The port of Portland is emerging as a logistics hub for Maine’s fast-growing food industry. Refrigerated cargo comes in from Iceland on an Eimskip container ship, supplying local fish processors with haddock and lobstermen with bait. Other goods come off the ship and leave Portland by rail and truck to points all over North America. Maine lobsters, blueberries and beer are loaded onto the ships, headed for markets in Europe.

This operation has expanded dramatically over the last seven years, thanks to a decadeslong public planning process and significant investment by the state and federal governments. The final piece of the puzzle, a privately financed $30 million cold storage warehouse, has received the approval of a unanimous Planning Board, and the City Council, with an 8-1 vote. The development paves the way for a historic expansion of the city’s port, one that is projected to generate up to $900 million in economic activity.

Or maybe not. About 125 residents of the West End object, saying that it would block their views and might add to traffic.

If Question 2 on the city ballot passes next month, that small group of residents will have more power than all the rest of Portland’s 65,000 residents combined. They will be allowed to negotiate with the developer in secret, and could kill the project with delay if they don’t get what they want. That’s a terrible way to make public policy, and we urge Portland voters to say “no” to city Question 2.

The ballot calls it “An amendment to strengthen zoning protection by allowing resident participation in zoning changes” – but more accurately, it’s a neighborhood veto.

The idea comes out of a dispute in the Stroudwater neighborhood, where the owner of the former Camelot Farm on Westbrook Street got approval for a 95-unit subdivision, even though existing zoning would have allowed only 80 houses. After losing a narrow vote at the City Council, the neighbors proposed a citywide ordinance that would let small groups of residents stop any zoning change they don’t like.

If Portland’s Question 2 passes, 25 percent of registered voters who live within 500 feet of a property – no matter how few people that is – can file an objection. The property owner then has to get 51 percent of the residents who live within 1,000 feet of the parcel to sign a petition supporting the zoning change. If he can’t, it’s denied. That gives tremendous negotiating leverage to the neighbors, who are free to bargain with the developer outside any public process.

Proponents argue that this is necessary because people buy property believing that zoning will maintain neighborhood stability. But zoning codes are not prophecy. Circumstances change and opportunities emerge.

There are going to be times when the interests of the whole city are at odds with the interests of a few property owners. Ultimately, elected officials have the responsibility of balancing competing needs and making decisions. Not everyone is going to be happy.

Portland voters should not cede their power to shape the city’s future. They should vote “no” on Question 2.