VASSALBORO — Residents voted down both local referendum questions in the election Tuesday.

Residents rejected a controversial proposal to use surplus money to add sidewalks in the East Village area, 1,186-981, as well as a proposed change to the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance, 1,360-969.

The sidewalk project would have been done in tandem with a planned state reconstruction of Route 32 from South China to Winslow. The state received a federal grant of $234,400 for the sidewalk project, and Vassalboro would have been locked in at a local match of 20 percent of the estimated total cost of $293,000.

Now a five-year moratorium barring the town from doing construction work on the road will be in place after state finishes its project, which is estimated to happen sometime in 2018.

Meanwhile, proposed shoreland zoning ordinance changes to align the town’s language with the state law, which now uses footprint to measure the area of a structure instead of volume and square footage, also was rejected.

Residents in the shoreland zone area would have been able to expand their homes by up to 30 percent of their footprint, depending on how far back the structure is from the water, as opposed to the current rule of up to 15 percent.

However, some residents who attended the public hearing in September were concerned about a height restriction, which they said could limit their expansion options. The tallest a structure could have been is 25 feet if they are more than 25 feet but less than 100 feet from the water. The state set the restriction for visual aesthetic purposes, according to Code Enforcement Officer Richard Dolby.

Supporters of the sidewalk proposal said sidewalks would’ve helped make the area safer for pedestrians, children and those with disabilities. One resident, Sarah Sugden, spoke at a public hearing on the issue and said her children should be able to walk down the road to a friend’s house safely.

The state’s work on the road will include widening it and adding a 5-foot-wide shoulder, which some said encourages drivers to speed up. Holly Weidner, a conservation commission member, said sidewalks could have anticipated the potential changes and “calmed” traffic, tricking the driver into slowing down.

But opponents of the proposal said a 5-foot shoulder plus a 5-foot sidewalk would have encroached on residents’ and businesses’ properties, as some are already close to the road. The owner of the post office, Steve Jones, said parking wouldn’t have been possible at his business if both were put in.

Opponents also worried the cost could cause a tax increase, as the money would have been taken from the $150,000 taken from surplus each year to offset tax hikes. Lauchlin Titus, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said that wasn’t a “foregone conclusion,” but also said the town spent money so carefully that there is little it could cut to make up for the nearly $60,000 expenditure.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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