In the next few months the town of Scarborough will be considering approval of an expansion to the Maine Mall, called “Scarborough Gallery.” If you’re not aware, this project consists of relocation and doubling of the existing Wal-Mart operation, as well as a Lowe’s to compete with Home Depot and a number of out-parcel restaurants to compete with the abundance of franchised food surrounding the mall.

I am encouraging the residents of Scarborough and neighboring towns to review the proposal, attend, communicate your thoughts, and ask questions of the developer and town officials. As most of the general public is aware, big box development and specifically Wal-Mart is a lightning rod for public sentiment.

Supercenters are relatively new to the retail environment, and it would have been improbable for the Zoning Ordinance or the Comprehensive Plan to have ordinances in place to address and control development of this size and type.

Beyond the technical and aesthetic requirements for the town to accept this project, we know very little of the benefits it will bring to the community. There are no real ordinance or criteria in place for the town to examine the potential economic, environmental or social outcomes for this type of development.

I encourage citizens, especially locally owned merchants, restaurant owners and small business to put these questions to the Planning Board, Planning staff and the Town Council for an unbiased and thorough response.

With a project of this size, if we don’t know the answers, how can anyone make a fair judgment? There are some simple questions – Will we gain or lose quality jobs across the community? What will the jobs pay? Are the benefits attainable to all the employees? Is this really the best development of the site considering it’s forested and partially wetland? What do these tenants give back to the community from a social and charitable perspective? Will the taxes collected surpass the cost of services and attention the project will demand? Or will it be a deficit to the Town? What is the value of an empty Wal-Mart?

I’ve seen the answers to these questions in other communities, and I think our town and our neighbors deserve honest answers before any decision is rendered.

Support an independent and homegrown future for Scarborough.

Dave Merrill