With voter turnout higher than the turnout for last year’s town meeting, more than 65 percent of Wiscasset voters said no, 578-303, to continuing the town’s lawsuit against the Maine Department of Transportation on Tuesday, April 17.
The lawsuit was an attempt by the town to prevent the DOT from moving forward with its Option 2 downtown project, and specifically to prevent the demolition of Haggett’s Garage and the removal of parking on Main Street.
The issue has been controversial among townspeople and business owners since 2016, when the voters approved Option 2 in a non-binding referendum. A 2017 vote, the result of a citizen’s petition, rejected changes to Option 2 and the lawsuit followed. Tuesday’s vote was the third related to the project.
Several people gathered at the Wiscasset Community Center after the polls closed Tuesday evening to hear the results firsthand.
Wiscasset Board of Selectmen Chair Judy Colby, a supporter of Option 2; Selectman Katharine Martin-Savage, a supporter of the lawsuit; and representatives of the pro-Option 2 coalition Wiscasset Thinks Forward, and others were present.
When Election Warden Susan Blagden read the results, there were many smiles among those gathered.
Martin-Savage told reporters she was very disappointed in the vote, but the town must move forward. “The voters have spoken,” she said.
During a brief interview before the announcement, Martin-Savage said, “Regardless of how the vote turns out, the people on both sides of the issue want what is best for Wiscasset. They only have a different opinion of what is best.”
Bill Maloney, of the Wiscasset Thinks Forward group, said, “I hope we are good winners and good losers. The people from both sides of this issue want what is best for the town. We have different ideas as to what is best.”
Colby said she was very pleased with the vote, and now it is time for the town to move forward. “The voters have said they do not want to continue with the lawsuit, and I am very glad the voters had their say on this issue,” she said.
Wiscasset Town Manager Marian Anderson, during a telephone interview, said she is very pleased with the turnout. “The direction from the voters is very clear,” Anderson said. “Now we need to move forward.”
How the town will move forward is uncertain at this time, since the town is waiting for a decision from the Maine Business and Consumer Court on its request to require the DOT to comply with town ordinances.
Although the selectmen have been split on support for Option 2, they voted 5-0 to put the question before the voters.
The next Wiscasset selectmen’s meeting will be Tuesday, April 24 at 6 p.m.