Portland votes to protect plaza from development

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Voters narrowly approved a referendum that places added protections on the city's public land.

Here are the results:
Yes: 4,888 votes, 51%
No: 4,605 votes, 49%

The issue was put before voters after the city council voted to sell Congress Square to the neighboring Westin Hotel to build an event center.

The change in Portland's land bank law places 35 open spaces in the land bank, and makes it harder to sell them. The city will need eight council votes or six council votes and approval from voters to sell land in the land bank.

Both campaigns say the close race speaks to how much Portland voters value public land, and the will of people to improve Congress Square.

"We continue to be strongly motivated to improve Congress Square," Jim Cohen of the No On One campaign said. "The referendum that was passed today sets up a process, and it's now in the hands of the city council whether to exercise that process or not. I think many people will be looking very closely at what those next steps are."

"For a June election, to have turnout like this is a testament to how much we value our parks," Robert Levin, attorney for the Friends of Congress Square Park said. "I think there's people we respect and admire on all sides of this question, certainly on the no side, and we think there's a lot of potential moving forward."

The question now is whether the city and the Westin Hotel are willing to go through this new process to try to build the event center. The general manager of the hotel has said the parties involved would have to strongly consider whether it would be worth putting the issue to voters again.


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