BLUE HILL — A national retailer, Family Dollar, may open a store on South Street, much to the dismay of some, but not all, Blue Hill Peninsula residents.
Bangor developer Tom Ellis, doing business as Ellsworth Holdings, spoke to a crowd of 40 peninsula residents at a Blue Hill Planning Board meeting Monday.
The board unanimously approved Ellis’s application to build a 9,920-square-foot retail building at 28 South St. across from Rite Aid.
“I’m hoping to get Family Dollar in there,” Ellis said. “I have over 20 Family Dollar stores in my portfolio. They’ve been a great addition to many communities I’ve been a part of.”
Residents had several questions about the project, including whether it had to happen at all.
One resident, citing existing chain stores in the neighborhood, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway, said he didn’t want South Street to look like High Street in Ellsworth. High Street has a plethora of fast food chains and businesses.
“We’re coming to a really big crossroads in our town,” said Blue Hill resident Olivia Bruno. “Personally, I don’t feel that Family Dollar is a way our town wants to go. We really don’t want it.”
Several people applauded.
Bruno asked if Ellis would consider a different tenant.
Blue Hill resident Charlotte Clews Lawther listed several concerns with the project, including the lighting.
“We don’t have zoning, so it’s easy for you to come here,” she said.
Not everyone spoke against the development.
Resident Rachel Leach, who is wife of Planning Board member Fern and mother of Selectman Vaughn Leach, told Ellis that she supports his project. There are Blue Hill residents who will support the store, Leach said.
Blue Hill resident Tim Seeley said he and his wife have to go to Ellsworth to do some of their shopping.
“That town is getting the benefit of those purchases,” Seeley said.
Seeley also cautioned about prejudice toward any one particular business.
“I think characterizing one business versus another is highly subjective and a somewhat dangerous path to go down,” Seeley said.
Planning Board Chairman Scott Miller said, “Whether it’s a Family Dollar or not is not a factor in our decision. We’re really constrained by what the ordinance says.”
Blue Hill’s site plan review ordinance doesn’t include aesthetic design standards such as those found in communities Bar Harbor and Freeport, which have stringent ordinances.
“We deal with a lot of towns that have design standards,” Ellis said. “We don’t care about that, per se. We want it to fit in the community. It’s important for us to maintain the design criteria that is here and working.”
“If it’s important to a town, they put it in their ordinance,” Ellis said.
Blue Hill resident Dave Wardamasky said the town needs to revisit its Comprehensive Plan.
A comprehensive plan is a roadmap of sorts for a municipality’s future.
“It was voted on, it got killed and it got shelved,” Wardamasky said. “It’s been an ongoing issue for the past 10 years or so. As it stands now, anyone can come in.”
Miller said he is planning to propose “some adjustments” to the ordinance. Part of ordinance revision is getting feedback from the community, Miller said.
“Keep your motivation up,” he said.
The developer intends to install plantings around the building, but concerns were expressed about the details of that plan.
Planning Board member Peter Colman said there had been mention of planting forsythia and rhododendrons at the site during an earlier review.
“I ask that you use native plantings,” Colman said. Native plants will attract birds and other pollinators.
Ellis replied, “That’s a very easy thing to do.”
The developer said he had an account at Sprague’s Nursery, which guarantees plants for a year.
Blue Hill resident Avy Claire said a year is not long enough to determine if plantings will be successful. Claire is a member of Native Gardens of Blue Hill, which is creating a four-acre native garden on South Street.
Resident Lynne Clark suggested Ellis patronize a neighboring business, Mainescape Garden Center, for the Blue Hill store instead.
Part of the project involves adding 6-foot paved shoulders to a portion of South Street at the building’s entrance, according to surveyor and engineer Oscar Emerson of Down to Earth Professional Land Services in Bradley, representing Ellis. That’s a requirement from the Maine Department of Transportation for an entrance permit.
There is no word on when construction might start.