The Cape Elizabeth Town Council Wednesday debated the timing of a referendum on zoning amendments that would have allowed the Dunham Court project to be built in the town center.

In spite of the developer’s announcement this week it is pulling its plans for the controversial project in light of the upcoming referendum, voters will still get a say on the amendments.

“Even though this one specific proposed project is now abandoned and is no longer active, the amendments were not specific to that single project,”  Town Council Chairperson Jamie Garvin said at a public hearing.

The council approved the amendments 5-2 in October.

The council will decide Dec. 13 on a date for the referendum. Discussion at a public meeting Wednesday centered on whether to hold a special election or to include the referendum on the general election ballot next November.

Some residents at the public hearing, citing the divide that the project and the amendments have caused in the community, said the referendum should be held as soon as possible, rather than waiting for the general election in November 2022.

Councilor Valerie Deveraux, who voted against the amendments in October,  agreed.

“I think its important that the town come together and have the opportunity to heal and really feel that November is way too far away,” Deveraux said. “If we move quicker with the vote, then we can do something faster with that property.”

Others thought it wise to wait until the general election, which carries a higher voter turnout.

Garvin, who voted for the amendments, said with a special election “you’ll hear from the fewest people in town and not the most.”

“By holding it during a regularly scheduled election, you’re guaranteed to hear from the most citizens and not the fewest, and in that way you’ll be assured that you’ll have a vote and an outcome that reflects the widest cross-section of the community and not just a very small few,” he said.

Other arguments in favor of a November referendum included giving the town time to conduct a housing diversity study, with the goal of developing options for affordable and attainable housing in town.

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