Could a rubber Wal-Mart float in a marsh? Citizens in Bangor, Maine may never find out if a “Wal-Marsh” would float in their city, because the City Planning Board voted on April 3rd to let the air out of Wal-Mart’s plans to put a 224,000 s.f. supercenter near a sensitive environmental wetlands known as the Penjajwoc Marsh (see newsflash on 12/28/00 and 11/12/00). The Bangor Area Citizens Organized for Responsible Development (BACORD) packed the Bangon Civic Center with opponents. So visible was the opposition to Wal-Marsh, that the development manager for the New York based Widewaters Group told the Bangor News: “Everyone in Maine is very opposed to Wal-Mart.” Widewaters spilled the blame onto “anti-Wal-Mart, anti-big bucks bias”. The only “anti” they didn’t blame was Auntie Mame. After the vote, the developer told the newspaper that his company would “pursue every available avenue to protect our property rights.” Apparently wetlands have rights too. One Councilor who voted against the Wal-Marsh said he didn’t think the store’s detention pond should protrude into the 250 ft. buffer zone around the marsh, and that chemical de-icing of the parking lot might pollute the marsh. Another councilor who helped sink the project told the News: “The testimony I heard indicated that the area should be vigorously protected…This is an extremely important area that six months ago I didn’t even know existed.” This Bangor defeat for Wal-Mart is number 152 on my list.
For some residents of Bangor, the Wal-Marsh proposal seemed to not know that the Penjajawoc Marsh existed either. Widewaters had withdrawn this project last December in the face of rising opposition, but when they came back in, they failed to gain the support of BACORD. Ironically, Bangor already has a Wal-Mart discount store, and the company listed the store as an “available” building months before the Widewaters case was concluded, making it clear that if the Wal-Marsh were approved, the existing store would have been emptied out, leaving Bangor with the potential of a ‘dead’ box in town. For many Bangor resident, the idea of an empty big box just didn’t hold much water.