One of the nation’s largest mall developers, the Konover Development Corporation, based in Farmington, Connecticut, has been stopped yet again by the residents of Littleton, New Hampshire. On March 9, 2004, voters in Littleton turned aside a rezoning article on the town meeting warrant. The developer needed a two-thirds affirmation, but pulled up short with 64.6% of the vote. A total of 2,086 voters came to town meeting, and 1,348 voted for the plan, while 738 voted against. The Konover plan would have rezoned 60 acres of industrial land to commercial adjacent to Interstate 93. The proposed “Littleton Retail Park” development would have been 375,000 s.f., and a Lowe’s home improvement store was one of the tenants mentioned, along with an unnamed supermarket and bank. Four residents near the proposed mall filed a protest petition against the plan, which forced the developer to garner a two-thirds vote at town meeting, which it failed to do. The land-owner could now ask the town’s zoning board for a variance, and, if denied that, could ultimately take the matter to superior court. Before the vote was taken, Konover’s President told the Caledonian-Record newspaper, “No one from Konover has said (we will do) an end run around the people. We haven’t given any consideration to if the vote is no.” If the family that owns the land files for a variance, the case could get even more complicated. The newspaper reports that Eddy Moore, chairman of the zoning board, publicly stated his support for the project. The Chairman would likely have to recuse himself if the matter were brought before his board. During the same town meeting, Littleton voters also spoke on the issue of amending the town’s zoning ordinance to require informational hearings with the planning board for commercial development over 25,000 square feet. The vote was 1,372 for and 702 against.
This is not the first time Konover has run into rocky terrain in New England. The company became mired in a 10 year controversy in Keene, New Hampshire over a proposed big box retail mall, and the town of Canton, Connecticut vetoed Konover’s proposal to put a Target department store in their community. See both towns for background on related developments, or search Newsflash by ‘Konover.’