Maybe it’s legal. But it’s wrong. And Bad.
A company shouldn’t be able to ride roughshod over the wishes of a whole town.
A few years ago, Cumberland Farms petitioned the Town of Wellfleet to enlarge the existing store on Route 6 and add a gas station. At a well-attended hearing, citizens were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea, citing bright lights, commotion, redundancy (there are two other gas stations within a couple of hundred yards), 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.
We had only a few months earlier voted in Town Meeting voted a bylaw prohibiting such non-local, cookie-cutter “formula business” as being inherently detrimental to our town’s unique appeal to both residents and summer visitors.
Unwilling to take the town’s “no” for an answer, the company stopped asking and took us to court. A judge found in their favor, seeing no reason why formulaic businesses can’t “fit in” with the Wellfleet aesthetic.
Now the selectmen have abandoned attempts to defend the town in court, deciding that .we don’t have the money to stay in this game with the corporation. Looks like this company is going to have its way with yet another town. You can see what they have planned for us by checking out the new store and gas station in North Eastham.
Maybe the citizens who showed up at the ZBA hearings or at the Town Meeting where we voted the formula business bylaw are not representative of the whole town. Maybe some of us who did say “no” have changed our minds. Otherwise, we ought to regard Cumby’s insistence as a hostile takeover of a key part of Wellfleet on Route 6.
But what can we do about it if we don’t have the money for a court battle? We do have one weapon. The store cannot, despite its contempt for local citizens, succeed without customers. We could respond to the company’s unfriendliness by acting unfriendly back—in the form of an organized boycott. Let Cumby’s know 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. When summer comes, we can picket to discourage summer customers.
I’ve been told that this town will never mount a boycott. Some people get their early morning coffee at Cumby’s and many of us find it convenient to have a store open til 11. Perhaps the Wellfleet Marketplace, as a local store, might decide it’s in their interest to join the effort to discourage their competition by staying open later.and taking over other functions of the chain.
The character and quality-of-life of our town are at stake. Let’s see how much we care.