Citizens in Acton, Massachusetts have celebrated a victory over the world’s largest home improvement chain. A developer who had proposed to buy a landfill in the town of Acton, Massachusetts, withdrew its proposal to build a Home Depot on the property. A citizens group., Acton First, which took its name from Sprawl-Busters, challenged whether the landfill had been officially capped, and asserted that the Home Depot would not be of financial advantage to the town anyway. Selectmen in Acton said they now plan to apply for a permit to use the site for recreational purposes, and confirm from the state that the landfill is considered closed. Home Depot and Dickinson Development Corp. withdrew their offer to buy the former landfill from the town for $1.5 million and build a Home Depot and supermarket on the 17.8-acre site in a letter dated May 6. No reason for withdrawing the offer was given in the letter. Home Depot had proposed last January to buy the site, and cap the landfill, which would have saved the town that expense. Home Depot also said it would spend $4 million to build a new bridge over Route 2 for access to the site, pay $500,000 in other traffic improvements, and provide an estimated $270,000 per year in new real estate tax revenue (not counting the loss of existing revenues from other businesses that would close if Home Depot opened.) As soon as the proposal became public, a citizen’s group organized to fight the plan. They told selectmen that no further capping of the site was needed, undermining Home Depot’s case. State officials later agreed that the landfill did not need any additional capping. One Acton selectman then wrote to her colleagues, ”One of the most compelling rationales for the [Home Depot proposal], laying off the anticipated costs of a new landfill cap on a third party, seems to have evaporated.” The developer complained that its proposal was being undermined “prior to the development team being given the opportunity to present its case to the Board and the town. It is unfair to us, but more importantly to the town, to reject our proposal prior to its full airing.” Shortly after that, seeing the handwriting on the wall, the developer pulled the plug on the proposal. Selectmen have authorized the spending of $18,000 to submit an application to the state for a permit to build a recreational facility, such as a golf driving range, on the former landfill site.
The Home Depot proposal was submitted in response to a request for proposals sent out by the town. Even though Home Depot is gone, the special Town Meeting will still consider two issues that grew out of the Home Depot proposal. Acton First collected more than 400 signatures on the petitions. One has to do with a bylaw change to prohibit the use of hazardous waste as fill material, as the Home Depot project had proposed doing. The second article would prohibit town boards and departments from accepting proposals for the development of municipal property that do not conform to the town’s master plan. This is being placed as a non-binding resolution. For local contacts in Acton, contact [email protected] Last year Home Depot opened a similar store on a landfill in the nearby town of Reading, Massachusetts. For a story about that town’s struggle with crime at Home Depot, search Newsflash by “Reading.”