CAPE ELIZABETH – The Town Council may reverse itself next week and send an $8.2 million library renovation and expansion proposal to town voters.

The council had decided last month to start a six-month “public engagement” process, leading to a council vote in October on whether to fund the project to fix up and expand the Thomas Memorial Library.

But many residents were upset at that plan, saying it went against one of the council’s goals for the year, which was to put the matter to a referendum vote in November.

Council Chairwoman Sara Lennon, who favors a referendum, said the concern is that any meetings about the library project will instead focus on whether the council or the voters should decide whether to proceed with it.

“No one wants to talk about anything other than that,” Lennon said.

Lennon said next Monday’s council meeting will include discussion about a possible charter change that would set a limit on how much the council can spend on capital projects without a referendum. She said that would likely open the door to revisiting the decision on having the council-only vote.

The council adopted a timeline that implicitly ruled out a referendum by a 5-2 vote. Lennon said she voted for the timeline to move the project along but favors sending the issue to voters.

She said it’s possible one of the other four councilors would now support a referendum, providing the fourth vote to put the project on the ballot in November.

David Sherman, the leading proponent for having the council make the decision, said he still favors that approach because it’s the way representative government should work. But he admitted that the debate about a referendum is distracting from discussion of the project.

“We’re getting sidetracked here and people are just getting upset over procedure and process instead of the real issue,” he said. “We’re not getting much in the way of feedback on the merits of the project itself.”

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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