The Wiscasset Board of Selectmen will hold an official public hearing beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday to discuss and hear public comment related to the upcoming special referendum town meeting.

Voting on the referendum — whether residents want to continue the lawsuit filed by the Town of Wiscasset against the Maine Department of Transportation regarding the Wiscasset traffic project — will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 17, at Wiscasset Community Center.

Wiscasset sued MDOT on Nov. 28 over the state’s $5 million plan to ease the notorious summertime traffic bottlenecks in the town’s historic village center, after Gov. Paul LePage’s administration allegedly backed away from key promises and asserted that the state did not have to comply with local ordinances.

In a motion filed in early March, attorneys representing the town said MDOT had told them it might simply drop a component of the project: Creating parking lots off nearby side streets to make up for the parking spots lost on Main Street.

The motion asks the state Business and Consumer Court in Portland to prevent work on any part of the project from commencing until the department seeks and receives the town’s historic preservation review.

“This raises the possibility that MDOT might seek to build a truncated project that strips all parking from Main Street, but does not provide any off-street parking in its place, a configuration that was never reviewed or discussed with the town and that does even more violence to the local interests than the original scheme,” attorney John Shumadine wrote in the filing.

The transportation department contends that the town’s historic preservation ordinance is not a zoning ordinance, and therefore it isn’t forced to comply with the ordinance under state law.

The town argues that the project, and numerous components, must comply with the town’s historic preservation ordinance and must receive one or more certificates of appropriateness from Wiscasset’s historic preservation commission.

The center of Wiscasset’s village is a district of 18th- and 19th-century buildings  named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

There are notorious summer traffic jams 2 to 3 miles long on Route 1 on the north — by famous lobster roll purveyor Reds Eats — and south approaches to the Davey Bridge that spans the Sheepscot River. The state has been trying to solve the problem for more than half a century.

The state’s latest plan was unveiled in spring 2016 and promised to improve traffic flow at its worst by 12 percent to 14 percent, mostly by adding two traffic lights and “bump out” pedestrian-crossing waiting areas in the village – components that no one opposes.

But it also seeks to remove parking on Main Street – currently 23 spaces – and parts of key side streets, measures that the state’s studies say account for just 2 percent to 4 percent of flow improvement.

The DOT plans to make a presentation April 12 to the court at a hearing on the town’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the project.

The official public hearing is the only item on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

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