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2001-06-14
Belfast, ME. Citizens Win Referendum Vote

Here's the message I received this morning from a group called Belfast First, in the town of Belfast, Maine: "We won! Belfast won! The referendum today (6/12/01) asked Belfast voters if they wanted to allow retail stores larger than 75,000 square feet. The voters spoke loud and clear. NO Big Boxes in Belfast! The vote was NO: 1294 YES: 768. I would call that a slam dunk. What do you think?? Six months ago, informal surveys had the supporters for Big Boxes at 60% to 40%. We feel very good about how we approached our campaign and obviously very pleased with the results." The Belfast News article about the vote said that "city residents overwhelmingly rejected big-box stores Tuesday and elected two city councilors committed to upholding that mandate. Residents defeated a referendum question dealing with so-called big-box retail stores larger than 75,000 square feet by nearly 2-to-1...In what was one of the most hotly debated issues to face the city in years, 1,296 voters expressed their opposition to big-box stores in an advisory referendum. Only 770 residents voted in favor of allowing big-box stores in the city. Though the referendum was nonbinding, both of the successful candidates for the City Council had indicated beforehand that they would abide by the wishes of the voters...By repudiating the big-box stores, it appears that residents also gave a ringing vote of confidence to Mayor Michael Hurley and the three city councilors who scheduled the referendum and spent the past year devoting their efforts to preventing large retail development from setting up shop in Belfast. The opinions of Hurley and Councilors Jon Cheston, Tammy Lacher and Michael Lewis had been roundly criticized from the moment they enacted a moratorium against big boxes and scheduled the referendum last fall. The three councilors were particularly singled out for criticism because so many of the critical planning and zoning issues surrounding the big-box question passed by 3-2 votes of the council. "I think the vote puts that criticism to rest once and for all," Mayor Hurley said after hearing the results. "It's a vindication of the referendum and moratorium. It gave the people of Belfast a chance to debate the issue over the kitchen table, the coffee shops and everywhere else in town. It looks like the majority of those voting agreed that Belfast does not need big boxes."

What you can do: Included in today's note to me was the following: "Your information, book and advice has been very valuable. We really appreciate what you are doing and your info really helped focus our efforts." The Belfast First group has pulled off a stunning victory against sprawl -- one which will inspire other towns in Maine and across the country to take up the fight for caps on the size of retail buildings. For more details on the Belfast vote, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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