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Judge Sides with Citizens' Group in Portland Plaza Dispute
10/31/2013 03:19 PM ET  

City of Portland officials say they will appeal a ruling today that requires them to allow a petition drive aimed at preserving and expanding Portland's public spaces.

A Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of a Portland citizens' group seeking to collect signatures for a new ordinance aimed at expanding and preserving Portland's public spaces.

Justice Joyce Wheeler ruled today that the city had no justification for blocking a petition drive by Friends of Congress Square Park. She ordered the city to issue petition papers to the group by 3:00 p.m. Friday.

"The court's ruling sends a strong message to City Hall. They can't reject a petition simply because they don't agree with its substance," says the group's president, Frank Turek, in a press release. "We are excited to get going with our petition drive and let the people decide what's best for the City."

The court battle was sparked by the city's approval of the sale of most of Congress Square Park, in the center of the downtown, to an out-of-state developer.

The Friends of Congress Square Park is seeking to add 35 properties to the city's so-called Land Bank, which currently includes 25 properties, and require a "super majority" of the City Council, or a referendum, to approve any sales. The group would need to gather at least 1,500 valid signatures to win a spot on the ballot.

In a statement issued this afternoon, city officials say they plan to appeal the ruling.

"Upon review of the decision, and based upon our understanding of the case law, our office remains convinced that the City of Portland's position is correct," says the city's chief legal officer, Danielle West-Chuhta. "We are currently completing the required appeal documents including a request for a stay of the Judge's decision and we plan to have our filings submitted as soon as possible. Given the ongoing legal process and the complexities surrounding this matter it is difficult to determine the impact, if any, of this decision on the sale of Congress Square."

Read Judge Wheeler's decision.

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