CHARLESTON, Maine — A group of residents who asked the town to adopt an ordinance aimed at blocking development of a corridor for a proposed east-west highway now wants voters to reject the measure.
On Saturday, a special town meeting will be held at the Charleston Community Center at 10 a.m., where voters will be asked to pass or reject a rights-based ordinance.
The ordinance is based directly upon Maine’s constitution, which guarantees inherent and unalienable rights regarding the acquisition, possession and protection of property, and the pursuit of safety and happiness, said Bob Lodato, a Charleston resident. The goal of passing the rights-based ordinance is to block the east-west corridor, he said.
However, backers of the rights-based ordinance are now urging voters to reject it after hearing concerns from residents this week about how its language might be interpreted.
A public meeting was held Monday at which residents on both sides of the issue discussed the pros and cons of such an ordinance, according to Charleston Selectboard Chairman Teri Lynn Hall.
The rights-based ordinance was examined word by word, said Hall. Issues arose regarding terminology that would prohibit disrupting the local ecosystem.
“When they were discussing the ecosystem, ground, plants, water, air — this is a farming community. A few of the farmers voiced their concerns,” said Hall. “A farmer probably disrupts the ecosystem everytime he hits the field or drives down the road, they said.”
Hall said there were concerns that the rights-based ordinance, as written, would negatively impact farmers and other businesses, not just block the east-west 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.
Charleston residents voted 48-2 in November to extend a moratorium regarding private corridors that includes paved highways, pipelines and high-tension transmission lines. It followed a vote in June that passed 86-20.
Dexter is holding a town meeting on Thursday to possibly extend its own moratorium. Sangerville, Monson, Garland and Parkman also have passed similar moratoriums.
“We have decided that we are going to ask residents to pass over the amended rights-based ordinance and the original rights-based ordinance, because we have learned from our neighbors that there’s a flaw in the definition section of the amended rights-based ordinance that could be potentially deleterious to local businesses,” Lodato said Wednesday.
Lodato added that the group would continue to pursue ways to permanently keep the east-west corridor out of Charleston.
“We’ll continue to meet to come up with alternatives to this rights based ordinance,” he said.