PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Despite an appeal from the city, a group trying to stop the sale of Congress Square Park can begin gathering signatures to put the issue to voters.
The Friends of Congress Square picked up the petitions at the Portland City Clerk's office Monday afternoon. The judge ordered the city to issue the petitions on Friday, but the city plans to appeal the decision and asked the court to delay the petition drive until the appeal is resolved. The judge disagreed, and ordered the city to issue the petitions Monday. They ask voters if they want to put Congress Square and other city properties into a land bank that would have jurisdiction over those public spaces. The group wants to make it harder for the city council to sell public land.
"The judge was pretty clear last week," Friends of Congress Square Attorney Robert Levin said. "We thought this would be a little easier but they've fought us every step of the way. It's been disappointing."
The city attorney says although the outcome of the case could impact the sale of Congress Square, from the city's perspective the case is about the authority of the city council. The statement says in part:
"The city's motivation in this case is simply to get a definitive and final ruling from Maine's highest court as to whether the Plaintiffs' proposed ordinance is or is not a question that the voters have the power to decide or whether, instead, such matters are exclusively within the province of their City Council."
The group has 80 days to gather 1500 signatures.