A proposal from Great Island Development didn’t do so great in Sanford, Maine this week. The board voted down a Wal-Mart expansion, but Great Island asked the Planning Board to reconsider its vote next week. The developer wants to build a larger Wal-Mart than the one Sanford already has, and add a Lowe’s to the mix — all in an area zoned for industrial development. Planning Board members questioned the quality of jobs that would be created by replacing the town’s existing Wal-Mart, which is closer to the downtown, with one more than twice its size. The proposed Wal-Mart would be more than 200,000 square feet, while the Lowe’s would be more than 130,000 square feet. The Developer tried to convince officials that the 37-acre project would bring more than 500 jobs to town — but this is a gross figure, not net of jobs lost elsewhere at existing grocery stores and home improvement store. The developer had to prove his project would help the town achieve its comprehensive plan goals in order to begin the contract zoning process, which would allow him to build retail stores in an industrial zone. The Planning Board Chairman said he was concerned that the project would take too large a chunk out of the town’s industrially-zoned land. The final vote was 3-3. A tie vote meant the project failed. The developer now has a week to lobby for one vote.
The Sanford Planning Board should ask the developer to underwrite the cost of an independent economic impact study if they want to see the real net effect of this project. Studies submitted by develper’s themselves are self-serving, and always demonstrate how valuable the project is. No study is better than a developer’s study, which only serves to mislead public officials. One Wal-Mart in Sanford is one more than enough.