During a regularly scheduled meeting that became heated, a group of Lubec citizens presented a petition to the Lubec Select Board for a moratorium on the construction of big-box stores.
While discussion on other agenda items took place at the select board meeting on October 10, a steady stream of local residents came into the meeting room, nearly filling it. When the floor was opened for public comments, Lubec resident Robert Judd rose and asked to present a petition asking the board to "enact immediately a temporary moratorium on the site preparation or construction of any new retail building that would be occupied and operated as part of a chain typically known as dollar stores and big‑box stores." Judd stated that "the petition bears 158 signatures," which he said had been verified against "the list of registered voters that we purchased from the town office."
The petition asks that the moratorium remain in place until voters have the opportunity to "consider and discuss the numerous implications" that the introduction of such a store would entail. "This is not a proposal to ban Family Dollar," Judd said in his opening comments, referring to the chain store's proposal to open a store in Lubec. He added, "The voice of the people needs to be heard."
"I am uncomfortable enacting a moratorium," said board Vice Chair Michael Scrivani, "without first having legal review."
Resident Peter Boyce then addressed the board, saying that he was the owner of "a major portion of the land" in consideration for use by Family Dollar and that he felt it was unfair for anybody to tell him who he could sell it to. According to Boyce, "a lot of negotiations have taken place" preparatory to the sale. "If you want to know more about this company," Boyce said, "their website includes corporate information."
The Family Dollar website, <www.familydollar.com>, includes a link to "investor relations," where the North Carolina firm's annual report is available. According to this report, "as of September 29, 2012, there were 7,475 stores in 45 states," including 54 in Maine. "During fiscal 2012, we opened 475 stores, closed 56 stores," the report states. It also describes the firm's reliance on tobacco marketing to attract shoppers.
"I guarantee you there would be no problem stopping this," Judd said, "if it involved an abortion clinic, a marijuana dispensary or an Islamic education center." The Islamic reference set off protests of discrimination by several board members.
Despite Judd's insistence that the matter was not about the Family Dollar store, comments from the select board focused the discussion on that matter. "I was born here and I was raised here," said Selectman James Jones, "and I'm all for convenience and for jobs." At this point, several members of the public began trading words with several members of the board, interrupted only briefly by the pounding of the gavel.
"You elected us," said Jones, who has previously stated his belief that the purpose of the board is "to make the big decisions."
"You need to trust us," he said, before moving for adjournment. "No," shouted Scrivani, in response to Jones' request for a second.
"There will absolutely be no decision on this tonight," said board Chair Maureen Glidden, as the back‑and‑forth continued and several residents walked out.
"I've been kept in the dark about all this," said Selectman Sara McConnell, who also said, "This must be considered, or we will do the community a disservice."
"The letter," said Judd, referring to the letter from the board of selectmen welcoming Family Dollar, "was an overstep." The board resolution that led to that letter passed unanimously during the regular meeting held on September 26.
"We will consider this petition," said Glidden. The second motion to adjourn passed, and the meeting closed at 6:45 p.m.
In a follow‑up interview, Town Administrator John Sutherland, who was absent for the October 10 meeting because of family business, pointed out that the town has no ordinances governing new construction, thus it lacks the legal means to stop it. Sutherland also observed that the meeting and referendum process that led to voter approval of the Fisherman's Wharf restaurant complex, which was previously cited by Judd, was mandated by state law, as it involved shifting the tax burden by placing property in the "working waterfront" category. Those requirements would not apply to the building of a Family Dollar store.
Glidden had opened the meeting on October 10 by saying that she expected it to be short. Town Clerk Betty Case was attending a previously scheduled athletic event and so was absent from the meeting. Business included the announcement of Gary Brown as the new animal control officer, a discussion of the upcoming referendum on the refinancing of Down East EMS and comments about the work scheduled by the Maine Department of Transportation on the S‑curve portion of South Lubec Road. The application process of this road repair has been delayed by the furlough of personnel needed to provide the necessary permits.