A Saco neighborhood group has filed an affidavit with the City Clerk’s office to begin the process to recall Ward 5 Councilor Alan Minthorn, citing what it claims is his failure to advocate for his constituents’ concerns regarding a proposed 336-unit apartment complex and associated zoning issue. Courtesy Photo

SACO — The group  Save Saco Neighborhoods has submitted an affidavit to begin the process of recalling Ward 5 City Councilor Alan Minthorn, citing what it claims is his failure to advocate for his constituents’ concerns regarding a proposed 336-unit apartment complex and associated zoning issue.

Minthorn said he’s against the development proposal and planned to vote against a proposed zoning change in the area where it would be located at the council meeting Monday evening. That proposed change, among others, has been associated with an overall update of the city’s zoning ordinance.

Kelley Archer and Jane Caron, spokeswomen for Save Saco Neighborhoods, said they submitted the recall affidavit to Saco City Clerk Michele Hughes at 3:32 p.m. Monday afternoon, Feb. 22.

In the affidavit, SSN members say Minthorn took part in what they characterized as an improper motion to direct city staff and legal counsel to reinstate specific zoning that the Planning Board had removed without due process or a Planning Board hearing, and voted to extend the effective date of the city’s new zoning laws for 90 days without explanation. It alleges Minthorn has supported issues Ward 5 residents oppose, hasn’t represented them in a suitable manner, and not clearly communicated his position on city matters affecting the ward when questioned, among other issues.

Minthorn said Ward 5 residents should focus on the development proposal, which he opposes.

“This petition effort is a distraction from our shared goal of defeating this development project,” he said in a statement to the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier. “We need to keep our eye on the prize. I will be voting against it anytime it gets to me on the council.”

Minthorn has been a Saco city councilor since 2015. He was re-elected, unopposed, to a three-year term in 2019. He also serves as deputy mayor.

The SSN group has been working toward a recall measure for the last few weeks.

“The citizens of Ward 5 have lost complete confidence in Councilor Alan Minthorn’s ability to adequately represent his constituents as gathered and reflected in the statements of the Affidavit and Petition of Recall,” said Archer.

Caron said elected municipal officials are obligated to work together with the community they serve, and that city councilors have a personal commitment to serve within their ward, as well as for the city as a whole, and provide respectful and clear responses to constituents.

“Unfortunately, when approached by Ward 5 residents, City Councilor Alan Minthorn has not provided his constituents clear responses to meet their needs and questions concerning their ward in regards to zoning, traffic, schools and safety,” said Caron in a statement.

“City Councilor Alan Minthorn, for whatever reasons, has not been able to reach out to discuss, stand up nor publicly state his support of his Ward 5 constituents’ concerns for the ward and the concerns his constituents have for the City of Saco as a whole,” Caron added.

She pointed to his January vote on zoning in the ward, which  sought to reinstate a zone the Planning Board had rejected. She said the recall is a clear message of “no confidence” from citizens of the ward.

Minthorn however, said he’s long been against the 336-unit apartment complex proposed by the John Flatley Company, and referred to an email he wrote to Planning Director Denise Clavette on May 18, in which he states, “Based on the plethora of negative feedback from my Ward residents, both abutters and those on city streets providing access to Lincoln Street, I cannot see a positive path forward for this project.”

In his statement to the Courier, Minthorn said he has heard from many residents in Ward 5 that the proposed project would adversely impact already stressed traffic, infrastructure, and the project “is out of step with the homes in the immediate area.”

“This is not the right place for this high-rise, luxury, out-of-state development and I’ve stated so since last May,” he wrote. “My focus has been to find alternative locations or adjustments to limit impact, but ultimately, we should do everything we can to legally stop this huge project for coming to fruition.”

The proposed 336-unit complex in seven, 48-unit, 50-foot-tall buildings between Lincoln and Bradley streets is currently in the MU4 zone. The access road has since been shifted to Bradley Street from Lincoln Street by the applicant. Over the course of a city-wide zoning update, a zoning ordinance review committee and the Planning Board said the MU4 zone should become an MDR, or medium density zone. The city’s attorney advised the Planning Board the MDR zone was inconsistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, and that the R5MU zone, which like the MU4 allowed for Master Planned Development, was the proper zoning. The Planning Board on Feb. 9 voted to keep the MDR designation.

The City Council, at their Monday, Feb 22 meeting, was scheduled to have a first reading on a proposal to change the zoning to R5MU, reversing the Planning Board decision.

“On Monday night (Feb. 22), the council has the first opportunity to be on the record specifically regarding zoning of this land,” said Minthorn, referring to the parcel where the proposed apartment complex would be situated. “I will be voting no, and encouraging my fellow councilors to respect the wishes of Ward 5 residents.”

He said ward constituents are welcome to call him at 590-6521 or email: [email protected].

Under Saco’s charter, those seeking to recall a councilor are required to gather 50 signatures of voters registered in the councilor’s ward, along with an affidavit outlining their reasons for doing so. If there enough valid signatures, the City Clerk drafts petition papers, which, according to the charter, remain in City Hall for 20 business days; voters registered in the councilor’s ward wishing to support the recall petition must sign it there. The petition requires 15 percent of the number of voters registered in the ward from the last municipal election. Hughes said there were 2,311 registered Ward 5 voters on Nov. 3, so 347 signatures would be required. Upon conclusion of the signing period, the city clerk has 10 days to certify the petition. If certified, the City Council is notified, and councilors must order an election not less than 40 days, or more than 60 days thereafter, unless a regular municipal election is pending within 90 days. The charter goes on to say if a councilor is recalled, an election for a successor is to be held within 60 days.

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