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2000-11-12
Topsham, ME. 40% Vote for Cap, Not Enough

Citizens in Topsham, Maine, in an effort to educate voters about the harm that follows superstore sprawl, put a question on the November 7th. ballot (see newsflash on 9/17, 8/31/ and 8/26. The proposed zoning ordinance would have placed a dimensional limit on the size of retail stores. Local sprawl-busters in Topsham report that the final tally was 1770 in favor of the size cap, and 2711 against it. Here's the report we received: "It was the largest voter turnout in Topsham history. Frankly, we thought it would be closer, but polling 40% was a pretty good result considering we were opposed by the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, Topsham Development Incorporated, our State Representative, the Planning Director, numerous present and former members of boards in town and, at the very last minute, the publisher of the Brunswick Times-Record. Here is the statement we released to the press on Wednesday morning: We want to thank everyone for their hard work in getting the initiative on the ballot and making their voices heard in support of a yes vote. We are grateful for having met and worked with a wonderful group of people who deserve much credit for their enthusiasm and persistence during this campaign. Even though we lost, we did make our views known and it will be impossible to ignore us in the future. The vote shows that we represent a large number of people in town. So, while it is a defeat, it is not a total defeat. We have made changes, paved the road for future changes and upset the balance of power. What we wanted from the beginning was for the people of Topsham to decide whether or not they wanted to allow big boxes here. We are encouraged by the significant and substantial number of people who agreed with us. We will use this to send a message to the town government that we expect them to: (1) Clean up the mess in the town government - hold the Planning Director accountable for her actions and weed out the conflicts of interest on the Planning Board (2) Commit themselves to providing reasonable protection for neighborhoods adjoining the commercial zone (3) Be vigorous in the Konover site review process to mitigate the negative effects of large-scale retail development, including independent studies of the effects of large-scale retail development, including independent studies of traffic, environmental, safety, and economic impacts. Everyone involved in bringing this issue before the voters can be very proud of a strong, clean, and honest effort. One positive effect of our work is that the town immediately to our north along I-95 (Bowdoinham) just passed their Comprehensive Plan last week. It includes a 40,000 square foot limit on retail buildings.

What you can do: The reports on campaign spending on the Topsham ballot question have not reached us yet, so we do not know how much money Konover Depevelopment spent to defeat this ballot question. Usually such ballot questions are decided either pro or con in the range of 60% to 40%. In the case of Topsham, the vote difference is really 470 people either way. If 470 NO voters had switched to YES, the measure would have passed. The developer can no longer claim that the anti-sprawl sentiment is just a "vocal minority." It is remarkable that 4 out of 10 voters were willing to go against the advice of their elected officials and newspaper to try and do the right thing.










 
 
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