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2006-02-12
Thomaston, ME. Developer Ends Talks With Wal-Mart

Another developer, under public pressure, has dropped hands with Wal-Mart to make their proposal more palatable. In the town of Thomaston, Maine, a developer from Massachusetts has publicly stated that he has eliminated Wal-Mart as a potential tenant for his huge, 250,000 s.f. retail development on 30 acres along Route 1. The Richmond Company of Peabody, Massachusetts, has sworn off Wal-Mart, just as the town begins discussion of whether or not to cap the size of retail buildings in this small, Mid-Coast Maine community. "We have ceased discussions with Wal-Mart," a Richmond Company representative told a community forum in January. But the site plan for the project -- which started life as a 350,000 s.f. colossus -- still shows a 210,000 s.f. anchor store, which is about as big as Wal-Mart makes them. A 40,000 s.f. store is also proposed, with no identified tenant. Richmond tried to convince townspeople that a big box store would draw customers to downtown businesses on Main Street, despite the fact that no studies have indicated any spin-off effect from one-stop-shopping destinations like Wal-Mart. Despite Richmond's No-Wal-Mart Pledge, plans are still proceeding in Thomaston for a public referendum on size caps. A group called Our Town Thomaston has proposed a 70,000 s.f. cap, which is slightly larger than 1.5 acres of store, while a pro big box group has proposed a cap of 150,000 s.f., which is about 3.5 acres, or roughly the size of 3 football fields under one roof. There are less than 1,900 voters in tiny Thomaston. The vote is expected to take place on May 16th. Thomaston has already approved a 149,000 s.f. Lowe's. A representative of the town who sits on the County Commissioners, has been outspoken in favor of the larger cap of 150,000 s.f. His son owns the land on which the 149,000 s.f. Lowe's would be built.

What you can do: A 150,000 s.f. cap is like saying no basketball players are allowed to be more than 8 feet tall. It such a high cap as to be almost meaningless -- especially in a very small Maine community. Thomaston is one of at least four Mid Coast Maine towns that are considering capping the size of retail buildings. Noblesboro will vote on a cap (size not yet written) on March 18th, Damariscotta will vote on a 35,000 s.f. cap on March 21st, and Newcastle will vote on a 35,000 s.f. cap on March 27th. The seacoast of Maine has been a Wal-Mart battle ground for years, as the giant retailer tries to saturate the area with stores. Residents in Mid-Coast say the only way to control sprawl is for neighboring communities to adopt a regional approach. For earlier stories on this regional approach, search Newsflash by "Maine."










 
 
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