April 25, 2023
Dear Warren and Union Select Board Members:
We are thrilled by the hundreds of Warren and Union residents who showed up last Wednesday evening to express their overwhelming opposition to metallic mineral exploration and mining in our residential towns. Wednesday evening was the democratic process at its finest. Thank you for acting quickly and decisively to allow your constituents to voice their opposition to wholly inappropriate and high-risk industrial activity in their residential areas! The moratoriums now in place are good first steps.
From the moment seven Union and Warren residents organized CARMA, we have had two goals: (1) represent the hundreds (if not thousands) of residents opposed to any form of commercial metallic mineral exploration and mining in our residential areas; and (2) work rapidly and collaboratively with both towns to prevent such mining in a legally sustainable way. We raised money, launched an education campaign, mobilized residents and hired the best lawyers available. As soon as we obtained legal advice and analyzed the law and town processes, we communicated clearly with both towns our proposals for implementing amendments to the towns’ land use ordinances so as to ban industrial-scale metallic mineral mining in our residential areas. After that, we took every opportunity available to us to communicate our intentions to the towns, including that we would be collecting signatures on a citizens’ petition under Maine Revised Statute Title 30-A § 2522 to put mining bans on both town warrants for a vote in June. No one from either Town office objected or even suggested that a valid citizens petition would be rejected. Dozens of volunteers then collectively devoted hundreds of hours to collecting more than 650 signatures on those petitions. We followed every legal requirement, put the petitions before both towns and both towns certified the petitions.
While we understand that the Union Select Board would rather not have to put our land use ordinance amendment to a vote in June, they understand and have communicated that because we have followed the Maine statutory process, they are obligated to do so. We understand that the Union Select Board will also seek to implement a new moratorium through the town warrant and use that time to consider revisions to its comprehensive plan and other ordinances.
Surprisingly, we learned for the first time on Wednesday evening after the Warren moratorium vote that the Warren Select Board voted not to put our land use ordinance amendment on the Warren town warrant in June. Our land use ordinance amendment was certified by the Town of Warren on April 12 (almost two weeks ago and more than 60 days prior to the June 13 election) with 339 signatures. Maine Revised Statute Title 30-A § 2522 is not discretionary. It is a vehicle provided by the State of Maine – not the town – to allow citizens to invoke the democratic process when the Select Boards have not represented their interests. The Warren Select Board cannot deny its residents their right to have their land use ordinance amendment put to a vote. 30-A § 2522 states:
“On the written petition of a number of voters equal to at least 10% of the number of votes cast in the town at the last gubernatorial election, but in no case less than 10, the municipal officers shall either insert a particular article in the next warrant issued or shall within 60 days call a special town meeting for its consideration.”
Counsel for the Town of Warren has provided three reasons for refusing to hold a vote on our land use ordinance amendment. In summary, they are: (1) there is not enough time to follow the mandatory Town processes; (2) CARMA “apparently convinced” the Planning Board Chair to present the land use ordinance amendment to the Select Board without following appropriate process; and (3) the land use amendment could end the existing moratorium and generate competing petitions. None of these is a valid reason to refuse the vote; they are excuses to follow a much longer process the Select Board would prefer to follow rather than following state law and the will of those for whom the Select Board works – the residents.
As to (1), CARMA met all dates required by the Town’s own schedule for presenting its citizens’ petition; the Town cannot now claim that there is insufficient time after the Town itself provided the schedule. As to (2), CARMA did not convince the Planning Board Chair of anything. CARMA was invited to a meeting, attended the meeting and answered questions of the Planning Board Chair who was diligently doing his job to serve the residents of Warren. It does not matter anyway since we are not following the process that involves the Planning Board. The citizens’ petition process is an alternative means under State law of putting the matter to a vote. As to (3), the solution is to put a new moratorium to a vote on the warrant, which is what Union has communicated it will do. Suggesting that there may be competing petitions is also not a valid basis for refusing the vote.
The Warren Select Board has overstepped its authority under Maine law and undermined the democratic process provided by the State of Maine. We ask that in your next meeting on May 3, you reconsider your position and abide by the will of your constituents and Maine state law to put the citizens’ petition question on the Town warrant. It is still not too late to do that.
Our goal is and always has been to work with both towns toward what we trust is our mutual goal — banning industrial metallic mineral exploration and mining in our residential areas. Please let us know how we can work together to ensure that the residents’ petition question is voted upon as soon as possible.
The Board of Directors of CARMA
Copies by email to:
Rep. Bill Pluecker
Sen. Pinny Beebe-Center
Melanie Loyzim (Commissioner, Maine Dept. of Env. Protection)