Wellfleet’s formula biz bylaw shot down

In 2011 Wellfleet voted in a bylaw to ban “formula businesses.” The logic of the bylaw is that such chains and franchises as McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and other usual suspects would have a deleterious effect on our quality-of-life and the character of our town.

Some months later Cumberland Farms proposed enlarging its long-grandfathered store on Route 6, in part to include a gas station. At a well-attended hearing, local citizens were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea, citing bright lights, commotion, and the increased danger, in an already dangerous spot on the highway, of even more impatient drivers making the left hand turn into the new store.

Unwilling to take “no” for an answer, the chain took the matter to Land Court and the judge has found in their favor. He disagrees with the logic of the bylaw, seeing no reason why formulaic businesses can’t “fit in” with the Wellfleet aesthetic, and suggests that any attempt to control the look of such businesses should be accomplished through design regulations (such as the “colonial-style” design proposed for Cumberland Farms).

This of course misses the whole point of the bylaw: that clones of thousands of such businesses all around the country are inherently and essentially different from locally owned businesses, and dilute and homogenize unique local life everywhere they are allowed to spring up. Our town’s resistance to such businesses is a major factor in the town’s appeal to both residents and visitors.

It was a fine thing we did to define our values and our town’s character with that bylaw. We should regard Cumberland Farms’ determination to subvert it as an unfriendly act.

Unless you want that relatively quiet little strip mall to get a lot busier and think we really need a third gas station within a couple of hundred yards, let the Board of Selectmen and ZBA know that you support an appeal of the Land Court’s overturn of our bylaw.

Such a company is a formidable enemy, with pockets deeper than those of one little town. We do have one weapon, however. We could respond to the company’s unfriendliness by acting unfriendly back–in the form of an organized boycott. Say to Cumby’s now that, however inconvenient it might be, we won’t buy a thing from them if they persist in foisting this unwanted upgrade on the town.

If the Land Court’s decision stands, presumably Dunkin Donuts, the town’s other grandfathered chain, will come back at us once again for a drive-through window, another expansion resoundingly opposed in hearings and turned down by the ZBA.

And there’s the generations-old Lighthouse Restaurant spot on Main Street that may get the attention of the likes of McDonalds, which would no doubt be happy to reduce the size of its golden arches.

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