Saco Ward 5 Councilor Alan Minthorn resigned from his seat at the end of the city council meeting Monday night. Under the city’s charter, the council will appoint an individual to fill the term until it expires in early December 2022. Courtesy Photo

SACO — Ward 5 Councilor Alan Minthorn resigned at the conclusion of the Saco City Council meeting Monday, hours after the Save Saco Neighborhoods group filed an affidavit seeking to recall him from his council seat for what they perceived as his stance on a development proposal and related zoning issue.

Minthorn, who also served as deputy mayor, has been a Saco city councilor since 2015. He was re-elected, unopposed, to a three-year term in November 2019. He said his resignation is effective immediately.

“It has become clear that no matter what I say or do, this small recall group will continue spreading mischaracterizations about me, and my positions, inhibiting my effectiveness to represent the majority of Ward 5 residents,” said Minthorn. “I will not put my family, and this city I love, through the negative headlines of a several months long recall process. A process which should only have been used in the most egregious of situations.”

Minthorn said he believed there was no way for him to be effective “given the visceral nature of our city’s politics right now.”

He said he hoped to serve the community in other ways in the future.

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Feb. 23, Minthorn said while his resignation ends the recall effort, “it leaves our ward voteless during the transition.”

According to the Saco charter, the City Council will appoint an individual to complete the 21 months of the unexpired term, to early December 2022.

Members of Save Saco Neighborhoods, a group opposed to a proposed 336-unit apartment complex in the Lincoln and Bradley streets neighborhood, claimed Minthorn had not been properly representing constituents of Ward 5 and took issue with some of his votes associated with a zoning change in the neighborhood. During the course of an estimated  two-year revision to Saco’s zoning ordinances, a zoning committee and the Planning Board had voted to change zoning in that area to Medium Density Residential. The city’s legal counsel advised that would mean the zoning wouldn’t be consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The City Council had planned to hold public hearings and a vote with a view to changing the zoning to the Route 5 Mixed Use Zone, as had apparently been suggested by staff. In January, however, upon the advice of legal counsel, they referred the matter back to the Planning Board. which recently voted to keep the medium density residential zone, rather than change it. The City Council took up the matter again Monday night, with the board voting unanimously for Minthorn’s motion to accept the Planning Board’s report. Five councilors then voted against scheduling a public hearing to change the zoning to R5MU, while councilors Joseph Gunn and Michael Burman voted in favor of doing so.

In their recall affidavit, filed with the City Clerk’s Office at 3:32 p.m. Monday, SSN alleged Minthorn had supported issues Ward 5 residents oppose, hadn’t represented them in a suitable manner, had not clearly communicated his position on city matters affecting the ward when questioned, and took issue with the votes he had previously cast on the zoning issues.

Minthorn said his focus had been to find alternative locations or adjustments to limit the impact of the proposed 336-unit apartment complex. “Ultimately, we should do everything we can to legally stop this huge project for coming to fruition,” he said in a statement issued over the weekend.

In a statement on the SSN Facebook page following Minthorn’s resignation, a post said they wish him “all the very best. ”

“Mr. Minthorn showed the courage and grace to ‘heal’ the City of Saco and his Ward 5 constituents, by his resignation and we will, collectively, be forever grateful to him,” the statement read. “We, at SSN, and would like to add, the City of Saco, thank Mr. Minthorn and are in hopes for the healing, collaboration, and kindness — for all concerned — to move forward from today.”

Minthorn, in his statement, reflected on the city’s accomplishments during his tenure, including a nearly flat mil rate.

“My tenure reflects the hard work and countless hours invested in communicating, collaborating, and cooperating to make Saco a better place for our children and grandchildren to live, work, and play,” he wrote. ” It has been a pleasure to work with the outstanding city staff, whose expertise and accolades demonstrate their ability to lead in their respective departments.”

“I deeply appreciate and feel extreme gratitude to Ward 5 for entrusting me as their councilor these past five years,” Minthorn continued. “I am most proud of serving as deputy mayor, twice, selected by my peers. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve our city and see the numerous contributions reflecting my time at the dais. I look forward to continuing my commitment serving our community in other venues in the coming months.”

“I thank you for everything you’ve done,” Councilor Gunn told Minthorn as he announced his resignation Monday night.

“I will always believe you have had the best interests of the city at heart,” Councilor Marshall Archer said.

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