HARPSWELL (AP) – Selectmen refused Thursday night to schedule a second referendum to determine whether a liquefied natural gas terminal should be allowed to be built in Harpswell.

The three-member board said it is regrettable that the debate earlier this year over a proposed $350 million LNG terminal led to vandalism and a bitter split among townspeople. By a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, residents on March 9 voted against allowing an LNG terminal in town.

The debate leading up to the vote pitted the issue of economic development that could have reduced the tax burden versus worries that the massive development would spoil the town’s character.

Selectmen agreed Thursday that it would be pointless to hold another vote because the companies that wanted to built the facility have since parted ways.

After the defeat of the March referendum, a group of LNG supporters gathered about 1,300 signatures on a petition that requested that selectmen hold another vote.

They claimed that a bomb threat on election day, and the subsequent presence of bomb dogs and metal detectors at precincts, distorted the outcome of the election.

In response, LNG opponents collected an even larger number of signatures on a petition that asked selectmen to honor the outcome of the referendum.

Thursday night’s vote was the selectmen’s response to both petitions.

“I have a deep respect for the democratic system. More than 3,400 people votes in the March 9 referendum. The no’ vote received 56 percent,” said Selectman Gordon Weil. “I cannot lightly ignore that vote.

Absent convincing evidence that the bomb threats could have distorted the result, I cannot support another vote.”

In separate letters sent to the town earlier this month, officials from ConocoPhillips and TransCanada Pipelines Limited said their partnership no longer exists and that they would consider returning to Harpswell only if there was overwhelmingly support for the project.

AP-ES-07-16-04 0216EDT

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