It’s been roughly nine months since residents of a Gray neighborhood on the western side of Little Sebago Lake, in the Gore Road area, declared their intention to secede from the town.
Now, another group of residents has similar plans.
Five residents of Mount Hunger Shore Road, a private, dead-end street that originates in North Windham, submitted a letter to the town of Gray on Sept. 27 declaring their intention to explore the secession process. They want to join the town of Windham. The Gore Road group wants to join Raymond.
Elisabeth Gravel, head of the Mount Hunger Shore Road Secession Committee, cited public safety concerns and access to schools and services as reasons for pursuing secession.
Gray Town Manager Deborah Cabana said the town was notified about the residents’ intention to secede.
“It is certainly their right to pursue (secession),” she said.
She said it was “premature” to comment on either of the secession efforts.
“There are a lot of hurdles to overcome that are set out in the state statutes,” Cabana said. “Right now they are still in the first portion of that.”
The half-mile of Mount Hunger Shore Road in Gray is home to 14 registered voters, according to Gravel. There are also roughly two-dozen seasonal homes along the private road. Per the state’s statutes, only registered voters are taken into account when determining how many signatures the initiative needs to move forward.
The secession committee will begin circulating the petition to continue the secession process in the next couple weeks, Gravel said, after the map of the secession territory is drawn up. The secession committee needs signatures from 51 percent of the registered voters (eight people) in the secession area.
The Gray Secession Committee – the Gore Road group – declared its intent to secede in February. The territory includes the roads extending through Gore Road, Little Sebago Lodges Association, Deer Acres Road, Brown Road and Northern Oaks. According to Jennifer White, committee spokeswoman, they need approximately 25 more signatures before they can submit the petition to the town office.
Once the petitions are submitted, the town will hold a public meeting for residents and non-residents of the territory to discuss the secession effort.
Like the Gore Road secession area, Mount Hunger Shore Road is located on the western side of Little Sebago Lake, and is geographically separated from most of the town. Because the road dead-ends, it does not connect with the Gore Road territory, even though it abuts it.
For the two secession territories, their grievances stem in part from the way the roads are laid out. In both cases, the private roads dead-end, with only access points through Windham (in the case of Mount Hunger Shore Road) and Raymond (in the case of the Gray Secession Committee). The physical distance between these residents and the town of Gray has created a problem of identity, where residents in the secession territories feel more connected with another town than with Gray.
One concern among residents on Mount Hunger Shore, said Gravel, is response times from fire-rescue personnel and law enforcement. Mount Hunger Shore residents receive emergency fire-rescue services from Windham. But, like the rest of Gray, they receive emergency services from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.
Given the road’s accessibility from Windham, Gravel said, it makes sense for Mount Hunger Shore residents to receive all their emergency services from Windham.
Gravel, who has lived on Mount Hunger Shore Road since 1998 and is also president of the Mount Hunger Shore Road Association, said 14 years ago, residents discussed the possibility of secession over frustrations with town-arranged plowing on their street.That issue was eventually resolved, and residents decided not to pursue secession.
The difference between then and now is that “the people here now are not the same,” Gravel said. “A number of them are younger, and feel the lack of services more keenly than the folks here previously.”
The poor access to services and schools is a deterrent for young families looking to move to the stretch of road, and an issue for young residents looking to start families, she said.
She said that bringing children to the Gray-New Gloucester schools on Route 26 would be difficult for families. Currently, there are no school-age children on Mount Hunger Shore Road who take the bus to school, she said, so no school buses drive to the area.
Driving to the town office is a 30- to 40-minute trip, Gravel said, and residents will drive down Route 302 in Windham and over Route 115 to Route 202 to get to the central area of Gray.
For Sheila Morrison, secession committee member, joining Windham “just makes sense,” she said. “I really don’t feel like we’re part of Gray. I feel like we’re part of Windham,” she added.
Morrison said the only errands she does in Gray is pay taxes, register cars and go to the dump.
Gravel said she doesn’t want the secession movement “to look like an indictment on the town of Gray.” Given the physical distance, it’s difficult for the town to provide services promptly, she said.
Windham Town Manager Tony Plante said the town is taking a neutral position on the secession movement. Raymond Town Manager Don Willard took a similar stance.
Members of the Mount Hunger Shore Secession Committee, from left, Sheila Morrison, Elisabeth Gravel and Bob Gravel, stand by the large tree that marks the town line of Gray. Several residents of the Gray portion of the road, which also runs through Windham, want to secede from their town and join Windham.