Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Voters will decide GAN

Published in the American Journal

A Scarborough-wide petition drive has gathered enough signatures to force a referendum vote on the Great American Neighborhood contract zone passed June 19 by the Town Council.

The election is expected to be set for July 29, though the formal scheduling will not occur until the July 16 council meeting, which will also include a public hearing on the 397-unit, cluster housing project in Dunstan.

Because of the high school construction, polls will be at Wentworth Intermediate School.

Those opposed to the project, calling themselves NoGAN, needed to get 2,014 signatures of registered voters on a petition requesting a referendum on the project, now called Dunstan Crossing. The deadline was July 9, but things went very quickly.

“We had 2,400 (signatures) in the first six days,” said organizer Deb Greenwich. Knowing that some would be invalidated because the signers were not registered Scarborough voters, organizers kept the drive going, and turned in a total of 3,370 signatures as of the American Journal’s deadline. More were expected.

Town Clerk Yolande Justice and her staff validated only the minimum number, confirming Tuesday afternoon that there were enough.

“We’ve really pulled the town people together,” said organizer Lisa Douglas. “We like our town being a town and don’t want it to be a miniurban area.”

To make the referendum valid, 2,014 voters must turn out to actually vote. To that end, Douglas, Greenwich and others will be calling people who signed the petition, to remind them of the date and location of the election.

A“yes” vote on the ballot question upholds the council’s decision to allow the project, and a “no” vote overturns it.

GAN Developer Elliott Chamberlain said Tuesday, “I’m not totally shocked,” about the number of signatures gathered, but added he doesn’t think that every signature represents a “no” vote.

Asked how he was going to respond to the referendum, Chamberlain said, “I don’t really have any defined plans. I’ve never been through this process.”

Justice is already seeking election clerks to work July 29, expecting the election to be scheduled for that date.

The large “vote here” banner normally hanging over Gorham Road outside the high school on voting days will be hung up at the tennis courts near the entrance to Wentworth, to remind passers-by that voting is going on.