Petition to repeal Cumberland contract zone makes progress

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CUMBERLAND — A petition for a voter referendum to repeal a contract zone agreement has about half the signatures it needs, one of the campaign’s organizers said July 30.

The Town Council on July 14 unanimously approved the agreement with developer Justin Fletcher, who plans to split his lot at 3 Longwoods Road (Route 9) in exchange for deeding the town an acre of land for an approximately 500-foot connection of Harris Road to Route 9.

The agreement would allow Fletcher to have one duplex and one house on the land. Density standards previously allowed one single-family home or one duplex on the property.

A private connection does exist, used by people who have purchased an easement. If the town takes possession, that connection will be upgraded to town subdivision standards.

The Planning Board unanimously recommended passage in June.

Colleen Higgins of Harris Road approached Town Manager Bill Shane after the Town Council’s July 14 meeting about circulating a petition to repeal the council vote. The petition requires 599 certified signatures, or 10 percent of the number of registered town voters. The forms are due back to the town Aug. 13, 30 days after the council’s decision, according to Higgins.

“I think that we’re about halfway there,” she said last week. “We’re trying. We’re getting organized a little more, we meet weekly, and we keep thinking of new places to go to get more signatures. … There’s a good core group of people that are working on it.”

One place they gathered signatures is outside Town Hall, before the Town Council’s July 28 meeting.

“Every single one of (the people approached) wanted to sign,” Higgins said, noting that if the petition is certified, the question of repealing the council’s decision would go on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Concerns about the road connection relate to speed and safety, and to the condition of the existing Harris Road and a potential increase in traffic. The connection of Harris Road to Route 9 is consistent with Cumberland’s Comprehensive Plan, Town Manager Bill Shane has said.

Councilor Shirley Storey-King has said the connection would be a means of improving connectivity, and that one of the Comprehensive Plan’s goals is to reduce the town’s number of dead-end roads.

But it is the quiet nature of such a street that attracted many of its residents, according to those who spoke at the July 14 public hearing.

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

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.