Citizens in several coastal communities cast votes affecting the future use of their waterfronts, including plans for the redevelopment of Portland’s city-owned Maine State Pier, a planned coal gasification plant in Wiscasset, and a proposal to allow certain zoning changes in Camden.

The vote in Wiscasset could kill the coal project, although its developer announced plans for further studies and a possible request for a second vote. The coal project (WWF Nov 2007) was opposed by lobster fishermen who feared barges would damage their gear, and other residents who were concerned about carbon dioxide emissions and other environmental effects.

In Camden, voters turned down a plan developed by a local committee (WWF Nov. 2007) to permit Wayfarer Marine to develop a portion of its waterfront property for residential purposes, generating revenue that would allow the company to maintain the rest of its existing boatyard. The “no” vote, proponents of the plan argued, may encourage Wayfarer to move some of its operations out of Camden to a less crowded harbor.

In Portland the election brought new faces to the city council, changing the balance in favor of the Olympia Cos., one of two developers that have been competing for the right to redevelop the Maine State Pier (WWF Nov. 2007). Olympia representatives promised efforts to “develop a consensus” on the project. Opponents have claimed that Olympia may not have sufficient financial resources to make its project a reality.

The Passamaquoddy Tribe’s bid to build a “racino” in Washington County failed by a margin of 52 to 48 percent. The project enjoyed wide support in eastern Maine where it was viewed as a potential solution to that region’s perennial high unemployment, but voters elsewhere opposed it, as they have similar projects in the past.

Also statewide, voters backed a conservation bond issue that included $3 million for working waterfront preservation. This was the second bond issue passed in recent years for the purpose.

— David D. Platt