On February 8, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart’s proposal in
Westbrook, Maine appeared over, after a bitter, three year battle with local residents. It was announced in February in the Portland Press-Herald that Wal-Mart had 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. Today, the media has confirmed that the land Wal-Mart wanted has been sold to a Portland real estate holding and development company, which will use the site for office, warehouse
and manufacturing uses. The landowner said it had to accept substantially less for the property compared to what Wal-Mart was ready to pay. The land was lowered from $4.9 million to $3.5 million when Wal-Mart dropped out of the project. Thus ends a three year fiasco for Wal-Mart stockholders. In 2004, the Westbrook City Council voted to change the zoning of the mill from industrial to gateway commercial. The change cleared the way for a
proposed 203,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter. But a group called Westbrook Our Home, opposed the project, and helped convince the town’s planning board to place restrictions on the site. Wal-Mart bristled over one restriction that would cap the size of retail projects in the gateway district at 160,000 s.f. But the planning board also added provisions for increased buffering for the surrounding neighborhood, and controls on lighting, hours of operation and delivery.
When a community says clearly what it wants, companies like Wal-Mart have a clear decision to make: they can stay and play by the rules, or they can pack their bags. In this case, the town said what it wanted, including measures to protect neighborhoods — and Wal-Mart found those protections unacceptable. They have gone from Westbrook, and local residents are glad to see them go. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Westbrook.” This is the second Wal-Mart defeat this week.