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2000-04-28
Rockland, ME. Wal-Mart Drops Superstore Plan

The headline in today's Bangor Daily News made a lot of Rockland, Maine residents very happy: WAL-MART DROPS PLANS FOR SUPERCENTER. According to the newspaper, the city manager claims the escalating costs of the project stymied Wal-Mart. But when the paper called Bentonville, AR for confirmation, the company said it was unaware of any decision to pull out. The proposal for a 186,000 superstore right across the street from their existing discount store had made Wal-Mart a object of scorn in this small seaside community. The Daily News said that City Hall sources felt the state had helped kill the project by requiring Wal-Mart to pay for expensive road improvements along Route 1 -- costs that were even too high for Wal-Mart. A nonbinding referendum on the issue of zoning for the property is still on the city ballot in June -- but for now the vote seems pointless if Wal-Mart is beating a retreat. The land Wal-Mart coveted is not zoned for commercial use (see earlier Rockland newsflash stories below). Local citizens today issued the following press release: "VICTORY! Citizen opposition & state regulators fend off controversial coastal "Super Wal-mart" plan. Downtown merchants and windjammers are breathing a sigh of relief as the Wal-Mart corporation abandons its plans to build a megastore on a ridge overlooking Penobscot Bay along this city's scenic US Route 1 corridor. The company would have covered more than 21 acres of Rockland's remaining coastal forests with a 186,000 square foot monolith surrounded by 914 parking spaces. Chief among opponents were virtually the entire Rockland's downtown business community, who signed a petition calling on the Rockland City Council to reject the Walmart company's request for a zoning exception to carry out their construction project. The residents of the Pen Bay Acres subdivision, bordering the proposed site for the giant retail outlet, were also united and vocally in opposition to the plan as harming their quality of life and depressing the real estate value of their homes.Schooner captain Neal Parker, illustrator Deb Atwell, and coffeeshop/bookstore proprietor Suzanne Ward played key roles in marshalling general community opposition to the plan. "There was a tremendous burst of energy from those three," said Ron Huber, of the oversight group Penobscot Bay Watch. "Their effort, and that of many others from Rockland and surrounding communities, was critical in ensuring that the state, federal and town authorities took a hard look at the likely impacts to Rockland and Penobscot Bay from this development ." Rockland City Mayor Jim Raye and other supporters of the corporate plan, including the editor of the absentee-owned Rockland Courier Gazette newspaper, claimed that tax money emanating from the company would offset traffic jams, declines in downtown business revenues, and even visual pollution (the development would have been an eyesore visible miles offshore, angering the Bay's lucrative sailing ecotourism industry.) "But, in the end, the Walmart supporters' claims couldn't pass the straight-face test, " Huber said. He noted that Maine Department of Transportation and other agencies took the concerns of area residents seriously. A critical event was when the Penobscot Bay Medical Center wrote the town with its concerns that the development could cause gridlock on Route One, hindering ambulances from reaching the hospital in emergency situations. "The DOT told the developer that it would have to prevent such gridlock from happening Apparently the company was unwilling to pay the additional costs that this would have required. Then they didn't deserve to build on Route One, in my opinion." Rockland resident Jason Jackie said, "this community victory over Wal-mart is a good sign. Area residents are combatting corporate sprawl all along Penobscot Bay's Route One corridor. This was an important win. May there be many more of them"

What you can do: Another town slam-dunks Wal-Mart! Penobscot Bay Watch is an association of citizens that care about Penobscot Bay. See their website at www.penbay.org. For further information about the Rockland pull out, contact Penobscot Bay Watch at (207) 594-5717.










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

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