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Columbia Falls votes to pause Flagpole of Freedom project

The town voted 63-17 to establish a moratorium ordinance that puts a 180-day delay on all large-scale developments, effective immediately.

COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine — Columbia Falls residents voted to establish a moratorium temporarily pausing all large-scale developments, including the Flagpole of Freedom Park.

A total of 63 voted in favor of the moratorium, while 17 voted against the measure. 

The ordinance takes effect immediately, putting a 180-day delay on all large-scale developments to give the town time to create regulations like zoning or a building permit ordinance.

In 2022, the state passed legislation to annex about 10,000 acres owned by the Worcester family, which made the piece of land part of Columbia Falls. That takes the burden of planning approval off of the state and puts it entirely on the small town. 

Prior to Tuesday's vote, Columbia Falls didn't have any land use ordinances.

A Columbia Falls selectman, Jeffrey Greene, said the town has seen multiple proposals for big developments it might not be ready for.

"It's [Flagpole of Freedom Park] really the largest, one of the largest proposed projects in Maine state history in this tiny, little town," Greene said. "Then it was just really more incentive to get on top of our ordinances that we have in place."

The flagpole is planned to stand taller than the Empire State Building and be exactly 1,776 feet above sea level, sticking out of the forest in Downeast Maine.

"I 100 percent support the idea of waking up and looking at the United States flag, the flag of America waving in my sky," Ritchie Poirier, veteran and Columbia Falls resident, said.

However, that's not the case for others in town. Glenn Texter, who spent 24 years in the Navy, said he thinks the park is a "nice thought," but it's not meant for Columbia Falls.

"I don't think something that large is appropriate for this area. There may be other places in Maine, but I couldn't give you one," Texter said. "I just don't want one here in my back, literally, backyard."

"If I wanted to live next to an amusement park, I would have moved to Orlando," another veteran told NEWS CENTER Maine. 

The moratorium is now in effect, delaying any large-scale developments in Columbia Falls.

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