SOUTH PORTLAND — At-large City Councilor Tom Blake was elected unanimously by the council Monday to serve as South Portland’s mayor for the next year.

Blake replaces District 4 Councilor Linda Cohen as mayor. Cohen and newly elected District 3 Councilor Eben Rose were sworn in at Monday evening’s inaugural ceremony.

This will be Blake’s third term as mayor.

The South Portland City Hall council chambers were packed with councilors’ family members, friends and supporters.

In his inaugural speech, Blake pointed out that South Portland residents have asked city leaders to continue on a sustainable path. He said the council faces a huge challenge in striking a balance between residents’ quality of life and growth of the city’s retail, commercial and industrial sector.

“Today, we are seeing a revolving conflict between residents and industry. For 20 years, we have seen one issue after another around this conflict,” Blake said. “We simply cannot continue to be progressive without a greater attempt in conflict prevention.

“From the Irving Oil conflict in the ’90s to the tar sands issue, to the current propane (storage) issue, these conflicts are extremely unhealthy for our community,” Blake added. “These conflicts are expensive, time-consuming for staff and council, and pit citizens against businesses and even citizens against citizens.”

Blake was referring in part to a proposal by NGL Supply Terminal to build a liquefied petroleum gas depot at Rigby Yard. Residents of the Cash Corner and Thornton Heights neighborhoods have expressed concerns that such a facility could endanger their properties and lives if there were an industrial accident.

Blake said he doesn’t have the solution to the conflicts, but challenged his council colleagues to do a better job.

“I challenge this council to think outside the box, to work with the entire community so that we may develop a long-term solution to this recurring problem. As terrorism is a cancer in America, this conflict is a cancer in South Portland,” the mayor said.

Blake said the council also needs to keep the city’s tax rate as low as possible.

“It is my sense that our taxpayers cannot pay more,” Blake said. “This is a great challenge, doing more with less.”