Facebook fan page fights Bridgton McDonalds

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

There are 89 fans so far on a Facebook page dedicated to “No McDonald’s in Bridgton!” with a goal of growing that list to 1,000 names or more. Most commenters are opposed to the plans, which were aired for the first time at Tuesday’s Bridgton Planning Board meeting.

The stated mission of the “No McDonald’s” page is the following: “Let’s keep Bridgton a beautiful, unique town. Let’s shop locally and not allow chains like McDonald’s to take over and make us look like every other town.”

One repeating contributor, Heather Partin Silvia, stated her case against the fast-food chain coming to town as follows: “Tourists don't come to Bridgton to eat Big Macs. Tourists come here because it is quaint and beautiful. We are a unique town full of Mom and Pop businesses that will suffer. The lack of McDonald’s and businesses like it, is one of our major reasons for moving here and I would hate to see what makes us special slowly being taken away from us by chains. Before moving here someone gave us a copy of Down East with Bridgton on the cover. That photo and article sold us on Bridgton. I wouldn't have even considered moving here if there had been a McDonald’s in that picture.”

But not everyone on the page is critical of the plans.

Derek Douglas responded to Silvia’s comments as follows: “Nobody complained when they put a Dunkin Donuts in Bridgton, and I’m pretty sure half the town goes there every morning. Putting in a McDonald’s would actually open up a lot of jobs which are getting harder and harder to find.”

And Greg Watkins, a member of the Bridgton Young Professionals organization, offers a more measured approach on the fan page: “Whether or not the business decides to move in here is pretty much out of our control. However, if you are like me you are concerned about how the building will be presented, how it will be viewed from the street and what gateway it will open up to future development. A topic has been proposed to both the planning board and the board of selectmen that has, to put it mildly, been met with much confrontation. The topic is Form Based Code. I know that someone will say "Oh that's zoning." No, to put it simply Form Based Code does not want to zone out different areas of the town but to adopt a set of guidelines that says that if you are going to develop in our community you need to adhere to our requests as far as aesthetics, signage, and public access among other things.”

Yet anti-McDonald sentiment clearly predominates on the page, as would be expected. Here’s another comment, from Camille Evans:
“We don't need this, we have all the food we can get from all of our local stores, Lake Region House of Pizza, Main Street Variety, Ruby Food, etc. Why would we want to lose that? They thrive on our business. If we have McDonald’s come in, those businesses would definitely suffer. I don't think Dunkin Donuts brought up this much controversy because we didn't have a breakfast place to stop at. But McDonald’s would be for all three meals, and we already have that! Bridgton is basically the only real small quaint town left that has this much, but isn't a city. Why would we want to change this, when everyone seems to be so happy?”

And finally, from Kyla Rowe: “I think that this would be a terrible blow to the small town image that Bridgton has always tried to maintain, and for that matter benefited from. I have family from out of state who recently came for a visit and were blown away at the changes in town. "Sure doesn't look like the small town it used to be." Were his words. Too bad, because people are going to stop moving and visiting here if this continues. We are on our way to being the next Windham . . . people go and leave (at a snail pace during rush hour) and no one talks about what a nice town it is!!”

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