More bad news out of Mid Coast Maine this week for big box stores like Wal-Mart. On Monday, residents in Newcastle, Maine became the third community in less than two weeks to place restrictions on big box stores. First up was Nobleboro, which voted for a six moratorium on the construction of big box stores larger than 35,000 s.f. Then last week, Damariscotta, Maine voted solidly for a cap of 35,000 s.f. on retail stores. Yesterday, March 27th, voters in Newcastle, Maine “overwhelmingly” adopted a 35,000 s.f. cap on stores. According to the Lincoln County News, voters in Newcastle “overwhelmingly approved a 35,000 square foot size cap” at their annual town meeting held at the Lincoln Academy gymnasium — the same room where Sprawl-Busters spoke in favor of the cap a couple of weeks ago. The cap on retail and service establishments was among several amendments to the town’s existing land use plan. According to WCSH TV in Portland, Maine, “the size cap was designed to keep big businesses, like Wal-Mart out of town.” Wal-Mart did not have a proposal before officials in Newcastle, but the retailer did have a plan for a 186,000 s.f. store in neighboring Damariscotta, and spent corporate money trying to defeat the cap. But last week, voters stopped that plan cold. Local officials said the town meeting in Newcastle “was well into the hundreds, much higher than normal” and only a handful of people voted against the cap.
Citizens in all three communities coordinated their efforts to convince voters in the region that a cap on building size was needed to keep unmanaged growth from gobbling up their communities. A group called “Our Town” set up chapters in each community to push for the limits on growth. A fourth town, Thomaston, Maine, will take up the same issue in May. Voters in Thomaston will be asked to place a cap of 70,000 s.f. on retail stores. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Maine.”