Waterfront Protection Ordinance fails by narrow margin in South Portland

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The narrow defeat of the proposed Waterfront Protection Ordinance on Tuesday left foes sighing in relief.

Supporters, meanwhile, claimed victory of sorts, despite the 4,453 to 4,261 vote against the referendum.

With the election over, efforts to prevent tar sands oil from being shipped to the city will move to City Council chambers, beginning with a 6 p.m. Wednesday City Council workshop on a possible moratorium, seen as a way to bring the opposing sides together.

“It feels great, a relief for us to protect the working waterfront,” Jamie Py of the Maine Energy Marketers Association said Tuesday night at a victory party at the Maine Military Museum.

With voter turnout at about 45 percent, the proposed amendment to Chapter 27 of the city code was defeated, 51 percent to 49 percent.

Supporters said the vote did not reflect the full will of people in the city.

“It was such a close vote, when we know the whole city is against bringing tar sands to town,” said Robert Sellin of Protect South Portland, which supported the ordinance brought forward by a citizen petition in June.

The amendments sought to ban expansion of petroleum-related facilities in the Shipyard and shoreland areas of Commercial zones, and the loading of petroleum into ships at dock.

Sellin and attorney Natalie West said it was written specifically to stop a potential flow reversal in the 236-mile pipe lines to Montreal, owned by the Portland Pipe Line Corp.

The Working Waterfront Coalition, formed by MEMA, argued the scope of the ordinance would halt any industry attempts to modernize and meet safety and marketplace demands.

Larry Wilson, Portland Pipe Line president and CEO, Tuesday said the council workshop will open the dialogue he has sought throughout the campaign.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate,” Wilson said.

Sellin and Mayor Tom Blake said a moratorium is at best a temporary stopgap of a very specific nature.

“It will have to cover the movement of tar sands,” said Blake, who was re-elected to a three-year council term Tuesday. He led all four council candidates with 3,900 votes.

Wilson, who has repeatedly said his company would consider reversing the pipe line to stay in business, was optimistic a solution can be found.

“I am confident, once the positions are understood, that we can move forward together,” he said.

Cathy Chapman, who helped guide the Protect South Portland campaign for the ordinance, said the message is clear and the network of support is strong to keep tar sands out of South Portland.

“I don’t feel this is a loss,” she said. “We are not stopping.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.