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Disagreement with Wal-Mart stalls Marden's plan for Scarborough store

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Disagreement with Wal-Mart stalls Marden's plan for Scarborough store

SCARBOROUGH — A delay in the purchase of the old Wal-Mart building in Scarborough has made the goal of a pre-holiday opening impossible for the newest Marden's Surplus & Salvage store.

The Planning Board in September rushed to approve Marden's plan to transform the 119,000-square-foot Payne Road building and meet the conditions the town placed in 2005 on any future owner of the property – conditions the retailer had become aware of only days before finalizing its purchase.

According Ham Marden, president of the company, the requirements added $600,000 to $800,000 to the retailer's cost.

Marden's chose to go forward, and the board's approval cleared the way for the store to open before all the work was completed, with the expectation that the Maine-based retailer could cash in on holiday sales.

But Marden this week said the purchase of the property still has not been completed. "There's an inability of the two parties to reach an agreement on a couple of issues," he said Thursday morning.

Bound by a non-disclosure agreement with Wal-Mart, Marden said he could not discuss details. But he did say the main issue involves construction of a right-turn lane from northbound Payne Road into the site. The Planning Board agreed to postpone the requirement until next summer, after considering results of a traffic study that must be performed by Marden's.

If the traffic study shows the turn lane is unnecessary, the store won't be required to construct it, but in the meantime, it must put up a performance guarantee that would cover the cost of the project. The amount of the guarantee would be determined after Marden's receives a cost estimate approved by the town.

As of Thursday morning, the town had not yet received the estimate, Assistant Town Planner Jay Chace said. Marden declined to give a figure or to say if an estimate had been completed. According to Town Engineer Jim Wendel, assuming there's no need to move a traffic signal arm, the cost for creating the lane would be in the $15,000 to $20,000 range.

The strict stipulations the Planning Board placed on the property in 2005 were intended to prevent an empty, aging Wal-Mart building from remaining on the lot, a situation that the retailer has been accused of allowing to happen in some places. In addition, the site approval was scheduled to expire 18 months after Wal-Mart's occupancy of its new store across the street, requiring the retailer to return to the board if the old store is still unoccupied and there has been no reuse of the property, Town Planner Dan Bacon said.

Marden could not predict when the new store would open, adding it depended on how soon his company could come to an agreement with Wal-Mart. When asked if he thought the delay was a deliberate attempt by Wal-Mart to prevent Marden's from opening in time for the holidays, Marden said, "the reality is if they thought we even rated as a nuisance on their radar screen, they wouldn't even sell us the building."

"We are 85 percent confident it can be worked out with Wal-Mart," he said. "Maybe 86 percent."

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.