Bridgton: Tar sands resolution passes; campground sale rejected

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Voters overwhelmingly said no Tuesday to a non-binding question asking them if they wanted to sell the 65-acre Salmon Point Campground on Highland Lake. Only 167 voters favored the sale, while 277 were against it.

Voters also said no to tar sands by overwhelmingly passing a resolution opposing any future plans to transport the diluted bitumen form of crude oil through the Portland Pipeline. The vote was 288 in favor of the resolution, and 167 against — nearly a two-to-one margin. Harrison voters were even more adamant in favoring a similar resolution against tar sands oil transport, passing it by a vote of 156–59 — nearly a three-to-one margin (See related story).

Salmon Point

Tuesday’s vote ends months of debate that began when the Community Development Committee issued a report on the town-owned campground, recommending the town seek proposals from developers of the non-beach portion of the campground. Selectmen responded by agreeing to ask voters if they would favor a sale, excluding the beach and parking area, as long as the price was at least $2 million and the development generated at least $75,000 in new tax revenues for the town.

But opposition to the idea was strong from the start, with many residents saying the campground property was a rare resource that should not be sold for any price. Others said the town should focus on ways to make the campground more profitable so it would bring in more than its current revenue of around $65,000 a year. The CDC’s report, in fact, outlines specific steps the town could take, including increasing annual lease fees and other improvements.

Now that voters have decided not to sell the campground, it is expected that Selectmen in coming months will be examining some of the other recommendations in the CDC’s report. Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Baker has asked the Department of Environmental Protection to survey existing conditions at the campground to determine whether some of the accessory structures campers have placed on their sites are allowed under the state Shoreland Zoning law. Baker said he does not believe the town is in violation of the 100-foot setback rule banning accessory structures, but wants to make sure, he said.

Tar Sands

The voting results indicate residents were not swayed by arguments made by Portland Pipeline Company officials during a public hearing on the referendum. The officials said the resolution was inaccurate and unfair, in that the pipeline company needs to protect its option to stay competitive in a market that is increasingly looking to tar sands oil from vast fields in Canada as a viable source of oil. The company received a presidential permit in 2008 to reverse the flow in one of its pipelines to transport the tar sands from Alberta to Portland, but it never followed through on its plans.

Opponents, however, were concerned that the Lake Region economy would be devastated if there ever was a spill, arguing that tar sands oil have a different chemical makeup that makes the oil much more difficult to clean up. Opponents were also upset that the pipeline company, to date, has been unwilling to commit to having an environmental impact study completed before any permit is issued.

The votes in Bridgton and Harrison are non-binding. Several people reported that pipeline officials were going door-to-door in Harrison, asking residents to reject the resolution. Similar resolutions were passed earlier this year in Waterford and Casco. Bethel was to vote Wednesday at their Town Meeting on whether to repeal an anti-tar sands resolution passed at a Special Town Meeting in February.

Fireworks Ordinance

Bridgton voters also favored passage of a new Fireworks Ordinance, with 288 in favor and 144 against. The ordinance closely mirrors state law, in that it allows consumer fireworks between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. during daylight savings time. After the end of daylight savings time, the allowed hours for fireworks use are between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The ordinance also allows fireworks to be used up until 12:30 a.m. on the 4th of July, the weekend following the 4th of July, New Year’s Eve and the weekend preceding the 4th of July when that holiday falls on a Monday.

In addition, the ordinance requires tenants to obtain written permission of the property owner before setting off fireworks on the property.

Elections

At their Tuesday meeting, Selectmen bemoaned the lack of turnout for Tuesday’s elections, as well as the lack of candidates.

“No one was running opposed, and in a couple of positions, no one is running at all,” said outgoing Selectman Woody Woodward. “A lot of people tell us how to do our jobs, but when no one runs, you don’t get a chance to do that,” he said. “I’m just sad about it. That’s not how to run a town.”

Ken Murphy ran unopposed for Woodward’s three-year seat, earning a vote total of 341. There were no write-ins.

Steve Collins received 342 votes, and Fred Packard, 340 votes, electing them to another term on the Planning Board. Dee Miller received three votes as Planning Board Alternate member. Wesley Gorman garnered 383 votes for another term on the Bridgton Water District. Karen Eller received 325 votes to return to the SAD 61 Board of Directors. Debra Albert received 53 votes as a write-in candidate for the second open seat on the school board.

Selectman Paul Hoyt said when he arrived to Town Hall to vote at around 4 p.m., only 287 people had voted, out of a registered voting list of 4,300 people. He encouraged the viewers watching the meeting on Lake Region Television to get down to Town Hall and vote.

 

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