A grassroots group, Citizens Organized for Responsible Development (CORD), in Ellsworth, Maine, has gathered the 1,109 signatures needed to place a measure calling for a temporary moratorium on new retail development on the November ballot.
If it passes, the referendum will suspend construction of retail stores larger than 80,000 square feet on undeveloped land and commercial expansion of more than 40,000 square feet on developed land for a period of six months.
The purpose of the moratorium, according to CORD member Audie Tunney, is to give the city time to address large-scale retail development in its new comprehensive plan. Ellsworth began revising its comprehensive plan in 2000 and is expected to complete the process this year.
Ellsworth has a population of 6,500 and is located two hours northeast of Portland. Tens of thousands of visitors pass through the town each summer on their way to Acadia National Park.
CORD formed a few years ago in response to large-scale strip development rapidly overtaking part of the community. “There’s a lot of land available along Route 1A, and nothing to preclude that land from becoming one strip mall after another,” says Tunney.
Last year CORD fought a 208,000 square foot Wal-Mart supercenter. CORD encouraged residents to contact the Maine Department of Transportation regarding traffic impacts. MDOT subsequently required Wal-Mart to pay $4 million in mitigation fees for road improvements. The company chose to drop the project instead.
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