Chain stores are at the center of a controversy in Middlebury

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(Host) Chain stores are at the center of a growing controversy in Middlebury, where developers have proposed three different stores.

Two projects – a Staples and a Starbucks – will be presented to the town’s Development Review Board tonight. Opponents say they plan to present the board with 400 signatures opposing the new stores.

Myron Hunt Incorporated of Williamsville, New York, wants to develop both the Staples and the Starbucks.

They would be built in the Centre shopping plaza, south of downtown Middlebury.

The Staples would be smaller than the typical store built by the franchise — just under 15,000 square feet.

The Starbucks would also be small – just 1,700 square feet. And the design includes a peaked roof and large windows, which is a departure from the chain’s typical architecture.

Still, opponents say they’re worried. They say the town plan is designed to make sure new development along Route 7 doesn’t harm downtown businesses.

Town Planner Fred Dunnington says the town plan is written broadly.

(Dunnington) "It does involve some input from the public, so it is not perfectly predictable. But it is sufficiently clear for regulatory purposes to have that kind of standard. There are those who would simplistically say that regulations ought to be a green light or a red light. But if everything was so mechanical you wouldn’t need boards or public input."

(Host) Dunnington points to the Marriot across the street as an example of how developers altered proposals to comply with the town plan. The developers agreed to not open a restaurant in order to encourage guests to go downtown.

Andrew Hunt is the Vice President of Myron Hunt Incorporated. He says his company has experienced this type of opposition before.

(Hunt) "Whenever a new retailer comes in, certainly, it offers competition to existing retailers. But it also offers choice to customers. There may be – and Starbucks and Staples certainly are betting on the fact – that there is a segment of the Middlebury trade area that would like to explore another trade alternative."

(Host) Hunt encourages people concerned about the downtown to continue to support those businesses.

Middlebury’s Development Review Board meets tonight at the Ilsley Public Library.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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