Another Wal-Mart proposal in Maine is heading south, after a bitter, three year battle with local residents. It was announced today in the Portland Press-Herald that Wal-Mart has decided not to renew its option on a 27 acres of land off the Westbrook Arterial. The word came, not from Wal-Mart, but from the real estate agency handling the deal. “It’s available to anybody at this point,” the real estate agent told the Press-Herald. “That’s kind of where things are at.” The project has been consistenty opposed by the group Westbrook Our Home. Anne Bureau, a spokesperson for Westbrook Our Home, told the newspaper, “I would be overjoyed if they were going to use that property for something more compatible with the neighborhood.” The land Wal-Mart wanted was not zoned properly. Sprawl-Busters wrote about this battle on September 7, 2004. At the time, Westbrook Our Home wrote us, “The property abuts an established residential neighborhood on two sides. Abutters and neighbors and members of the community turned out in full force at all of the public hearings to request that the City Council not approve the requested zone change. Despite this strong public showing the Council voted 4-3 in favor of the zone change.” A spokesman for the retailer told the newspaper today, “Wal-Mart has no publicly announced plans regarding Westbrook,” suggesting that the company depends on secrecy and private deals to get into town. Wal-Mart’a first proposal to Westbrook was for a 203,000 s.f. supercenter. Then they scaled it back to 180,000 s.f. In the summer of 2005, city officials agreed to allow the store to come in at 160,000 s.f. At that point, the citizens group went to court to block the zoning change. Wal-Mart has apparently decided to locate a superstore in nearby Scarborough, and in the process will shut down an existing Wal-Mart discount store, adding that property to its huge portfolio of dead stores.
In the past year or so, Wal-Mart has lost several battles in small Maine communities. The “dark store” in Scarborough will be the only dead Wal-Mart store currently in Maine. Residents in Westbrook who are addicted to cheap underwear can take consolation in the fact that they have 4 Wal-Mart stores within 16 miles of town, including the discount store in Scarborough 4 miles away, the discount store in Falmouth 8 miles away, and two supercenters: one in Windham, 10 miles away, and the other in Biddeford, 16 miles away. Wal-Mart finally decided to cut its losses, after wasting more than 3 years of its shareholder’s money in a battle with local residents. It’s still Westbrook Our Home — but now Our Home has no Wal-Mart. For local contacts, email [email protected] For earlier Wal-Mart defeats in Maine, search Newsflash by “Maine.”