Tractor Supply eyes Belfast's big-box property

Council, Planning Board to review proposal Jan. 8
By Ethan Andrews | Dec 14, 2018
Photo by: Ethan Andrews An 80-acre parcel on the north side of Route 3, pictured facing east, is being considered for a large development spearheaded by Tractor Supply Co.

Belfast — Land set aside for a big-box store 10 years ago is being eyed as a location for a farm equipment chain, with a possibility of other retail stores, a hotel, and several types of housing.

Tractor Supply Co., a Brentwood, Tennessee-based chain that sells farm equipment, animal feed, hardware and other products related to rural living, has submitted plans to the city for a development that would cover roughly 35 acres on the north side of Route 3.

A new access road from Route 3, directly across from the entrance to Bank of America, would serve a 20,000-square-foot Tractor Supply store across from a bank branch and two free-standing retail buildings. The road would continue back from Route 3 to a restaurant, a hotel, a multifamily housing complex and an assisted living building.

Tractor Supply is the only named business associated with the application today, City Planner Wayne Marshall said Dec. 13. The other retail stores, restaurant, hotel and housing are proposed uses that may or may not be built, he said, and are included because the contract zoning of the property requires a master plan rather than piecemeal development.

The property has been under contract zoning since 2008 when the City Council made the 80-acre parcel the only one in the city eligible for a single store of more than 75,000 square feet, which is less than half the size of a Walmart Supercenter. The change came at the same time the council eliminated another specially zoned property on Searsport Avenue that was reportedly being eyed by Lowe's.

The prospect of big-box development had divided the city between opponents, who had successfully kept the large national retailers out in an effort to protect locally based businesses, and supporters, who said the city needed shopping options, particularly for lower-income residents.

Councilors framed the zoning changes as a way to invite a big box store on the city's terms, but those who wanted a large retail store largely saw the single option, along with zoning that would give the city control of any new development, as an empty gesture that would effectively keep big box stores away.

Tractor Supply is far from a big-box. Bloomberg recently reported that the company plans to open 500 more locations in the U.S. over the next decade, attributed to serving a niche market, making it the rare bricks-and-mortar store to thrive during the rise of online shopping.

But the company would check some of the boxes of a large retailer. Tractor Supply is a publicly traded company with more than 1,700 stores in 49 states, including more than a dozen in Maine. It bills itself as "the largest operator of rural lifestyle retail stores in America."

Currently, the closest locations to Belfast are in Thomaston, Augusta, Bangor, Palmyra and Ellsworth.

The plans will get their first public review Jan. 8, 2019, at a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Board. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. with the location to be determined.

Detail of a plan for a proposed development on Route 3 in Belfast. The building at lower left would be a 20,000-square-foot Tractor Supply store. (Source: Belfast Planning Office)
Comments (3)
Posted by: Jon Jenckes | Dec 15, 2018 10:32

Should read, Y ou  want to go to Hell fast go to Belfast/ Stan Peterson should have taught typing better/ not english

Posted by: Jon Jenckes | Dec 15, 2018 10:25

Read the comments on the online section of the BDN and see  how Belfast  is looked upon by others in the great State of Maine/ What is not realized is how Belfast was in the past times/ the saying was " you  want to go to Hell go to Belfast" Many do remember  those days and many  miss them/

Posted by: from the kitchen | Dec 15, 2018 05:29

Some fodder to end the squabbling in city hall?

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