Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Conflicted over Lancaster's Wal-Mart

Actually, I'm not. I don't like Wal-Marts, don't think we need them in our community, don't think they bring much positive to the table. (In the interest of full disclosure, I do go the one in Lunenburg occasionally, usually to pick up photos).

My conflict surrounds the efforts of Leominster residents to kill the proposed Wal-Mart in Lancaster. I live in Leominster now and lived there while I was growing up, but I identify more with Lancaster. I went to school in Lancaster, as did my parents, grandparents, and great-grand-parents. I've umpired Little League in Lancaster for 16 years. My mother and grandmother grew up in Lancaster. My great-grandfather owned a store in town. While my house is in Leominster, I consider Lancaster my home.

As such, I have often sided with Lancaster in their ongoing David-and-Goliath relationship with Leominster. So while I don't think Wal-Mart is a good thing for Lancaster, I find myself almost rooting for the town when I read snippets like this, from today's Telegram and Gazette:

John and Patrice Harvey, of 960 Mechanic St., Leominster, representing "Our Lancaster First" came in with a 31-item questionnaire regarding the Old Union Turnpike proposal. Issues addressed included environmental impact, traffic impact and hours operation, as well as the possibilities of company officials reducing hours of operation and the size of the proposed building.

I'm sorry, but the idea that a Leominster resident would attend a meeting as a representative of "Our Lancaster First" is a non-starter for me. I don't think Lancaster should approve the Wal-Mart, but I would not presume to speak on behalf of "Our Lancaster," no matter how closely I identify with the town.

(As an aside, are the proofreaders at the T&G asleep? "We submitting..." and an if-than statement in the same paragraph?)

"I don't think Lancaster has the services to support it," Mrs. Harvey said. "They are going to end up hiring new police, getting a new cruiser, getting a new ladder truck and that's all money coming out of the proposed tax dollars that they are going to be getting from Wal-Mart."

But isn't that the point? Maybe the town wants more police, a new cruiser, and a new ladder truck and they're willing to trade all of the baggage that comes with a new Wal-Mart in order to get it. I'm not sure it's worth it, but I don't see how an opponent can argue that more law enforcement personnel and equipment is a bad thing.

I have much more sympathy for the views of someone who lives in town:

Ina Purvins of 634 Main St. said her biggest concern with the Supercenter is its potential 24 hours of operation.

"When we moved to Lancaster I remember there was concerned over a gas station having a lighted soda pop dispensing machine," Ms. Purvins said. "Lancaster, when we moved here, it just seemed like it was going to be a quiet town at night. So just the idea of a 24-hour store coming, it's going to make a difference on the amount of traffic on Main Street."

While I don't think the Wal-Mart will affect life "in town" much (the proposed site is about as far away from "town" as you can get and still be in Lancaster), Ms. Purvins note about vending machines reminded me that Lancaster has a number of little anti-sprawl statutes on the books (or at least they used to) that could be in play with a new Wal-Mart.

For instance, I remember that the town passed an ordinance a number of years ago outlawing video-games, pinball machines, etc. (As a Ms. Pac Man and Donkey Kong fanatic, I was stridently opposed. As a 12-year old Leominster resident who spent his days in Lancaster at school and with my grandparents, my voice was not heard.) Will Wal-Mart be prohibited from placing a Toy Claw game or similar vending machines? If laws are repealed to allow the development, will those decisions open the door to other types of commerce that have been prohibited in town for years?

The citizens of Lancaster have some tough decisions ahead of them. I'm sure they have the capacity to govern themselves, without Leominster's advice.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Post a Comment


No Drumlins Copyright © 2009 Premium Blogger Dashboard Designed by SAER