With major retail developers from Massachusetts assaulting towns like Damariscotta, Thomaston and other mid-coast Maine communities, the residents in Ellsworth report that another Massachusetts developer has their town in his cross-hairs. The Ellsworth American newspaper confirms that W/S Development of Chestnut Hill has wrapped up a 500,000 s.f. surprise for Ellsworth residents, which will be delivered tomorrow at the Ellsworth City Council meeting. The so-called “Acadia Crossing” Retail Development is sponsored by the same developer who has stirred up animosity in his own state of Massachusetts in communities like Sturbridge and Billerica — both of which were proposed Wal-Marts. Sturbridge engaged in a multi-year court battle with developer Steve Weiner, but ultimately lost. In Billerica, however, the land Weiner wanted, the Griggs Farm, was purchased out from under him by the Trust for Public Land, and remains in farming use today. W/S is also neck-deep in controversy over a 600,000 s.f. retail project in Reading, Massachusetts called “Park Square,” a self-described “upscale lifestyle center.” W/S will not reveal who its anchor stores in Ellsworth will be, but as a company spokesman said, “There’s a lot of activity behind the scenes.” W/S has a dozen retail centers in Maine from South Portland to Calais, including a 1.3 million-square-foot center in Augusta. Retailers in the firm’s Maine shopping centers include Wal-Mart, Gap, Circuit City, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Linens N’ Things, Old Navy, Hannaford and Shaw’s. Weiner claims to have 70 community shopping centers and three regional malls as part of his portfolio,, totaling approximately 13.5 million square feet.
To give you an example of this developer’s attitude towards the conservation of land, one of his holding companies is called “Infinity Properties.” To these developers, land seems to be an infinite commodity, ready to assume infinitely bad designs, and projects insensitive to local needs and wants of residents. Weiner’s proposal has kicked up so much controversy in Reading, Massachusetts, that two citizen groups have been formed to try and block the two-thirds Town Meeting vote needed to rezone the land in that community.