A state environmental board in Maine has refused to allow a Wal-Mart developer to withdraw its palns for a supercenter, and residents in Bangor, Maine have thus blown a Wal-Mart supercenter out to sea. Here’s the report from local activists: “In a tremendous victory for BACORD and for co-intervenor Maine Audubon Society, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted 6-2 on May 8th to reject an attempt by Widewaters, a New York-based developer, to withdraw their Wal-Mart superstore site application just before a scheduled final vote on the BEP’s denial order. This precedent-setting vote was then followed by a 5-3 vote ratifying and approving the BEP denial order which outlines the history of the project, articulates its major issues, and explains the detailed reasons for the BEP’s denial of the proposed Wal-Mart superstore project, located near the Penjajawoc Marsh in Bangor. The board had earlier voted (5-3) on March 20, 2003, to deny the project, and had directed the BEP staff to draft a denial order.Widewaters sent a letter earlier this week to the BEP announcing that it was withdrawing its application. This was a clear and stunning attempt to circumvent the BEP’s decision-making processes, and to avoid having formal criteria established regarding development near natural resource wildlife areas and near the Penjajawoc Marsh in particular. Widewaters also apparently hoped to resubmit the application to the newly constituted BEP within a few weeks, in hopes of getting a decision more favorable to their project. Assistant Attorney General Peggy McCloskey advised the Board that they did have the necessary discretion and authority to reject a withdrawal attempt under the circumstances. Given that both intervenors (BACORD and Maine Audubon) were opposing the withdrawal, and given that months of public hearings and testimony had already taken place, the Board agreed that they should vote on the denial order and that Widewaters could not short-circuit the process of final determination by a last-minute withdrawal. Since there have been no specific rules in place addressing this issue, the Maine Attorney General’s office advised that a comparable legal case in Vermont could be used as a basis of legal guidance. The Board’s vote to assert their own control over their decision making processes was hence setting an important precedent in Maine.
While it is still possible that Widewaters may appeal this decision, it is a major and significant step in developing adequate protection for critical natural resources such as the Penjajawoc Marsh, and it puts developers on notice that they must take the site application review process seriously.”
BACORD will be exploring next steps over the next few weeks and months, as we
also continue to work on paying outstanding legal bills. Our attorney, Edward Gould (of the Bangor law firm, Gross, Minsky and Mogul, P.A.) has been an invaluable resource and advocate in this process. There has also been an outpouring of support from people and households throughout the Bangor area and across the state for BACORD’s (and Maine Audubon’s) efforts over the past two and a half years to protect the Penjajawoc Marsh. We are in the process of developing and exploring longer-term
goals and strategies concerning responsible development in the Bangor area. For more information, and to support our efforts with much-needed donations, please contact BACORD, 43 Columbia St., Suite 32, Bangor ME, 04401. Tax-deductible contributions can be made out to “ROSC” (a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, Resources for Organizing and Social Change), with “BACORD” on the memo line. For background on this story, search this database by “Bangor”. For more adventures of this developer, search by “Widewaters”.