MDI residents debate Hannaford proposal

Posted March 10, 2009, at 10:48 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:46 a.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — The pros and cons of development and competition were the topics of discussion Tuesday night when representatives from a supermarket company held a public forum at Mount Desert Island High School.

Hannaford Bros. has announced its intent to build a 35,000-square-foot store in the village of Town Hill to complement the 24,000-square-foot store it has in downtown Bar Harbor.

The company has not yet submitted a development application to the town, but on Tuesday night the proposal generated some debate. More than 140 people attended the two-hour forum.

Town Hill resident Terry Savage said MDI needs the 100 jobs the store is expected to bring to the area. He pointed out The Jackson Laboratory has announced it plans to lay off 55 people in the coming weeks.

“I commend you guys,” Savage told the Hannaford representatives, eliciting applause from others in the high school cafeteria. “I’m all for you.”

Not everyone was so enthusiastic. Caroline Pryor of Mount Desert commended Hannaford for being willing to work with local community groups, but said she still was opposed to the store.

“This is the tragedy of the American landscape, and increasingly the Maine landscape,” Pryor said, also eliciting applause. “To have the largest store on the island proposed for its smallest village … It will fundamentally destroy the character of that place.”

Hannaford representatives Tyler Sterling and William McKenney did not make any major announcements about the proposal, but did say that they are willing to take the time to work with residents and groups to come up with a store that the community likes.

Twice in recent weeks, by 3-3 split votes, the Town Council has decided against moving forward with a possible commercial development moratorium in Town Hill, which some say is needed to give the town more time to make the neighborhood’s zoning ordinances consistent with Bar Harbor’s comprehensive plan.

A newly formed citizens group called Town Hill Friends still is pursuing a moratorium. The group says it has submitted to town officials enough valid voter signatures to have voters weigh in on the moratorium idea at the annual town meeting in June.

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