Residents in Bedford, New Hampshire are celebrating a victory this week over the Target megastore that was targeted for one of the worst traffic intersections in town. Last April, Sprawl-Busters wrote about the efforts of a Massachusetts’-based developer, the Flatley Company, to put a Target on a steeply sloped parcel of land that had previously been used only for light office space. A group called Save Our Town (SOT) protested the move, and after this highly visible campaign began, Flatley started to think outside of the box, and to negotiate with SOT. When the developer offered to sell the land to the town for school use, voters in Beford turned down the land deal. But last week, Flatley offered to donate the 38 acres to St. Anselm’s College to use as they wish. Although the land could still be used for commercial development, SOT feels there is a very high probability that the land will sit empty for years. But the land donation has ended Flatley’s attempts to put a big box store on the land. Flatley indicated that his decision to steer away from a big box was largely influenced by the level of citizen opposition he saw to his plan. Target however, merely took its marbles and moved a few miles down the road to Bedford’s Performance Zone, where large scale stores are condoned. So Bedford still gets a Target, albeit in a location set aside for such use. SOT saved the community from a lousy location for big box retail, and Target gets what it wanted also. The only way to stop continued sprawling development in Bedford is to rewrite the zoning code, putting in a dimensional cap, for example. For now, the town won, and Target won, which means less market share for smaller, locally-owned businesses. It also means another box style, wasteful use of land.
Save Our Town successfully accomplished their immediate objective: to stop a Target from locating on the corner of Routes 114 and 101. This is a very desirable outcome for the town, since a project at that location was the wrong size and the wrong spot. The larger picture of zoning in the small town of Bedford is not resolved, but SOT showed it could make enough noise to make a very large developer change course. See the April 14, 2002 Newsflash for more background on this case.