ROCKLAND, Maine — The City Council on Monday approved a special referendum and election date for repeal of a conditional zoning amendment that would allow a Walgreens pharmacy at the intersection of Routes 1 and 17.
The council voted 5-0 to set the date for the election on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The polls at the community building will be open 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
A yes vote would repeal the ordinance. A no vote would allow the ordinance to go forward.
If voters approve the repeal, then Walgreens may not apply for another zoning change at the site for five years, according to City Attorney Kevin Beal.
The national retail pharmacy has been interested in the location for the past two years, but has faced protracted opposition from residents in the neighborhood bordering the store and rejections from the planning board and the conservation planning committee.
Proponents of the pharmacy have said a company like Walgreens would have an overall positive effect on local business and would fill a corner in danger of deteriorating with already empty stores.
In other business Monday, the council voted 5-0 to authorize the city manager to solicit proposals for consulting engineering services on “applicable federal and state regulation of locomotive engine emissions.”
The council would like to see to what extent the city could regulate compliance by the Maine Eastern Railroad and Morristown & Erie Railway Inc. on the Rockland Station branch.
Some neighbors of the station have complained for two years about emissions and conducted their own emissions tests of idling trains. Councilor Thomas Molloy, a resident of the train station neighborhood, said at the meeting that the diesel fumes have gotten worse this year as a result of new fuel the railroad is burning.
The railroad, on the other hand, has spent money upgrading the engines to meet standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Molloy said at the meeting that he would still like to sit down with railroad and transportation officials to try to work out a solution before spending city money on a consultant.
Other councilors reassured him that putting out the request for proposal only gets the process started and does not obligate the city at this point.
The council in addition plans to meet with state officials on the air pollution.