

According to the Charles Sidman, one of the petitioners, the initiative became necessary after town officials failed to sufficiently limit cruise ship traffic.

“The Town Council has talked about eventualities and maybes but has not been able to get anything done,” Sidman said.

A survey conducted in 2021 found a majority of Bar Harbor residents think cruise ship traffic is too high and has a negative impact on the quality of life in town, the petitioners say, causing congestion, jeopardizing the delivery of emergency services and affecting the ability of local shops, restaurants and other businesses to attract and serve customers.

The initiative states, “the provision is applicable as of March 17, 2022 … (and) will not apply to any cruise ship reservation or ‘booking’ that has already been accepted by the Town’s Harbor Master prior to March 17, 2022.”

Sidman said he expects the petitioners to have the needed signatures by the June election “if not sooner.”

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