March 31, 2020
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York voters approve ban on recreational pot sales

BDN file | BDN
BDN file | BDN
York voters on Saturday approved a measure that would prohibit recreational marijuana businesses from operating within the town.

YORK, Maine — Residents on Saturday resoundingly passed a measure that will ban all retail recreational marijuana operations in town, and sent a newcomer and a veteran to the Board of Selectmen.

Meanwhile, perhaps in a signal voters are pleased with the levels of municipal and school spending, virtually every measure on the 64-article budget ballot passed, as well as seven measures on a special general referendum warrant.

Question 1 on that special warrant asked voters if they favored prohibiting marijuana retail operations in town, which passed by a vote of 1733 to 619. This means that even after the state has promulgated regulations on retail sales sometime next year, no one will be able to operate such a facility in York.

In elective office voting, incumbent Robert Palmer was handily returned to the Board of Selectmen, garnering 1,668 votes, the highest count from among the three candidates running for two open seats. Newcomer Liz Blanchard came in second, securing 1,436. She will join Dawn Sevigny-Watson as the second woman on the board. Former selectmen Torbert Macdonald will not be returning to the board, having received 863 votes

“I want to thank the voters of York for returning me to the board,” Palmer said Saturday night. “And I want to welcome Liz. It will be good to have a second woman on the board.”

The marijuana question drew both supporters and opponents to the polls.

Second-time voter Elliott Gear, 18, said he voted in favor of a ban on retail marijuana in town — although he had voted the previous fall in favor of legalizing pot statewide.

“I don’t think that’s what York stands for,” he said. “If people want to go to other towns, that’s fine. But not in York. We’re a tourist town, too. I just don’t think it belongs here.”

Caroline Macdonald took a minute from her duties Saturday afternoon holding a sign in support of husband Torbert’s bid for selectman. She said voted against the marijuana ban proposal.

“I believe prohibition makes people sneaky and increases the chances of a black market. And this would be a revenue source” for the town, she said. But she admits this topic draws passionate response from people and “is such a value-laden thing.”

Other measures that passed included the following:

— By a narrow vote of 1,263 to 1,036, voters approved Article 36, the school administration measure that will allow the school department to hire a second assistant principal at York High School.

— The voters decided to buy the Maine Department of Transportation garage on Route 1, by a vote of 1,623 to 701

— By a wide margin, 1,725 to 772, voters agreed they wanted a public safety communication system

— The voters agreed to allow the town to apply for a federal Community Development Block Grant that will be used as part of a planned expansion at lobster wholesaler Maine Coast. The tally was 1,772 in favor to 459 opposed.

The turnout was somewhat lighter than in recent years, with 2,430 votes cast. According to Town Clerk Mary-Anne Szeniawski, 3,300 people voted in 2015, 2,600 in 2014, and 2,156 in 2013.

“Participation has been waning of late,” she said. “We were talking about this the other day. We were wondering if people are feeling freed from the November election and all the turmoil and are just deciding to sit it out for a while.”

Among those not sitting it out was 18-year-old Katherine Bertolini. It was Bertollini’s first election; she has turned 18 since last November.

“I decided after that election that I would vote at every single time I had the opportunity from now on,” she said.

Laurie Macdonald said she appreciates the long ballot, where she can vote up or down on everything from a dump truck to road paving.

“Until I moved here from Massachusetts three years ago, I never voted on a line-item budget,” she said. “It gives me a voice on every single issue, and I deeply appreciate that. Voting is a marvelous privilege that is not afforded to many people.”

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency LLC.


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