DEXTER, Maine — Nearly 200 people packed into Dexter Town Hall on Thursday evening, most to voice their support for a moratorium on any east-west highway projects.
Twenty people stood at the microphone to tell Town Council members how they felt during the public hearing. Most spoke in favor of a moratorium. Only Dexter residents were allowed to speak.
“We believe this is necessary because there isn’t enough concrete information to make responsible decisions at this time,” said Linda Tisdale. “This corridor may be one of the most significant decisions that this town will ever face. We are concerned about the potential irreversible long-term consequences of the corridor.”
The proposed corridor includes a 220-mile toll highway connecting Calais to Coburn Gore, creating an east-west route from New Brunswick to Quebec. Cianbro Corp. President and CEO Peter Vigue, who has been a leading voice in favor of the route, previously has said the highway would avoid town centers and pass between Dover-Foxcroft and Dexter. He also has said that eminent domain will not be used in acquiring land for the project.
In a 4-2 vote, the Town Council decided to place a six-month moratorium on construction of private corridors including paved highways, pipelines and high-tension transmission lines.
Sangerville Town Manager and Dexter resident Dave Pearson said the moratorium is needed to allow Dexter to get policies in place to deal with such projects.
“The town really has nothing in place that can review this project,” he said. “Nowhere in [Dexter’s] table of land uses will you find something that even resembles this corridor project.”
Dexter Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs urged the council to vote against a moratorium.
“I assure you folks that this is not something that will be solved or settled or even acted on in the six months that’s being requested,” said Briggs before the vote. “This timeout is not going to do anything to help you to make a decision on where our community will go in the future.
“I urge you [town councilors] to consider the political statement that you make if you support this moratorium,” she continued. “That political statement in fact says Dexter doesn’t want business.”
Briggs’ statements were met with boos mixed with a few claps.
Peter Haskell, chairman of the Dexter Town Council, also faced backlash from the crowd for his comments.
“I don’t think any answers you get will change your mind on the highway,” Haskell told the standing-room only crowd. “I think you’re dead-set against it from the start. There’s nothing that will change your mind.”
Mike Curtis, a Dexter resident for 38 years, said he was taken aback by Haskell’s remark.
“What we’re hoping … is when you pass this moratorium it will force the powers that be … to be more forthcoming in terms of information so that some of us can make [an informed] decision,” he said. “The purpose we want with this moratorium, in conjunction with other moratoriums [from other towns], is to send a message to these people to give us some information. Don’t keep us in the dark like mushrooms.”
“Why give the green light to the proponents of this project when they’ve been unwilling to shed more than dim candlelight on what lies ahead?” Curtis asked councilors earlier.
Councilor Fred Banks told the crowd that he was impressed with what the speakers had to say, but that he was opposed to a moratorium.
“I do think that this moratorium will do nothing. I really believe it will do nothing,” he said.
However, Banks voted with the majority.
Councilors Banks, Michele Smith, Michael Blake and Denise Dinsmore voted for the moratorium. Haskell and Alan Wintle voted against it. Andre Robichaud did not attend the meeting.
The moratorium will be in place until Dec. 13.