Voters in Belfast,Maine will get a chance to send a non-binding message to their City Council about the limits of sprawl in their city. This week the City Council in Belfast voted to place a question on the June 12 ballot that will be worded as follows: “I favor: 1. Limiting the size of any new retail business to no more than 75,000 s.f. (Shop ‘n Save and Ames combined are about 87,000 s.f.) 2) Limiting the size of any new retail business to no more than 45,000 s.f. (Belfast’s Shop ‘n Save is about 44,000 s.f.) 3. Limiting the size of any new retail business to no more than 25,000 s.f. (Belfast’s Agway is about 20,000 s.f.). 4. Not limiting the square footage of any new retail business.” The way this question is worded, voters who want some size cap will be broken down into three subgroups, while those who want no size limits will all vote for option 4. This means that the no-cap option could very well appear to get more votes, unless you consider 1,2,and 3 options all as anti-box votes — which they are. This latest 4 option question replaces an original draft that just asked voters if they wanted a 75,000 s.f. foot cap or not. Councilor Tammy Lacher-Scully, who proposed the 4 part question, says the referendum question will now give voters not only a chance to say if they want size limits — but also at what size. A 45,000 s.f. store is about the size of a football field. The City of Belfast is on the waning end of a one year moratorium on large commercial development. The City is not likely to extend the moratorium, so the June 12th. question will come right at the end of moratorium, and the city will have to act expeditiously to craft a new ordinance in time to put it into play as the moratorium ends. As reported here, Wal-Mart has hit the coastal areas of Maine this year like a hurricane. But this week sprawl-busters in the city of Bangor, Maine report that their city council rejected a Wal-Mart supercenter near a marsh. More details on that 3-2 vote in Bangor will be listed soon.
Sprawl-Busters has tracked the passage of size caps in a growing number of communities across the nation. For more information on cities and towns that have adopted caps on building size, contact [email protected], and review “newsflash” entries below.