Family Dollar is proposing to build two new stores in Farmington and Waterville as part of a plan to add 19 stores across the state, according to developers.
Each proposed store is 8,320 square feet and would be less than two miles from current branches of the store in both central Maine communities.
The Farmington store now renting a space in the Mt. Blue Plaza would relocate to the proposed free standing store on Wilton Road, while developers propose having two stores in Waterville.
At a preliminary planning board hearing in Waterville last week, a representative said the development company, Hunt Real Estate, won’t pursue the project at 121 Kennedy Memorial Drive if there is intense opposition.
When the city council voted unanimously to rezone the property in March 2013, a petition signed by about 35 residents said they did not want egress on Carver Street or Merryfield Avenue as part of any rezoning. The residents said increased traffic would be detrimental to their way of life and unsafe for pedestrians.
The site plan for the Family Dollar shows an entrance/exit onto Carver Street, but “the developer is telling us this isn’t going to be a huge traffic generator,” said City Planner Ann Beverage.
Several neighbors say that their biggest concerns were whether a commercial development on the lot will cause more traffic in the quiet neighborhood. The initial site plan presented to the planning board calls for an entrance and exit to Kennedy Memorial Drive.
Robert Knight, of Merryfield Avenue, said he does not think he would oppose the project if it only had traffic exiting and entering by Kennedy Memorial Drive.
“As long as they don’t come on Merryfield Avenue or Carver Street,” he said.
Harland Weeks, of Carver Street, said he has been to a half-dozen planning board meetings about the lot and said he and the neighbors will need to take a look at the project to see how it could impact the neighborhood.
“I think we all will need to get together and have a look,” he said.
Weeks said he understands someone needs to buy the lot, but he’s concerned whether the project would cause more traffic in the neighborhood or create a traffic hazard with an exit on the busy section of Kennedy Memorial Drive, which is Route 137 and lined mostly with businesses.
Waterville board members earlier in the week said they will review the project under the subdivision and site plan review ordinance, and if it meets all ordinance standards, plans for the site should be approved.
Beverage said neighbors of the project will be notified once a date is set for a public hearing.
Mac Simpson, of Hunt Real Estate, said the store is one of 19 the company is seeking approval to build or building in Maine as part of a Family Dollar expansion in the state. There are already 10 stores in central Maine, and the company has about 8,000 stores in 46 states, according to its website.
He said Hunt Real Estate has not bought the lot yet and will not buy it unless the city gives permission to build.
While there is already a Family Dollar on The Concourse in Waterville, a little less than two miles away, Simpson said the developers believe the city can sustain two stores in separate areas of the city.
Planning Board Chairman David Geller said he hopes the purchase proceeds smoothly, but said the site has a history of neighbors resisting commercial development.
“The big issue here is going to be the neighbors,” Geller said.
Simpson said the company is not interested in fighting with neighbors of the proposed store. “Family Dollar does not go to a site if there is going to be a lot of push back,” he said.
“I think you’ll find some neighbor stink,” said board member Nathaniel White. “But then they’ll say, ‘Hey, I need something. I’ll go to the store.’”
Board member Paul Lussier said the planning board will make its decision on whether the project sticks to the city ordinance and that their decision will not be based on “a popularity contest.”
“We’re going to follow the ordinance,” he said.
In Farmington, Code Enforcement Officer Steve Kaiser said the proposal to build the store next to Harvest House on Wilton Road was a straightforward presentation that didn’t raise concern with the town.
“It was a very thorough presentation,” Kaiser said. “The gentlemen put a lot of thought into it.”
The store will not sell alcohol and will operate from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Kaiser said the engineering company, Ransom Consulting, presented a plan that would avoid having any drainage problems at the site, which Kaiser said could have been a concern.
The developers will meet again with the Farmington board on June 9, and Kaiser said the board will vote on the project, though they also could take more time to conduct a site visit or review the information.
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252