WISCASSET, Maine — After receiving sufficient signatures on a petition, the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on Tuesday to send a traffic project proposed by the Maine Department of Transportation, but substantially changed since a previous vote, to residents for a vote at the annual town meeting in June.
The vote, however, will not be binding, and the MDOT does not need permission from voters on the details of the project, Chairwoman Judy Colby said, citing the advice of the town attorney.
“It can go out, but it’s not the final say,” Colby said. “That’s in the DOT’s hands.”
The Wiscasset Taxpayers Alliance returned the petition, calling for a new, binding vote, to the town office on April 6. The town attorney reviewed the petition before selectmen voted to place it on the town meeting warrant.
The petition question that will go before voters states: “to see if voters will disapprove and reject, by a binding referendum, the changes made by the Maine Department of Transportation to the Route 1/Main Street Option #2 Project approved by the voters in a June 2016 advisory referendum.”
The changes referenced include proceeding with the project without federal funding; not complying with federal historic preservation standards; imposing the cost of amenities, upgrades, and maintenance on the town; and excluding additional parking areas originally planned for the Creamery Pier.
A “yes” vote on the warrant article would mean a rejection of the DOT project, Colby said.
However, the DOT is not required to consider the municipal vote, Colby said.
“The petition suggests voters have an authority they do not have,” Colby read from a letter sent by the town attorney.
The non-binding referendum question in June 2016, when voters overwhelmingly approved Option 2, was an opinion poll. The MDOT downtown traffic project does not require a town meeting vote, Colby said.