On 12/13/99, newsflash reported the absurd plan by Wal-Mart to move its store from one side of the street, to the other. Wal-Mart hopes to convince Rockland, Maine officials to abandon all common sense and rezone land for Wal-Mart’s skip across the streeet. The 100,000 s.f. store that they want to leave was only built in 1992. On March 13th, the City Council could not find enough votes to allow the rezoning. According to the Bangor News, Wal-Mart’s short trip failed 3-2, but one of the Councilors who voted against the rezoning then offered a motion to table the request until May 8th. That motion to table passed 3-2, so the proposal to build a 183,645 s.f supercenter still has life. The Bangor News reports that Wal-Mart’s plans have “sharply divided the city”. The Councilor who voted to table the plan says he wants to see traffic numbers, which are due from the state’s DOT in April. “Until I know what it is, I can’t say its a good thing” explained Councilor Joe Steinberger. He also pointed out that the property Wal-Mart wants has homes on 2 sides, and is partially zoned residential. “I feel very strongly that we cannot rezone this piece of land without having something very clear in place that protects the neighbors. We can’t just do it, and hope they will be nice to us and do it right.” However, the same Councilor went on to say Wal-Mart could be an asset to the city, and suggested that somehow the city could negotiate protections for abutting property from their huge neighbor. Councilor Carol Maines argued that neighbors could not be protected from a commercial plaza zone, and that the rezoning was not consistent with Rockland’s comprehensive plan.
The Rockland case is a classic “need vs greed” situation. Rockland already has a Wal-Mart, and a fairly big one at that. Residents don’t need another one. After only seven years, Wal-Mart wants to add a grocery store. Their site currently is right next to an existing grocery store. So Wal-Mart brings nothing new to Rockland, just a desire to gain more of this small community’s market share. But the taxpayer’s of Rockland have no responsiblity to buoy up the profit margins of Wal-Mart. And a superstore will have an adverse impact on the residential value of surrounding homes. In fact, it will likely place more pressure to enlarge the commercial zone and push homes further away. Instead residents should consider why they would go out of their way to rezone land for a project that will only further displace current tax paying property of existing merchants. This plan should be rolled off the table, and stepped on. For local contacts in this battle, contact [email protected].