Rockland voters turn back Walgreens

By George Chappell,
Posted Dec. 16, 2008, at 10:56 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Voters on Tuesday overturned a conditional zoning amendment that would have allowed Walgreens Pharmacy to build a store at the intersection of Camden and Maverick streets.

Altogether 892 residents voted to repeal the ordinance while 521 cast ballots to allow the ordinance to go into effect, said Election Warden Ria Biley.

“Now I’ve got my neighborhood back,” said Leigh Anne Fuller of Jefferson Street when she heard the tally announced an hour after the polls closed. Fuller has been fighting the proposed development since the first meeting about the project in July 2007 at the Rockland Public Library.

“That’s a real good turnout,” said organizer Paul Chartrand of Rockland. “That’s more than a vocal minority.”

The Rockland City Council had voted to change the zoning to allow a 14,000 square foot, two-story Walgreens store with a drive-through, despite much citizen testimony against the project and against the recommendations of both the city’s planning board and its comprehensive planning commission.

Rockland’s Comprehensive Plan calls for preserving residential neighborhoods, said an explanatory note on the ballot. The store would have been one-third larger than nearby stores on the intersection.

Three residential properties would have been lost in the neighborhood, and the development would have bordered several other homes.

The City Council explained that the conditional rezoning of the neighborhood would have imposed numerous conditions that the developer would have had to meet.

A petition to repeal the zoning amendment, initiated in August by a group of 19 residents, had succeeded in getting a public vote on the issue.

Altogether, 831 residents, representing 30 percent of the local turnout in the last gubernatorial election, had to vote in the special election to make it valid.

With the repeal, Walgreens cannot 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 year and a half, but has faced protracted opposition from residents.

Walgreens had promised 25 jobs, $45,000 in tax revenues and $700,000 in traffic improvements at no cost to taxpayers. The planning board would have required Walgreens to make those improvements anyway, according to a member of the board.

http://bangordailynews.com/2008/12/16/news/rockland-voters-turn-back-walgreens/ printed on April 21, 2014