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2000-08-31
Topsham, ME. Number 14 On Wal-Mart's List!

Residents of Topsham, Maine may think their community is number #1 -- but now they know that as far as Wal-Mart is concerned, they were way down on the hit parade at number #14. That was the word from Topsham's town planner, who told the Portland Press Herald that Wal-Mart had made the decision to build a superstore in Topsham (see 8/26/00 newsflash below). "It took them a while to decide," Topsham's planner revealed."Topsham was number 14 on their list, but they moved it up." Maybe the sudden "move up" came because the developer, Konover Construction, who has been around the big box block many times, was afraid that local anti-sprawl activists might close the barn door before their horse got out. Although residents were saddled with a deadlocked Planning Board over the idea of a moratorium, the citizens began gathering signatures to place a 90,000 s.f. cap on a single retail building, and a 150,000 s.f. cap on any one project. That would cramp Konover's plans for a 361,000 s.f. development, featuring a 205,000 s.f. Wal-Mart superdupercenter. This Wal-Mart will be special, like Frankenstein with a tuxedo on. This store will have a 'New England style', with a "forest-green exterior". But opponents can see through the concrete trees -- there is no green space at a Wal-Mart, only green paint. Anti-Wal-Mart and pro-community activists say that they are only trying to maintain "economic diversity". "A large single enterprise doesn't serve the cause," explains Richard Csenge. The group has roughly another three weeks to gather 299 signatures to place their size cap on the spring town meeting warrant.

What you can do: Ironically, Konover also owns land next to the Wal-Mart in nearby Brunswick. Speculation has it that the Brunswick store, which is not a supercenter, might not remain open if a supercenter is built in Topsham. Wal-Mart has shut down hundreds of discount stores over the past decade, and has several hundred empty stores on the market at any point in time. One Brunswick, ME town Planning Board member seemed unphased that Konover had moved Topsham out of 14th.place. "If Wal-Mart passes us by, then it passes us by. We can't let corporations push us. We have to proceed at our own pace." Words to live by! In the interim, what are residents of Topsham to think about being #14 on the list? Should they take that comment to mean that their town was like scraping the bottom of the barrel, and that Wal-Mart's top picks just aren't coming through? Doesn't exactly give you that warm feeling inside that your hometown was just a low number on Wal-Mart's real estate list. For contacts with the Topsham Citizens for Sensible Growth, email info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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