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Union Bridge residents vote to annex


UNION BRIDGE -- Nearly 60 percent of the town's registered voters cast ballots Monday on a referendum to annex the Phillips property. More than half those voters, 185-88, favored the annexation.

"The vote shows support for the mayor and Town Council," said Broadway resident Karen Kotarski. "The town did a good job getting out this large vote in the middle of summer vacation."

Proponents on both sides of the issue had campaigned heavily in recent weeks, many going door-to-door, offering residents information on the annexation.

In a last attempt to sway voters, Sam Hostetter posted a sign outside his business at the entrance to town.

"Vote 'No' Monday," the sign read. Almost as an afterthought, he attached "on annex" to the side of the sign.

Few of the town's 455 registered voters needed that postscript. After several public hearings, opinion polls and a petition for referendum drive, nearly all 917 residents here knew the pros and cons of annexing the 110-acre site north of town. Development of the property could eventually double the town's population.

"We heard a lot of opposition," said Dick Owings of Penrose Street. "I think they were just louder. It just didn't make sense not to annex."

Several people gathered in front of Town Hall after 8 p.m. Monday as four judges counted the votes, which included 26 absentee ballots. Many residents drove by and asked for results.

"This election has been the talk of the town," said Councilman Selby M. Black. "I'm glad it wasn't close. It could have made the sides bitter."

With Monday's favorable vote in hand, Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. said he would post a sign of his own -- with the results -- in the window at Town Hall. He phoned Dr. G. Jackson Phillips, owner of the property, with the news.

John Scott, a Benedum Street resident who helped organize the petition for referendum, said he was disappointed in the vote, but not surprised.

"I hope the people are not being short-sighted," he said. "This development will bring a lot of newcomers, making a whole new Union Bridge. I hope it all works out."

Mr. Scott said he will now support town officials, who retain final approval on all construction.

"I hope they keep their promises that this development will cost the town taxpayers as little as possible," he said.

The mayor said he plans to meet with developers to discuss construction of a well on the property. Once the well is completed, he said, town planners can begin reviewing building plans.

"It's over, and the people have spoken," said Councilman Black. "Now, let's all get to work."

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