THOMASTON, Maine — A citizens’ group has gathered sufficient signatures to put a question before voters on a zone change that would block a Dollar General store from opening on the former Maine State Prison property.
The petitioners, calling themselves the Coalition to Save Thomaston, presented the petition to the town earlier this month with 131 signatures. That exceeds the 122 needed to get a warrant article on a town meeting agenda, Town Clerk Joan Linscott said.
The proposed change would set a 2,500-square-foot limit on the size of stores in the downtown neighborhood known as Thomaston Green. This is the Route 1 property, overlooking the St. George River, where the prison was located until its demolition in 2002.
Dollar General has proposed constructing a 9,100-square-foot store on a lot fronting Route 1 adjacent to the Strong Insurance Company. The proposed 2,500-square-foot limit would mean the largest building allowed in the area between Wadsworth and Ship streets would be about the size of the insurance company building.
Dollar General had been scheduled to be considered again Tuesday evening by the town planning board but Code Officer William Wasson said the company asked to be removed from that agenda and did not ask to be rescheduled.
A telephone message left Tuesday morning seeking comment from the chain’s corporate office in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, was not immediately returned.
In February, the planning board rejected Dollar General’s original proposal, saying the project failed to meet local zoning standards, particularly in regard to its design.
About 100 people turned out at the June 21 planning board meeting to voice their opposition. They expressed concerns, among other things, about how the store would conform with the community’s Thomaston Green design. The aim of the Thomaston Green design guidelines is to make buildings look as though they belong in a New England village green and complement development in the abutting residential districts, he said.
“Franchise architecture, which is designed to be identified with a specific commercial chain store or restaurant, is not appropriate,” the town ordinance states.
The Thomaston Green guidelines also require that retail stores be built parallel to Route 1 with landscaping in front and parking in the rear of the structure. In addition, the entrance needs to be from a side street and not from Route 1. Thomaston General’s latest plan called for the building to be perpendicular to Route 1 with parking visible from the street.
Franklin Land Associates LLC of Brentwood, Tennessee, is the developer for the retail store, which would be built on a 2.6-acre parcel owned by Jlinn LLC, which includes John Miller of Thomaston.
The planning board was scheduled to review the petition Tuesday night. A public hearing by the planning board on the zone change request is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 22, which will immediately be followed that evening by a Select Board public hearing on the petition request. After those hearings, the Select Board is expected to set a special town meeting for residents to decide on whether to approve the zone change.
While the proposed zone change would limit the size of stores in that area, the town has seen dramatic retail development on Route 1 near the Rockland city line, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter that opened in October 2013.
Dollar General has more than 12,000 stores in 43 states, according to the company’s website. Its 12 stores in Maine are concentrated in central and southern Maine.