S. 4114

A bill to amend Public Law 99-420 to provide for the conveyance of certain Federal land in the State of Maine for use for affordable workforce housing

STATEMENT OF MICHAEL A. CALDWELL, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, PARK PLANNING, FACILITIES, AND LANDS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS CONCERNING S.4114, A BILL TO AMEND PUBLIC LAW 99-420 TO PROVIDE FOR THE CONVEYANCE OF CERTAIN FEDERAL LAND IN THE STATE OF MAINE FOR USE FOR AFFORDABLE WORKFORCE HOUSING, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

MAY 11, 2022

Chairman King, Ranking Member Daines, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 4114, a bill to amend Public Law 99-420 to provide for the conveyance of certain Federal land in the State of Maine for use for affordable workforce housing, and for other purposes.

The Department supports S. 4114 and recommends technical amendments.

In 1986, Congress directed the Secretary of the Interior to convey the land described in S. 4114 to the Town of Bar Harbor to be used as a solid waste transfer station (P.L. 99-420).  A waste transfer station was never constructed on the parcel.  S. 4114 would amend P.L. 99-420 to allow this land to be used for affordable workforce housing.  The conveyance is subject to the limitation that the Secretary may retain not more than 15 acres of the Federal land identified as ‘4DBH’ on the map, to be used by the Secretary to provide housing and administrative facilities for the use of and supporting the purposes of Acadia National Park (Park).

As is common at many National Park units, finding affordable housing in the Park’s gateway communities on Mount Desert Island is a significant challenge for both the National Park Service (NPS) employees and their counterparts in the private sector.  Much of the area’s housing stock now consists of high-cost, short-term rentals, which has created a much more challenging housing situation than what existed just a few years ago for both permanent and seasonal employees.  At the same time, the Park has experienced unprecedented growth in visitation, thereby intensifying the need for park employees to provide visitor services and ensure the protection of park resources. 

NPS acquired an undeveloped 55.3-acre parcel in the village of Town Hill in Bar Harbor, Maine by donation in 1960.  As mentioned above, in 1986, P.L. 99-420 established a permanent boundary for the park and directed the NPS to convey the parcel, which is outside the boundary of the park, without monetary consideration to the town of Bar Harbor for use by any town on Mount Desert Island as a solid waste transfer station.  A centralized transfer station for Mount Desert Island is no longer needed.  At the same time, the need for affordable workforce housing has become a universal concern for the towns on Mount Desert Island as it has for the NPS.

The provisions of this bill will enable the Park and local communities to facilitate the development of affordable year-round and seasonal workforce housing for eligible residents that would be of mutual benefit to NPS and Mount Desert Island.  The proposal to repurpose this parcel for the development of affordable workforce housing has been reviewed and was unanimously endorsed by the Bar Harbor Town Council, and the selectboards of the towns of Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, and Tremont.

The Department recommends including further technical amendments to the underlying statute, P.L. 99-420, by deleting the words “by any town which so” that immediately precede “desires” as described in Section 1 of this bill and deleting the words “that requests the conveyance of the land” in the bill.  In addition, the Department recommends inserting the words “to benefit the towns of Mount Desert Island” following the words “affordable workforce housing”. We would be happy to work with the sponsor and the Committee to develop these amendments.

Chairman King, this concludes my statement.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

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