WISCASSET — Wiscasset Select Board voted 3 – 2 Tuesday night, Oct. 3, to express its disapproval of the Maine Department of Transportation’s plan to eliminate downtown parking as a part of its project to improve traffic flow on Route 1.

Ben Rines, Bob Blagden, and Katharine Martin-Savage all voted to oppose the current iteration of the project.

Town residents initially approved the project at a referendum vote in June 2016, but since voted to show displeasure with the path the project has taken.

Select Board Member Rines decided to make a motion after extensive public comment to withdraw support entirely for changing parking downtown.

“I would go on record of the board not supporting the project,” said Rines. “The state is going to spend millions of dollars, and we all agree it’s not going to do anything to relieve the traffic.”

In response to the vote, board member Jefferson Slack resigned from the committee that’s helping design the downtown project.

“If the board feels this way, I would like someone else on the board to be on the panel beside myself,” he said.

The board agreed Martin-Savage could sit on the committee in Slack’s place.

Voters initially approved of the project proposed by MDOT, but became concerned with changes to what is called “Option 2.”

Option 2 initially included federal funding for the project, and created additional parking along a wharf downtown.

Since then, the state decided to forgo federal funding, something that many residents believe is to avoid going through Section 106 historic review standards.

Option 2 also changed. It now eliminates 53 Main, Middle, and Water street parking spaces; demolishes Haggett Garage (which the state acquired through eminent domain), replacing it with a parking lot; and creates new travel lanes and sidewalks along Main Street.

In June, residents voted at Town Meeting to pull support for the project given these changes.

Seaver Leslie, a local business owner, came forward during the public comment period last night to condemn the project, and he questioned why MDOT was going forward despite the townspeople’s vote against it.

He added that a bill is being introduced on the state level by Sen. Dana Dow and Rep. Jeff Hanley to stop the project.

Town Manager Marian Anderson said the question on the June warrant didn’t specifically say to stop Option 2, but to disapprove of the changes to it.

“I want to clarify this point, the question that was put on the warrant, is to see if the voters will disapprove and reject by a binding referendum the changes to the Option 2 project,” said Anderson.

Because the question didn’t specifically disapprove of Option 2 itself, there’s little to prevent MDOT from moving forward.

A number of business owners in town said that wasn’t enough, and that if Option 2 moves forward, they’re leaving town. One owner showed a survey she conducted of downtown businesses.

Of 30 businesses, 21 said they would rather have a proposal that would keep parking on Main Street, with just two supporting “Option 2.”

Bill Sutter, an outspoken opponent of the project, said changes made since MDOT first introduced the project are unsustainable for Wiscasset.

“It’s not the same project we bought, it’s not the same project they sold,” said Sutter.

After withdrawing its support for the project, the select board voted unanimously to seek a meeting with Gov. Paul LePage and MDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt to discuss the project further.

On Oct. 5, MDOT is hosting a public meeting on Wiscasset traffic project from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Wiscasset Elementary School gym, 83 Federal St.