Thomaston residents offer input on new development; Meeting held to air concerns about Route 1 proposal

This story was published on Jan. 06, 2006 on Page B4 in edition 2 of the Bangor Daily News

THOMASTON – People didn’t get much more information Thursday than they already knew about a major retail development planned for the east side of Route 1, but they did get fed.

The Richmond Co. of Peabody, Mass., hosted a meeting to gather public input on what details the company is willing to make known. Some 150 area residents were cordially greeted with a smorgasbord of sandwiches, desserts and beverages.

In return, the developer got plenty of feedback.

Originally, The Richmond Co. planned a 350,000-square-foot retail store for the 30-acre property known as the Shirley Yattaw Estate, located just north of Dorman’s Dairy Dream. The plan was later scaled back to around 250,000 square feet.

A preliminary sketch presented Thursday shows smaller buildings than initially proposed. One anchor store is 125,000 square feet with an abutting 60,000-square-foot building. A separate 65,000-square-foot building is located across a large parking lot, and a separate restaurant, depicted with no measurement, is close to Route 1. Company vice president David Latulippe said the eatery would be about 5,600 square feet. There are 1,362 total parking spaces planned for the development.

“I’m impressed mostly with the size of the project,” Eliza Bailey of Thomaston said, noting the project is 21/2 times the size of Home Depot.

Early in the meeting, Latulippe said a telephone survey was conducted and the results showed a “tremendous support for development in this area as long as it is well done.”

There also was “a lot of concern regarding Wal-Mart,” he said. “Because of this we have ceased discussions with Wal-Mart.”

Much later in the discussions, Mike Mayo of Thomaston said he received one of the survey calls, which he characterized as having “inappropriate” questions, such as the “honesty and integrity [of] certain people in this town.” When he asked who paid for the survey, the caller would not say.

“We’ll look into that first thing in the morning,” company president Philip Pastan said, acknowledging his company paid for the survey.

Pastan told residents his company primarily develops retail strip shopping centers, naming some of its projects as the Christmas Tree Shops in South Portland, Stop & Shop supermarkets around New England, and several Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pubs, Staples and Olive Gardens.

In describing the positive aspects of the development site, Latulippe pointed out the project would actually help the town’s sewer department, which lost its largest customer – Maine State Prison – a few years ago. He said the town’s police, fire and rescue services are sufficient for handling the new businesses.

With added tax revenue from this project and another project his company plans across Route 1, Latulippe claims the tax rate would drop by $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed values.

Having the stores in Thomaston “keeps local shoppers shopping locally,” he said.

The biggest concern of residents is increased traffic.

“You want mobility and safety,” said Tom Gorrill, president of Gorrill Palmer Consulting Engineers of Gray. “We need to design this in a way for what Route 1 improvements are all about,” he added, referring to the state’s plans for improving the corridor.

In response to questions, Gorrill said the public may attend scoping meetings with the state Department of Transportation and that other projects in that area, such as Lowe’s, Hampton Inn Suites, and others must be considered in a traffic study.

“I’m all in favor of tax revenue in town,” Ward Grafton of Thomaston said. “We’ve got the traffic now.”

Several people voiced concern about the effects of storm-water runoff on the Weskeag estuary.

“We are sensitive to the marsh,” Latulippe said.