Middlefield voters will go to the polls on August 16 to vote on whether to sell Powder Ridge ski area to Sean Hayes, owner of Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park in Portland.
Town selectmen voted 2-1 Wednesday night to hold a referendum one week after Hayes is scheduled to present residents his plan for the property during a public hearing. The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 9, at Memorial School.
First Selectman Jon Brayshaw called the decision to send the issue to referendum "a step in the right direction."
Town Clerk Donna Golub requested that the date for the referendum be pushed back five days to allow her office three weeks to send out absentee ballots by mail.
"If a referendum is held in less than three weeks absentee ballots can not be sent, mailed to people who are elderly and can't get to the polls and to disabled people," Golub said. "So, that's disenfranchising those people."
Town attorney Kennth Antin said it was ultimately up to selectmen to set the date for the referendum but twice said it was unlikely that those voters would have attended a town meeting or referendum by petition, which must take place within 14 days.
"This is no better or worse an outcome," he said.
Selectman Dave Burgess supported Golub's request.
"I think you do send a message that you're open to those people who don't have a chance to get out and make it, especially if you're offering this referendum," he said.
Brayshaw cautioned delaying the vote any further, saying it could jeopardize Hayes' ability to restore the property as required by the sales agreement.
"Every turn in the road, it's a week here, it's a week here," he said. "The buyer wanted to do this in July and because of one thing or another it slipped and slipped and slipped. Now it's August and now we're saying the end of August."
While Burgess remained opposed to the date, Brayshaw and selectman Ed Bailey agreed to move forward with a referendum on August 16.
The vote will take place at the Middlefield Community Center from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.