SANGERVILLE, Maine — Voters adopted the Community Bill of Rights ordinance 86-40 Wednesday night at a special town meeting.
This marks the first Community Bill of Rights ordinance to protect a municipality from infrastructure projects built without the consent of voters anywhere in the country, and the fourth rights-based ordinance in Maine.
Sangerville voters approved the Rights Based Ordinance to assert, “the community’s Right to Sustainable Infrastructure which is integrated into the community as part of the Town’s planning processes, which benefits the Town, and does not damage the natural environment.”
Concerned about recent attempts to sell local residents on positive aspects of a project known as the East-West Corridor, local townspeople from across Piscataquis County called the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund for assistance, because they did not think the plan proposed for their area fit well with their vision of community.
Following several Democracy School trainings to learn how municipalities are considered to be devoid of authority to ban any “legal land use” permitted by the State, residents of Sangerville began working with CELDF organizers to draft a Community Bill of Rights for their Town, to assert the right to local self-government.
The ordinance bans “land acquisition for, or construction of, transportation and distribution corridors” within the town and makes it illegal for corporations and government to deny the rights of residents secured by the Ordinance.
The Ordinance goes into effect immediately and is enforceable against private and public actors.
“The RBO has reawakened discussion of shared visions and values in town while empowering the community on an issue where the system was not otherwise working for them. We’ve gone from feeling terrorized by the threat of the EW to being strengthened in many ways,” commented resident, Leigh Wiley, when asked how he felt about the local law.
Several communities, faced with the proposal to bisect the State of Maine with a transportation corridor, are following the lead of Shapleigh and Newfield, Maine and Barnstead, Nottingham, Sugar Hill and four other towns in New Hampshire, where Rights-Based Ordinances were enacted between March 2006 and 2013.
The Sangerville Ordinance is the most recent of all of the CELDF Ordinances to date and follows in the fifteen year tradition of working with communities to draft legislation adopted at the municipal level in order to ban unwanted corporate activities that could potentially harm residents, threaten local economies, and damage natural water systems and ecosystems.
Selectwoman, Melissa Randall had this to say, following the vote, “Tonight Sangerville exercised our right to self-governance to protect our homes, our waters and forests, and our way of life. No corridor/ No compromise.”
Interested readers are invited to visit our website to learn more.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
CONTACT: Gail Darrell, New England Community Organizer, CELDF