Portland polarized by vote on sale of tiny park

June 9th, 2014 by admin Leave a reply »

By PATRICK WHITTLE
Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – City residents, less than a year after legalizing marijuana, are going to the polls again to settle a squabble over a half-acre park that evolved into a much larger debate over the future of the city’s public parks.

The ballot issue would add 35 open spaces to the city’s list of protected lands and make it more difficult to sell them. Among the spaces is Congress Square Plaza, a small patch of trees, red bricks and concrete in a busy commercial section of downtown Portland, most of which the city wants to sell to an Ohio-based hotel owner.

It’s one of several closely watched local elections Tuesday. Also on the ballot are hotly contested primaries in the race for an open seat in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is vacating to run for governor.

Supporters say the parks vote is a referendum on Portland’s commitment to public spaces, with some backers saying failure could imperil other open spaces in an increasingly congested city.

“What we’re fighting over now is not that half-acre of public park,” said Bree LaCasse, a campaigner for the referendum’s passage. “It’s naive to think there won’t be pressures on any other parks.”

Opponents of the measure, including business leaders, say reneging on the sale of property to the owner of the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel would discourage investment in the city.

“This referendum is about one thing – Congress Square Plaza,” said Chris Hall, chief of the Portland Regional

Article source: http://www.myfoxal.com/story/25729383/portland-polarized-by-vote-on-sale-of-tiny-park

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