Council sends Scarborough Charter amendments to voters

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SCARBOROUGH — After a brief public hearing the Town Council put six Town Charter amendments on the November ballot, including a provision establishing a process for recalling elected officials.

The council voted unanimously to send five of the six amendments to voters:

• Question 1 would prohibit a person from serving on both the Board of Education and the Sanitary District board.

• Question 2 would set the number of Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals seats at five members with two alternates.

• Question 3 would create a permanent long-range planning committee.

• Question 4 would create of a process for a citizen petition in the case of the town selling or trading property worth more than $400,000.

• Question 6, which sums up grammatical, organizational and technical changes.

Question 5, the recall process, saw several failed attempts at amendments before it was finally approved.

The first amendment, offered by Councilor Karen D’Andrea, would have decreased the number of voters required to vote for a recall to count, from 25 percent of the most recent gubernatorial election to 15 percent.

“I would like to see it a little more realistic,” D’Andrea said. “I do not want to make it impossible.”

Councilor Michael Woods immediately questioned the logic of the amendment, asking why a councilor would propose a lower threshold for recalling an elected official than the 25 percent required for overturning an ordinance.

“I’m not opposed to recall, but it should be a high threshold,” Woods said.

D’Andrea’s amendment failed 3-3, as did an amendment offered by Woods to increase the required voter turnout from 25 percent to 40 percent.

Councilor Judy Roy then proposed 30 percent, which passed unanimously.

If any of the amendments pass in November, they will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2011.

In other business, the Council voted 5-1, with Councilor Jessica Holbrook opposed, to approve spending $127,000 from the voter-approved Land Acquisition Reserve Fund for a conservation easement on the 13-acre “Fancy Farm” on Ash Swamp Road.

The easement, which will be managed by the Maine Farmland Trust, will extinguish development rights on the property, thus lowering the real estate value so the trust will able to sell the land to a farmer for a reduced price.

“I have three people now who have expressed interest in this property,” said Nina Young of the Maine Farmland Trust. “I think (Fancy Farm) will be very enticing for someone.”

The property is owned by an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s Disease, whose family has been trying to sell the property to pay for her care. The easement would provide the family with some of the funds they are seeking until the Maine Farmland Trust can arrange for a farmer to purchase the property.

The easement contains provisions that would allow limited public access on the land. Paul Austin of the Scarborough Land Trust suggested current trails in that area could be easily expanded onto the wooded part of the property without disrupting agricultural uses.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or