Petition seeks ban on formula restaurants, big-box stores

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

A citizens’ petition that would force a town-wide vote on whether to ban formula restaurants in Bridgton, as well as limit the size of retail development at 30,000 square feet, is well on its way to having the required number of signatures.

Petition organizer Scott Finlayson said Monday he and several supporters collected over half the 229 signatures required to trigger a vote within 60 days on the proposed amendments to the site plan review ordinance.

“We set up outside Renys on Saturday, and the response has been terrific,” said Finlayson, a 16-year Bridgton resident. A lot of the shoppers were not from Bridgton so they couldn’t sign, but they expressed their support as well, he said. “They have a stake in this too,” he said.

Finlayson said he and his supporters will be at Bridgton Books and Morning Dew Natural Foods this weekend to continue the petition drive, and he’s confident he’ll reach the required number by Christmas, although he wants to go beyond it just to show a strong level of support for his proposal. “We’re phoning people to get out there and sign,” he said.

Finlayson appeared before Bridgton Selectmen in November seeking to have the board take action on the amendments, but the board declined.

Once the required number of signatures is reached, the petition will be turned over to the town and the signatures will be verified. At that point, the town has 60 days to schedule a special town meeting to vote on the amendments.

“This is similar to what’s been enacted in many, many other towns across the country” in response to concerns that allowing national chain development will lead to an “Anyplace USA” economy and put independent business owners out of business, Finlayson said. He brought the amendments before selectmen as the McDonald’s project was being approval last week by the planning board.

Finlayson originally had suggested a third amendment, to ban formula hotels and motels, but dropped that from the petition. “We want to have success at what most is at risk in Bridgton,” he said.

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