Portland voters on Tuesday decisively rejected a controversial ordinance meant to protect scenic views threatened by intruding developments.

With all 12 precincts reporting, the proposal was defeated, 11,793 to 7,002.

“The people have spoken. That’s what you have to go by,” said Anne Rand, a spokeswoman for Save the Soul of Portland, the group that initiated the ballot question. “We have to accept it.”

Had it been enacted, the scenic views ordinance would have made it harder for developers to erect buildings that block views of the ocean, mountains, public parks and historic buildings, and would have retroactively targeted the Portland Co. project, preventing any structure from rising more than 4 feet above 58 Fore St. It also would have created a back-door veto power over developers, giving a group of 20 citizens, or a single affected property owner, the ability to intervene during the city planning process to determine if their view was being improperly blocked.

Well-funded opponents quickly gathered against the question, including a jumble of organizations that infrequently unite behind a single cause. Their PAC, Portland’s Future, was expected to have vastly outspent the impassioned but lesser-funded group of citizens who authored the ordinance and collected signatures to place it on the ballot. Final campaign fundraising figures were not available Tuesday.



David Farmer, spokesman for Portland’s Future, said voters saw the broad implications of the ordinance, and its ability to stifle growth around the city.

“People who normally don’t work on issues together came together because they think Question 2 is bad for the city,” Farmer said, noting that among the coalition were 17 labor unions, AARP Maine, Homeless Voices for Justice and GrowSmart Maine.

“Question 2 was very poorly written, it put at risk thoughtful projects all over the city, and voters recognized that, and they soundly rejected it,” he said.

At the head of the donation list was CPB2, the company developing the Portland Co. complex, which contributed at least $60,000 to the PAC. It also had the most to lose. The ordinance would have retroactively applied to the massive development, potentially scuttling it entirely.

In contrast, the group of residents who came up with Question 2 raised funds through their own PAC, Save the Soul of Portland, and drew from a decidedly less wealthy donation pool.

Barbara Vestal, who wrote the ordinance, and her husband, Edwin Chester have contributed $8,000 to Save the Soul of Portland. Vestal and Chester live across the street from the Fore Street development.


Other nearby residents also have given large sums. Sherwood Hamill of Atlantic Street has given at least $4,500, and St. Lawrence Street resident Peter Macomber has given at least $4,000.

Jim Brady, a principle at CPB2, was relieved by the vote results and glad that his project can now move forward. The development was granted a zoning change in June to allow restaurants, housing, retail and taller buildings, provisions which will now stand.

“We intend to reach out to anybody and everybody in the community to move this project forward in a thoughtful manner,” Brady said. “We welcome input from anyone with thoughts.”


Ahead for the project is the lengthy and involved site plan approval process, where citizens will have more chances to weigh in, he said.

Beyond the immediate effect on the Fore Street project, the ordinance would have created a task force to examine other views worthy of protection, and allow a group of 20 citizens or a single affected property owner to petition the city to protect a vista.

Currently, developers requesting exceptions to zoning limits, such as for height or use restrictions, don’t have to specify what they will develop, which proponents of Question 2 say devalues the public process.

Critics of the ordinance said it was never clear how the city could implement it and the city staffers purposefully held off interpreting it before the election for fear they could be accused of attempting to sway voters in the process.

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