Pending more information about natural resources, the Gorham Town Council Tuesday postponed for a month deciding on a controversial proposal to allow increase housing density in the Narragansett Game Sanctuary.

Residents opposing rezoning cited concerns Tuesday about the environment, wildlife and aquifer.

Town Councilor Virginia Wilder Cross said it wasn’t necessary to decide the issue Tuesday.

“I’m concerned about vernal pools and the water supply,” Wilder Cross said.

Town Council Vice Chairperson Jim Hager proposed postponement to October. Although the rezoning would be implemented under the town’s comprehensive plan that was passed in 2016, Hager said he wants to see a state document concerning natural resources that may not have been considered.

A large portion of the game sanctuary lies between South Street and Brackett Road, a section that would be rezoned from rural and suburban residential to urban expansion. That area is not served by public water or sewer. Under urban expansion, the size of a house lot with a private sewer in the area would be reduced from 60,000 square feet to 40,000.


Residents have a petition with 160 signatures opposing the rezoning.

Kathleen Ashley of Day Road raised concerns at the meeting about well water and the wildlife habitat and she wants research conducted on natural resources.

Judie Alessi O’Malley, a 30-year resident of Shirley Lane, told the council she is worried about more development “pulling water” from the aquifer.

Jim Means of Beatrice Drive opposes an increase in housing density. “The council preaches it wants to preserve green space, but you really don’t,” he said.

Under the proposal, the area of New Portland and Lowell roads would change from rural to suburban residential. Paul Gore of Alberta Way owns property in both areas proposed for rezoning, told the council,  “I support the zone change.”

The state established the 3,600-acre game sanctuary in 1927 on privately owned land, according to Scott Lindsay, regional wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. Hunting is prohibited there but the state has no development restrictions on the sanctuary.


The town’s Planning Board in a 2-2 deadlock vote in August failed to recommend the rezoning.

November referendums 

In a separate matter, the council approved asking voters in a November referendum to raise the town charter’s spending limit for a capital expenditure from $250,000 to $500,000.

In another proposed referendum, the School Department sought Town Council approval to ask voters to authorize borrowing of up to $20 million.

School Committee member Phil Gagnon told the council he opposed that request. The impact on the borrowing on taxpayers is unknown because the tax rate has not yet been set following the town’s revaluation, he said.

“I can’t see why we’re having this conversation,” Gagnon said.

The council approved an amendment, proposed by Hager, to slash the School Department’s request to $10.5 million. It includes $4.3 million for air conditioning and $423,000 for LED lighting at the high school, along with $5.8 million for Phase 3 of modular units at Narragansett Elementary School.

Voters will decide on the borrowing in November.

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