CHARLESTON, Maine — In a speedy special town meeting, residents in Charleston voted to adopt a moratorium on any east-west corridor development until mid-December.
There was little discussion in the standing-room only meeting held at the Charleston Community Center on Saturday morning. Many had to stand outside the door because the classroom in the former Charleston Elementary School building was full.
In an 86 to 20 vote, the town enacted a 180-day moratorium regarding private corridors that includes paved highways, pipelines and high-tension transmission lines.
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.
Only one man spoke before the discussion was closed.
“I think all of us have something we’d rather like to do on a Saturday,” said John Albertini.
Albertini asked if there was anyone in the room who was undecided about the moratorium. No one raised their hand.
“Since there’s nobody who’s undecided, I call the vote,” he said.
However, Bill Buzzard stood and asked questions about the corridor and the moratorium.
“There’s three things we’ve got to know — What harm does it do to the town of Charleston? What good does it do to the town of Charleston? And can we tax it?” Buzzard asked. “To vote on the moratorium, you have to know what this moratorium will do for us.”
“There’s no law that says the town has the right to tax something like this,” said Bob Lodato, who has been gathering information on the corridor for the town.
A woman from the back of the crowd said it gives the town time to gather information.
“I understand that, but are we going to set up something by the time we come back in six months?” Buzzard said.
“It gives us six months as a town to decide whether or not we want it,” responded Lodato. “If most people don’t want the corridor, the planning board can be asked to make a permanent moratorium on the corridor.”
Buzzard said he wanted the town to gather information on the corridor. Selectman Terry Lynn Hall said after the meeting that residents would need to get together to form a committee to get such information.
“That’s up to them,” Hall said.
Charleston joins other towns in mid Maine who have placed a moratorium on the corridor.
On June 13, Dexter’s town council voted to place a similar 180-moratorium on the corridor after a public hearing.
Sangerville enacted a 180-day moratorium in March, while Monson is in its second 180-day moratorium. Parkman held a public hearing on June 13.
Garland held a public hearing regarding a moratorium on June 1, and will have a vote on Wednesday, July 10 at the Garland Grange Hall at 6 p.m.