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November 16, 2020

L.L.Bean puts 'hold' on plans for large Freeport mixed-use development

a site plan with intestate 295 at the bottom and a drawing showing eight commercial lots to the right and several roads and cul de sacs clustered with houses to the left Courtesy / Sebago Technics A site plan for the proposed KV Enterprises development in Freeport on land KV planned to buy from L.L.Bean. Interstate 295 is at shown at the bottom, and Desert Road is at the right.

L.L.Bean Inc. won't, at least for now, sell land that was to be the site of a mixed-use development that would include 529 residential units, to be built over the next decade.

Growing controversy over the proposal by KV Enterprises to build the development on land it would buy from Bean prompted the company to put a "hold" on the project until "a clear and comprehensive plan" for the best use of the land can be agreed to by the town and its residents, Stephen Smith, Bean president and CEO, said Sunday.

A rezoning request for the proposal, which includes a mix of single-family homes, duplexes and apartments, as well as commercial lots, first went before the planning board in October. But the plan drew fire at a Nov. 4 public hearing, when residents protested outside and sent letters saying the project was too big.

Portland-based KV Enterprises, owned by Kendrick Ballantyne, proposed the development for two adjoining parcels totaling 247 acres bordered by Desert and Old County roads to the north and south, with the L.L.Bean fulfillment and returns center campus to the west and Interstate 295 to the east. 

The rezoning is necessary to add residential density to the largely rural industrial zone off Exit 20, south of downtown. At full capacity, the project would add about 2,500 residents to the town of 7,800.

In a letter to the community, Smith said that "the process and plan veered from our original good intentions," and the "best decision is to hold on this project." The letter was first reported online Sunday by the Portland Press Herald, and it's not clear where, or if, the company has published it. Requests from Mainebiz to the L.L.Bean for more information weren't immediately answered.

Photo / Maureen Milliken
L.L.Bean had planned to sell land to the east of its fulfillment and returns center on Desert Road in Freeport, seen here, to KV Enterprises for a mixed-use development.

Large project, rural area

When built out, the project would have 329 single-family houses at the end near Old County Road; 70 duplexes with 140 residential units, and four apartment buildings with a total 60 units. The duplexes and apartment buildings would be at the center of the project. Eight commercial lots would be in the parcel on Desert Road.

The plan was strongly opposed by residents at the Nov. 4 meeting, and a large crowd stood outside the meeting holding signs urging the town to reject the plan. An online petition opposing the development has 418 signatures as of this morning, and a Facebook page, Freeport Residents for Responsible Development, has also been created.

Residents opposed said in letters to the board that the project would not fit with the town's 2011 comprehensive plan, which calls for preserving rural areas.

The Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors also wrote a letter to town planner Caroline Pelletier opposing the development, citing the impact it would have on a 2019 school district strategic plan that calls for smaller class sizes, and the overall strain on the district's six schools. RSU 5 represents Freeport, Pownal and Durham.

Some residents, in their letters, compared the development project to a zoning change requested by owners of the Desert of Maine, at 95 Desert Road, which was also heard on Nov. 4. Owners Mela and Doug Heestand are asking for an arts and nature overlay district to help them expand and add $1 million in upgrades that include an arts and culture center and 200-seat theater for folk music and similar events.

The Desert of Maine's plan "sounds modest and much more reasonable," one resident wrote, a sentiment echoed by others who opposed the KV Enterprises plan.

L.L.Bean notified the town on Sept. 22 that the company was entering into a purchase and sale agreement with KV Enterprises for the property. The Sept. 22 plan submission to the planning board, by Sebago Technics, said the project was at a "very early stage," and developers were seeking impact from the planning board, town staff and Freeport residents.

Smith said in his letter that the company would like to sell the land so it can focus more on its core business — "designing, making and selling quality products that help people get outside and being a leading employer in our state."

L.L.Bean is also selling land it owns in First Park Commerce & Technology Park in Oakland. The two undeveloped lots are listed by SVN | The Urbanek Group.

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November 16, 2020

I believe L.L. Bean itself should develop the property over a long period of time. Freeport will grow and controlled housing development would be the perfect adjunct for the company as it grows .The property can feed the company's employment needs as well as just being a great benefit to The Town of Freeport. D.G. Gray

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