By Sid Snow, Jeffrey Rogers LEED AP, and Michael S. Sarli
Cape Codders know that development is always pressing on us. Over many years we have grappled with both its benefits and detriments. We try to protect natural resources and preserve open space but also we realize that development is needed to house our children, build our businesses, and finance public initiatives that preserve our environment.
Since 1990, the Cape Cod Commission has helped our citizens not just "balance" but actually build a synergy between our environment and economy. Both greatly benefit from thoughtful, inclusive planning. Though development debates are often fraught with contention, the Cape's citizens, businesses, and government ultimately manage to work together so that the scale and type of development allowed maintains the Cape's delicate interrelationship between its natural resources and economic interests.
Now someone is trying to upset that synergy. Lowe's has proposed a three-acre home improvement store with an additional five-and-a-half acres of parking and pavement along crowded Route 134 in Dennis. The store -- double the size of Hyannis' Home Depot -- is almost as large as the entire neighboring Patriot Square Plaza.
Free Popcorn? No!
A recent photo was taken of a Lowe's supporter stationed in the lobby of the Entertainment Cinema in Patriot Square. The sign next to his table read, "Free Popcorn! Say Yes to Lowe's."
Distasteful? Perhaps, but not as unpalatable as the proposal itself. Like popcorn, Lowe's may seem fluffy and appealing, but in the end it will leave us hungry.
It will vastly worsen existing traffic congestion by adding more than 7,000 car trips on the average Saturday. It will also exceed the nutrient-loading standards established by the Cape Cod Commission for the Bass River Watershed.
The development will also exceed the nutrient-loading standards established by the Cape Cod Commission for the Bass River Watershed. Lowe's could provide a modest up-front investment in advanced wastewater technology and offer to connect some of its commercial neighbors, which could actually reduce area nitrogen loading. Instead, they propose paying the commission a nominal annual fee as an alternative means of regulatory compliance. One would expect better from a $50 billion corporation.
Lowe's will take away $20-$35 million in annual income from existing stores
In addition, it will take away at least $20 million and as much as $35 million in annual income from existing hardware stores, home supply stores, garden centers, plumbing contractors, and many other associated establishments. Consumers who think Lowe's will provide more competition will find that choices are sorely lacking once the plethora of traditional local enterprises with their unique selection of goods and services are driven out of business.
Despite Lowe's claims of "new jobs," Lowe's will displace jobs from existing establishments and pay as much as 46% less in salaries and benefits. A recent study conducted by a leading economist indicates that Lowe's will eliminate more retail jobs than it creates, costing Barnstable County $6.6 million in business sales, $4.2 million in annual household earnings, forfeiting 92 jobs, and reducing tax revenues by a quarter-million dollars Countywide. This is not a choice between economic growth and environmental protection. Lowe's is bad for both.
The Old South Dennis Village Association has raised serious concerns about the project's impacts on the neighboring historic district. Local residents worry that Lowe's will irreparably harm their quality of life, citing noise, traffic congestion and detrimental effects on independently owned businesses that have been the mainstay of Dennis' historic character for decades.
South Dennis is not alone in being a terrible location to site a destructive mega-store like Lowe's. All of Cape Cod is at risk. Virtually every aspect of our lives is in jeopardy from this proposal.
As Cape Codders, we know that the benefits of a giant home improvement chain store will be grossly outweighed by the detriments to our environment, our economy, and our unparalleled way of life.
Now -- who wants free popcorn?