Rockland: Walgreens debate ‘almost personal’

Posted Aug. 06, 2008, at 12 a.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine -&nbspThe developing war of words that began in April between supporters and opponents of proposed rezoning changes for a Walgreens Pharmacy to do business is becoming personal, said one city official.

An Aug. 1 memo from Erik Laustsen, Rockland Planning Board chairman, warned the City Council to be aware of “inaccurate and misleading information” submitted by WAG Pharm Development consultant Kevin Bunker about the dimensions of a mezzanine shown on the Walgreens plan.

“Kevin Bunker stated that the 3,000 square foot mezzanine shown on the plans was not actually accurate and that it could well be different on the Final Plan,” Laustsen wrote.

WAG Pharm is seeking to construct and operate a pharmacy at Camden and Maverick streets. The firm has offered to spend $710,000 on road improvements near the project, but has faced criticism about a large business encroaching on a residential neighborhood and about the size of the store as it was presented in its original plan submitted in April.

The size of the pharmacy footprint submitted to a joint public hearing of the comprehensive planning committee and the planning board on July 29 had been 11,500 square feet, reduced from an earlier plan of 14,500 square feet.

At that meeting, the planning board voted 4-1 that the WAG Pharm proposal was not consistent with the city’ s Comprehensive Plan, and voted 4-1 that the proposal was not consistent with existing and permitted uses within the original zones.

City Manager Thomas Hall said Tuesday that Bunker appeared before the City Council in an agenda setting meeting Monday and tried to clarify “what he characterized as a misunderstanding,” Hall said.

Hall said the issue needs to come to closure and get off the agenda.

“It’ s wearing on people’ s nerves, and it’ s becoming almost personal,” he said. “It’ s unfortunate, because people lose objectivity in what should be civil discourse.

“God willing, the council will vote this thing up or down next Monday night,” Hall said of the scheduled vote on the issue. “By no means would the controversy be over, but we all need some breathing room and [to] get it off the council’ s agenda.”

He said if the proposal is voted down, the corner of Maverick and Camden streets is too attractive for commercial development to remain vacant for long.

“But we would be well served to spend whatever time we have to figure out what the best zoning is, and do it without the pressure of a developer standing in front of us,” he said.

gchappell@bangordailynews.net

236-4598

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