Now that a Wal-Mart developer has decided to withdraw, at least temporarily, its plans in Bangor for a Supercenter, the city has a chance to address the concerns from a large and growing number of residents about this and similar developments. A place to start is with the city’s comprehensive plan.
Questions before the Bangor Planning Board turned largely on environmental issues – setbacks from the Penjajawoc Marsh, the effect of the massive store on flora and fauna, compliance with endangered-species regulations. These are important topics and deserve in-depth debate, but part of the opposition also grew out of quality-of-life issues that merit equal consideration: the loss of small businesses, traffic in the nearby neighborhoods, the placement of one more big (in this case, super big) box on the blighted landscape of the mall. These residents may be saying, according to their tastes, that they do not want to simply endure Bangor, but actually enjoy living here.
And that is very much what city officials want in Bangor’s 400-page comprehensive plan. The document is filled with strategies and goals for improving economic vitality here while making the city a more attractive place.
The plan talks extensively, for instance, about strengthening the downtown and waterfront area to make them “a unique and vital destination for visitors and local residents.” One way to do that, the plan says, is to “continue to undertake a local business relations program which recognizes the important role that existing businesses play in the economic future of the community.” Fully supporting the businesses that already are here is a good idea, and one way the city plan tries to do that is through the improvement to roads – badly needed in the Stillwater area – while balancing this demand with the protection of the environment:
“Transportation system improvements represent a major investment if the City of Bangor is to encourage and adequately serve future growth.”
“Development shall be discouraged in significant wetland areas and shall be sited, designed and constructed in all other wetland areas to retain important wetland functions.”
Finally, in discussing the mall area, the plan concludes that Bangor “should promote a high standard of development for all private sector projects in this area in order to insure the most viable, attractive complex of this kind for this area over the long run.”
The plan says much else besides, but a question for city planners is how well does continued development of large-scale warehouse-like growth in the mall area meet the goals of downtown vitality, support for local business, efficient traffic flow and environmental protection that Bangor has set for itself. A further question might be whether Bangor offers alternatives to this type of growth that better serves the city’s long-term interests.
With the latest development proposal on hold but others certain to follow, now is a good time to use the high level of community interest in this subject to generate further ideas.