North Yarmouth rejects Village Center development proposal

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NORTH YARMOUTH — An election season that saw dueling Village Center development questions duke it out culminated Tuesday with voters rejecting a development proposal backed by the Board of Selectmen.

Question 2, the result of a successful citizen petition, passed 812-637, according to unofficial results. It defeated Question 1, the option supported by selectmen and the town’s Economic Development and Sustainability Committee, which failed 935-526.

Of 3,110 registered voters, 48 percent of registered residents cast ballots, according to Town Clerk Debbie Grover.

Question 1 called for North Yarmouth Memorial School, closed in June 2014, to be redeveloped as a municipal and community campus. The existing Town Hall would have been sold for housing or commercial development, and a municipal sewer system would have been created on the school property to help facilitate new development at that site.

Question 2 opposed the selectmen’s plan, and called first for the town to cease all spending and work concerning the study or development of a sewer system.

It also pushes for Wescustogo Hall – the community gathering place destroyed by fire in August 2013 – to be rebuilt as stipulated in a 1997 agreement with the town; for the current Town Hall to be maintained and renovated; for proposals to be sought for the school building; for citizen feedback to be garnered on all proposals, and for any plans for the school to be sent to a town vote.

“We’re ecstatic,” Linc Merrill, a former selectman and Grange member who helped spearhead Question 2, said Tuesday night. “We don’t really believe that the sides are that far apart. … What we need to do is regroup and actually have a plan, where we analyze all of the information.”

Audrey Lones, a member of the Economic Development and Sustainability Committee, Tuesday night said the vote was unfortunate. “I think people would have supported Question 1, but were concerned about the sewer piece, (and) didn’t understand it fully,” she said.

“I think that the supporters of Question 1 did a good job of running an honest campaign, as opposed to trying to instill fear and untruths … to people, and twisting the facts,” Lones added.

The Board of Selectmen was scheduled to discuss the referendum results Wednesday.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Theron Hamilton submits a ballot as ballot clerk Steven Smith looks on during Tuesday’s referendum in North Yarmouth. Along with state ballot questions, residents were asked to decide between two town Village Center development questions.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.
  • logical

    Audrey Lones sums up the reason question one was defeated. The EDSC refused to see any other point of view but their own. This left no room for middle ground and set the stage for an “us against them” scenario. And thanks for one final insult to the people of North Yarmouth. Predictable.

  • The reason Question 1 lost can be simplified to a lack of trust and a condescending attitude by those who supported the proposal. It is unfortunate as the idea is sound and a lot of people put a lot of hard work into the project. Let it be a lesson in management, when you lead you need to lead with character and respect. The leaders did not follow that advice and they reaped the consequence of those actions.

    Now is the time for the town leaders to put aside personal desires and listen to the residents and their goals. The question may have lost but the vote shows that the residence are interested in a viable solution that preserves North Yarmouth and makes way for responsible development.

    I hope the town leaders hear that message and work to unite the population and bring neighbors, friends and former friends together to figure a solution.

  • Jeff Toorish

    North Yarmouth has been through a pretty tough time for the past year and a half or so. The wonderful thing about elections are they are truly an opportunity to reboot. Yesterday’s balloting in North Yarmouth shows voters are decisive; they have made their views known. Along those lines, this would be the perfect time for people to come together and try to look toward the future. North Yarmouth has so much to offer, and we will plan the future of the town with input from everyone.

    In every election there are some people who are pleased with the results and others who are disappointed. How both sides react is a mark of vision and maturity and leadership.

    The past 18 months have shown that there are multiple points of view in North Yarmouth. I know I don’t agree with everyone, but I certainly support everyone’s right to their perspective.

    I think it is now up to members of the Board of Selectmen to show leadership and directly confront issues facing the town. There will certainly be some tough choices ahead. The one take-away from all of this is the need for transparency between the board, various committees and the citizens of our town. That will eventually lead to restored trust and outcomes that we can all live with.

  • s80t6

    In my opinion it was a mistake for the town to ever accept the school. Instead of a two-town headache it became a one-town migraine, and we’re now seeing the result. As the developers spun their vision about the “golden triangle” (LOL), constructing a new town hall/community center that was way too big, and all the prosperity that could result from turning the town hall property into a mini-Levittown, the selectmen must have listened to all this with saucer eyes and drooling mouths thinking they would all be featured in Forbes someday. The foolish argument about “other towns doing it” would have ranked this project up there with other follies like the Yarmouth park-and-ride and the Falmouth sidewalk project. Growth must surely occur, but at a controlled pace that is consistent with the visions of the residents. Assuming that both North Yarmouth and Cumberland will continue to grow, I think it imperative the town retain control of the school property since the day will come when a new school is needed.