FALMOUTH – There’s no sign that “big box” stores are interested in moving to Falmouth, says developer Ben Devine, so a Town Council committee is overreacting in proposing a strict size limit for retail stores.

“What I don’t understand is how they arrived at that 30,000-square-foot cap,” about a third of the size of a typical big-box retailer, said Devine, an owner of Falmouth Plaza and part of a partnership that is buying the Falmouth Shopping Center.

Both developments are along Route 1, where most of Falmouth’s stores operate. Falmouth Plaza is anchored by a Walmart store, and the Falmouth Shopping Center has a Shaw’s supermarket.

Devine said no one has really explained how the 30,000-square-foot figure was arrived at by the council’s Community Development Committee, which is considering new zoning rules that include a 90,000-square-foot limit.

“There doesn’t seem to be a rationale,” he said. “There’s a fear out there that Falmouth is sort of ripe for a big-box development. … But there aren’t any big boxes lurking out there.”

Devine said the new rule wouldn’t affect plans to expand the Walmart, which will add a grocery section and had town approval before the new limit was considered.

The new rule would include an exception for grocery stores, which could be 60,000 square feet.

Bonny Rodden, who chairs the committee, said members felt comfortable with a 30,000-square-foot store, which is about the size of the Staples store on Route 1. The committee looked at other stores in the area, such as a 90,000-square-foot Kohl’s in Westbrook, and “decided it’s much too big,” she said.

“We decided that 90,000 (square feet) is not a good fit for our community,” said Rodden, who said there have been rumors about a big-box store coming to Falmouth but no retailers have come forward with plans.

Rodden said the committee has been working on its plan for Route 1 for years and feels the town is well on its way to developing a pedestrian-oriented shopping area, where shoppers are encouraged to park in one spot and walk to neighboring shopping areas.

Big-box stores would disrupt that design, she said, and would likely discourage local retailers in favor of national chains.

Smaller stores, she said, create “a much more human scale.”

Rodden said the committee is aware of Devine’s objections, but hasn’t heard him offer alternatives.

“We understand he doesn’t like the footprint limit and I can understand why most developers wouldn’t want any restrictions on what they can do,” she said. “We have a vision and we would like to get an idea of what (Devine) does want. We’ve been asking him for that over and over again.”

Eric Anton, president of the Falmouth/Cumberland Community Chamber of Commerce, said his organization is aware of the issue of size limits for stores on Route 1, but hasn’t developed a position.

Rodden said the proposal has been forwarded to the Town Council. She said the council might hold an informational meeting early next month, followed by a public hearing with a vote likely in October. 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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