SWH selectmen to consider marijuana store application

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Feb. 20, 2021 – Tyler and Natasha Johnson would like to open the first marijuana retail store in Hancock County right here on the Quietside.

“This is the first application for cannabis retailing in Hancock County. Let’s see how many other municipalities jump on the bandwagon to grab some of the business of Maine’s booming industry,” said Antonio Blasi, who served eight years as a Hancock County commissioner.

The item appears on the agenda of the SWH selectmen’s meeting tonight:

“MARIJUANA RETAIL LICENSE – Meristem, LLC: Request of Tyler and Natasha
Johnson, d/b/a Meristem LLC, for completeness review of their application for an Adult
Use Retail Store to be located at 11 Seal Cove Road. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82712332705?pwd=YWlLMXM1REZBWEFKd2JoeDlYTlRIdz09#success

Blasi believes Maine has a huge opportunity to create a cradle-to-grave holistic industry by farming marijuana, harvesting, processing and packaging. He favors allowing municipalities to get a piece of the tax revenue which now goes only to the state. He also believes creating a non-plastic wrapper on products would make the industry truly green.

Last November, four years after the state voted to legalize adult-use of recreational marijuana, Surry and Southwest Harbor citizens voted to allow retail marijuana businesses – the first in Hancock County to do so. 

The vote in SWH was overwhelming, with 654 in favor and 396 against 18-page Marijuana Ordinance, which “provides for permitting, licensing and regulation of adult use and medical marijuana businesses and provides performance standards for adult use and medical marijuana businesses.”

That vote allows adult-use, also known as recreational, marijuana retail stores, testing, manufacturing and cultivation facilities to operate, as well as medical marijuana facilities. 

WANTED: Senior law enforcement official willing to run as a Democrat in Hancock County

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 20. 2021 – In a county very well represented by Democrats in all aspects of government, the county government is an anomaly. Virtually every elected office is held by a Republican. In addition to Sheriff Scott Kane, the District Attorney, Matthew Foster, Treasurer, Michael Boucher, and Probate Judge, William B. Blaisdell, are all Republicans, as are two of three of the County commissioners, chairman William Carter of Franklin and Paul Paradis of Bar Harbor.

Kane ran unopposed in both 2015 and 2018. He did face a primary challenge in 2015 when he received 2,227 votes, 175 votes more than opponent Alan Brown’s 2,052.

But traditionally Democrats have not been able to field an opponent to challenge the Republican sheriffs. Clark, the council chair, held the job for 34 years before Kane.

Eighty percent of the municipal races lost by Maine Democrats in November were because of a lack of candidates, said officials from the Maine state Democratic party at Thursday night’s meeting of the county Democrats.

The recent imbroglios regarding Kane’s intemperate behavior – closing down a addict coaching service because of his personal political views and a failed attempt at acquiring riot gear – have awakened a sleeping giant to the heretofore low-profile county government. Democrats have opened a search, including seeking candidates outside the county to persuade them to move here to challenge Kane should he run for re-election in 2022.

Maine Democratic state party views Hancock County as a stronghold

Moreover, the county is becoming bluer, as indicated by these slide from the Maine state Democratic party.

County and municipal governments are just abstract notions for young voters. They do not own homes, and do not have families – the sine non qua of an active local citizen.

County government is like the plumbing part of a business – such as the accounting and tech support. They were essential elements of the corporation I worked at, but most of my colleagues gravitated to the sexy stuff – the creative side, marketing, content creation mergers and acquisitions.

Hancock County runs jails, a court, the airport in Trenton, probate, and registry of deeds. It has a treasurer who keeps track of everything, and a district attorney who prosecutes the bad guys. And then there is the sheriff’s office which provides police service for small towns, like Tremont, which doesn’t have the scale to have its own force.

In other words, not the stuff which will turn the head of a 25-year-old.

But Scott Kane may have inadvertently changed all that.

“We are facing in Hancock County a bit of a crisis with our sheriff,” Democrat Laurie Fogelman told the state party operatives Thursday night, seeking their advice on how to organize. “He came out and denied recovery coaches from Healthy Acadia at the jail because Healthy Acadia came out in support of Black Lives Matter and he said Black Lives Matter was a radical terrorist organization.

“There is a lot of us who are already talking about wanting to ensure we have a more progressive sheriff,” she said.

If you want to light a match under young activists to motivate them to join a cause to fight you, I can think of no better way than to call BLM a “terrorist organization.”

Another party member noted that more than 100 persons attended each of two county commission meetings since Kane’s bombastic behavior was made public. Many of the attendees appeared to be under Age 30. The last time the commission was the center of such attention was when Kane sought to acquire riot gear for his officers, last summer.

Hancock County has a huge split personality with Ellsworth being the dividing line between the progressive southern towns on the water and the rural towns up north. Thus, it’s another anomaly that the most liberal of the three county districts is represented by Republican Paul Paradis of Bar Harbor, owing to the fact that the Democrats ran a candidate in 2020 that many Democrats even found objectionable. The bottom line is that Republicans have had much more success in fielding qualified local candidates.

But come 2024, will Paradis be able to hang onto his seat? And will Democrats find able qualified challengers.

And is there a law enforcement officer in Maine who dares to publicly identify himself/herself as a Democrat?

Sizzling data for last 3 months, but dark clouds on horizon

NORTHEAST HARBOR, Feb. 20, 2021 – Mount Desert Assessor Kyle Avila’s semi-annual update of the town’s home sales data base came just in time to sate my craven, voyeuristic desire for information about my neighbors’ homes.

There were 43 transactions in the first 11 months of 2020 in the town of Mount Desert. Avila’s update did not include most of December, which was in the throes of the pandemic bubble. There were at least eight transactions in December, according to the Hancock County registry of deeds. That would bring 2020’s total to 51 transactions compared with 42 in 2019, which was considered a good year for sales.

Other MDI towns list property information, but mostly by property taxes and assessment. Avila’s data base not only lists sales prices but it allows you to search by date, owner’s name or address. http://gis.vgsi.com/mountdesertme/Sales.aspx

Some owners who wish not to be identified achieve opacity by creating dummy corporations or trusts. As previously reported, the highest price in 2020 was $3,375,000 for 11 Barnacles Way by Otium LLC, the legal shingle for Heather Evans, former wife on Alibaba President Michael Evans.

The lowest price was $265,000 for a ranch house at 23 Wall Street in Hall Quarry.

Below are two charts showing statistics for Maine and its 16 counties. The first chart lists statistics for the month of January 2021 and 2020 only, statewide. The second chart compares the number of existing, single-family homes sold (units) and volume during the rolling three months of November (2019/2020), December (2019/2020) and January (2020/2021).

For the three-month period ending Jan. 31, sales increases in January ranged from a 9.3 percent jump in Cumberland County to an increase of 82.1 percent in Piscataquis County, where home sales nearly doubled to 122 for the three-month period from 67 a year earlier. Hancock County showed a 52 percent increase.

The January numbers were a lagging indicator because of the backlog of sales which occurred in 2020 and could not close until January. The pandemic bubble was crushing for allied services, such as lawyers and lenders, as local banks were flooded with mortgage loan applications which backed up well into 2021. One Ellsworth lawyer said his firm is finally digging out of the log jam.

“Now the problem is lack of inventory,” said Avila, who noted that current listings are less than half of what is typical for this time of the year. “I’m hearing the same story from real estate brokers.”

For all the news about increasing sales and rising prices, there are worrisome signs for the Maine housing market, said Aaron Bolster, president of the Maine Association of Realtors, and a key period is just ahead.

“Coming off 2020, the best year ever for sales volume, we are struggling with historically low for-sale inventory statewide, “said Bolster, Broker/Owner of Allied Realty in Skowhegan. “Buyers are facing far fewer available home choices and sellers are reluctant to list their properties without their next move-in property in place. Buyer demand is strong, and a continuing positive trajectory for 2021 is dependent on homes for sale coming onto the market.”

“This high demand, low supply dynamic can be challenging for buyers and for sellers,” Bolster said.

Spring is usually prime season for real estate, Bolster told the Portland Press Herald, when many people decide to put their homes on the market. If more homes aren’t offered for sale, Bolster said, “it becomes unhealthy … and it could be a challenging year in real estate sales,” he told the newspaper.

The picture many may have is of a real estate market in which the agents are happily churning deals, Bolster said, but that might change as the year goes on.

“We definitely have some challenges here,” he said.

State rep wants to regionalize decisions affecting coastal issues

Photo of a mussel pipe system of the kind proposed by Acadia Aqua Farms for collecting mussel seed in a proposed new aquaculture lease site in Frenchman Bay. SMARTFARM PHOTO

BAR HARBOR, Feb. 20, 2021 – Should the Town of Gouldsboro have an out-sized voice in determining whether a salmon farm be allowed to construct permanent fish pens which would obstruct the scenic views of Fisherman Bay and harm traditional Maine fisheries?

Should the Town of Bar Harbor alone benefit and license the cruise ships which sail up Frenchman Bay to port at its anchorage?

State Rep. Lynne Williams, D-135, thinks not.

Rep. Williams
State Rep. Lynne Williams wants all coastal stakeholders to have a say on regional issues

In her boldest action yet as a newbie state legislator, Williams has petitioned for a study group – the first step toward eventual legislation – to create regional governance on issues which affect more than one town. The actual language is now being drafted in Augusta so it can be disclosed to the public.

In an interview this week, Williams said she has taken note of the opposition to a Nordic-owned aqua farm which is expected to apply for a lease from the state to operate two giant pens in Frenchman Bay. Williams, who lives in Bar Harbor, also said towns other than Bar Harbor have a stake in deciding the future of cruise ships in Frenchman Bay.

“There’s not a history of municipal cooperation in Maine on certain issues,” Williams said.

There is no existing mechanism, she said, for settling conflicting issues among municipalities which share a coastal resource like Frenchman Bay. And Maine gives too much license to single municipalities like Bar Harbor to determine whether cruise ships may steam up and anchor in Frenchman Bay.

Other states, she said, such as California and Rhode Island have enacted safe guards to protect all interests, and she wants the legislative study group to explore those solutions.

Specifically, she is calling for the creation of regional enforcement entities in each of Maine’s bays.

The composition of her proposed study group would include two state senators, three state reps, three fishermen, three allied marine businesses such as ship builders and tour operators, five conservation groups, five municipalities and local businesses, one Marine Coastal Program rep, one Acadia National Park rep and one rep from the outer islands.

This group would meet four times and then propose legislation by Nov. 1.

The initiative takes direct aim at American Aqua Farms and Acadia Aqua Farms.

American Aquafarms is planning to use a 100,000-square-foot fish processing facility in Gouldsboro as its base to farm salmon. It proposed to build 30 150-foot-wide pens in two areas in Frenchman Bay.

Acadia Aqua Farms wants to use its lease for mussel farming to grow mussel seeds on a 48-acre area north of Leland Point in Frenchman Bay.

Mother of dead Right Whale calf also severely injured

The calf struck and killed a week ago in St. Augustine inlet in Florida was 22-foot long and one-month old

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 20, 2021 – Somewhere in the Atlantic is a “dead whale swimming.”

That’s how Jane Davenport referred to the female named “Infinity.” Davenport is the lead lawyer for environmental groups suing the federal government for better protection of this endangered species.

Infinity’s calf was struck and killed by a sport fishing vessel Feb. 12. The captain of the 50-foot boat reported hitting a whale near the entrance to St. Augustine Inlet. The vessel began taking on water and was quickly grounded to prevent it from sinking.

Fresh cuts on the whale’s back and head suggest it was struck by a vessel’s propeller. The whale also had broken ribs and bruising, which are consistent with impact trauma. Final results of a necropsy are yet to come.

Because calves “stick to the mother like glue,” Davenport said, it is believed the female was also struck.

The calf is pictured with its mother, Infinity, in a photo taken in January. (Submitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute)

On Tuesday, the mother was seen for the first time since the calf’s death, and also had injuries consistent with a vessel strike on her left side, including a series of fresh propeller cuts, the Florida wildlife research institute said. Davenport said the injuries will likely be fatal.

The ship strike comes in a good year for calving of Right Whales, as 15 newborns were spotted.

North Atlantic right whales migrate annually to waters such as the Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of St. Lawrence to feed and mate before migrating to areas off the shores of Florida and Georgia to give birth to their young in the winter months, said Amy Warren, a right whale researcher with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

Infinity was observed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence every summer for the past four years, Warren said.

“She’s definitely a regular visitor to Canadian waters,” Warren said.

In the last three years, however, the endangered species has been plagued by deaths caused by vessel strikes and fishing net entanglements.

Since 2017, 33 whales — including the most recent one — have been found dead in U.S. and Canadian waters, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA).

A necropsy is underway to determine the cause of death. (Submitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute)

Another 14 live whales have been found with serious injuries, NOAA said.

“The population is estimated to be right around 350 individuals right now, so any loss is devastating to us as part of the community making efforts to protect these right whales,” Warren said

She said leading up to the decline in North Atlantic right whales, 23 were birthed annually.

So far this breeding year, 15 mother-calf pairs have been recorded, including the latest to have died, she said.

Another right whale calf was found dead last November. However, it was found to have died from natural causes, according to NOAA.

Investigation underway

In its Facebook post, the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute said mother-calf pairs spend most of their time at, or just below, the water’s surface.

“Vessel operators are urged to slow down (10 knots or less), remain alert while traveling through nearshore waters in Florida and near inlets, and to give these animals space when sighted,” the institute said.

NOAA spokesperson Allison Garrett said in an email that she couldn’t comment on how fast the boat was going, or whether its operator was breaking any laws at the time, as such information is part of an open law enforcement investigation.

Warren said the messaging to boaters is to always keep a sharp eye on the water. However, her centre wants to see stricter rules for vessels to better protect right whales.

She said only boats longer than 20 metres are required to limit their speed to 10 knots in certain parts of U.S. waters at specific times of the year to protect right whales.

“We believe that the vessel that struck this calf was under 65 feet (20 metres), so there was no speed restriction. And we do think that speed could play a role,” she said.

Warren said there should also be speed limits for boats measuring under 20 metres.

Last year, the Government of Canada implemented a mandatory 10 knot speed-limit restriction throughout much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for vessels longer than 13 metres, in an effort to protect right whales.

The mother of the whale calf that died after being struck by a vessel has been spotted with injuries, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Research Institute. 

The institute posted an update on its Facebook page Wednesday about the calf’s death. 

The 22-foot-long calf collided with a boat around the St. Augustine Inlet Friday and washed up on Anastasia State Park Saturday morning with severe propeller injuries, according to First Coast News. 

Previous:Endangered baby right whale killed after colliding with boat near St. Augustine Inlet

The calf, a male, had fresh cuts on its back and head that indicate propeller strikes, according to the FWC. He also had broken ribs and bruises. The final results of the necropsy are pending.

The calf’s mother, named Infinity and designated as whale #3230, was seen on Tuesday for the first time since the incident, according to FWC.

“She has injuries consistent with a vessel strike on her left side, including a series of fresh propeller cuts. Researchers collected photographs and are working to assess the severity of these wounds.”

Fifteen right whale mother and calf pairs have been seen in Florida and Georgia calving grounds so far this winter, and three fatal vessel strikes involving a right whale calf have been reported since January 2020, according to the FWC. 

“Vessels 33 feet and longer have struck and killed right whales. Collisions with whales can result in damage to or total loss of vessels,” according to the FWC. “Vessel operators are urged to slow down (10 knots or less), remain alert while traveling through nearshore waters in Florida and near inlets, and to give these animals space when sighted.

“Mother-calf pairs spend the majority of their time at, or a few feet below, the water’s surface. They can be surprisingly difficult to see, especially in low light and poor weather.”Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

Years of low birthing numbers have been a great cause for concern for the species, which is considered critically endangered, as estimates suggest there could be as few as 360 right whales left.

Because female right whales consistently give birth around every 10 years, the species has been dying faster than it can reproduce. In 2018, out of the roughly 100 females who are able to give birth, not a single calf was identified. In 2020, there were 10 births.

People should report whale sightings to 1-877-WHALE-HELP (1-877-942-5345) or to the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF Ch. 16.Q

whale https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/north-atlantic-right-whale

https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2021/02/13/right-whale-calf-fatally-struck-by-boat-washes-up-on-anastasia-island/?fbclid=IwAR1ghFqu9uHjm3NphSusM3ise-kz99b1LSP8PvBBUyoFfmA1rzCX-Ht6EyA

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