They’re everywhere! The Konover Development Corporation, based in Farmington, Connecticut, is pushing sprawl throughout New England. But citizen’s groups are all over Konover. The latest front line is Topsham, Maine, where the develoer has announced that it wants to build a Wal-Mart supercenter on 50 acres of land near the Topsham Fair Mall. A spokesman for Konover told the Times Record newspaper that the company’s plans call for a 220,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter, plus another 150,000 s.f. store for an unnamed retailer. For many residents of this small community, the concept of a 370,000 s.f. mall — about the size of eight football fields — came as a complete surprise. “I’ve been criticized for not having said anything about this project,” said a Konover front man. “I’m not trying to do anyone a disservice. I believe the public has a right to know.” Developers like Konover are descending on Topsham because the state has completed “the Coastal Connection”, an ingenious state plan for destroying small downtowns like Topsham. “With the advent of the Coastal Connector (travelers) don’t have to go through downtown areas.” So if retail dollars are going to just drive by Topsham highways, what better company to put on that highway than a Wal-Mart? Local Topsham residents are understandably concerned about the impact this huge mall would have on existing small businesses in town, and the resulting traffic gridlock a huge mall would create. “We had the 30 minute mile before,” said one resident, referred to traffic slowdowns. “It’s possible that we may go back to that.” Konover just received approvals in Auburn, ME to build a Wal-Mart supercenter, and the company is in a 10 year battle with residents in Keene, New Hampshire, where Konover is now pushing a Home Depot, having failed to build a Wal-Mart there. Konover has told Topsham residents that building a Wal-Mart superstore in their town will not necessarily mean the demise of the nearby Wal-Mart discount store in Brunswick, Maine. But then again, if Wal-Mart’s history over the past decade is any guide, the Brunswick store would be available for lease faster than you can say “Sam Walton”. Meanwhile, the Coastal Connector combined with Wal-Mart should be a good one-two punch to local merchants, who could find themselves on the bottom of Topsham.
For contacts with citizens in Topsham who are opposed to the Wal-Mart/Konover plan, contact [email protected]