Developers planning a massive Route 1 shopping center that will include a $28 million, 150,000-square-foot Walmart have again identified Tractor Supply Company as a potential tenant of one of the smaller stores in the center.

Alton Palmer of Gorrill-Palmer Consulting Engineers said Tractor Supply Company is planned as the principle use on one of the lots during a meeting May 24 at Watts Hall.

The meeting was a public hearing on the findings of Gartley & Dorsky Engineering & Surveying, which the town of Thomaston hired to perform an independent study of the retail development. William Lane of Gartley & Dorsky presented the findings of his firm’s “peer review” study to the public and members of the planning board. Several town officials were also present for the meeting.

In addition, residents opposed to the proposed Walmart project spoke out at the meeting, raising concerns about the project’s impact on nearby wetlands and the environment. They also argued for smaller parking lots. The meeting drew not only residents of Thomaston, but concerned citizens from neighboring towns including South Thomaston and Tenants Harbor.

“I have been watching this excruciating dance of death as we contemplate letting Walmart come to this area,” Fred Morrill of Tenants Harbor said at the meeting. “Walmart is a corporate monster, a vacuum cleaner. It could eat this town.”

Lane offered a mix of findings in a written report and answered technical questions for members of the audience and the planning board.

He advised the town to have the developers confirm their intent to remain outside the resource protection district and the shoreland zone.

“As mapped and as the improvements are depicted in plan, no portion of this activity is shown to occur within the resource protection district, including grading,” Lane wrote in the report. “The application has conflicting narrative language, which indicates grading and slope establishment within this zone.”

“I’m kicking them a little bit,” Lane said at the meeting. He added that fortunately the developers were present.

Asked about this, Palmer confirmed that the project will not encroach on the resource protection zone.

Several representatives of the Walmart project were present including Bill Boyden of BRR Architecture in Kansas.

Some residents present raised concerns about the number of parking spaces and argued that the parking lots at local big box stores are never full. Planning board members noted that at busy times including during the holiday season, those additional parking spaces may be needed.

In his report, Lane noted that there are different sizes for parking stalls and drive aisles on each of the three lots of the proposed shopping center.

“The applicant should clarify for the board the presence of a need for the parking space dimensions proposed for lots 2 and 3 and provide their opinion on options for enhanced buffering options if smaller spaces are appropriate,” Lane wrote.

Palmer said Tractor Supply Company needs larger parking spaces to accommodate customers, due to the types of items it sells.

Walmart needs the larger-sized spaces for people using shopping carts, Palmer said. He added that these spaces also accommodate women shopping with children, who need to get their children safely in and out of their vehicles.

Palmer later said Tractor Supply was not a definite tenant. This is the second time he has identified that company as a potential tenant, the other time being during a meeting in 2009.

At the time, it was reported Tractor Supply is generally interested in the Midcoast because it has rural farming areas.

According to its website, Tractor Supply is the largest retail farm and ranch store chain in the United States with more than 800 stores in more than 40 states.

“The company was founded in 1938 as a mail order catalog business offering tractor parts to America’s family farmers,” the company’s website states. “Today Tractor Supply is a leading edge retailer with revenues surpassing $3 billion. Tractor Supply stores are primarily located in rural areas and the outlying suburbs of major cities. The typical Tractor Supply store has 15,000 to 24,000 square feet of inside selling space with a similar amount of outside space used to display agricultural fencing, livestock equipment and horse stalls.”

Lane also went over the buffer areas. He noted that the project abuts residential areas including the Dorman property and homes along Garden Avenue in Rockland. He said the buffer depths in the plan comply with minimum standards for width.

“The landscape plan proposes coniferous vegetation in these locations, which serve to provide some screening,” he wrote. “The … area will be substantially regraded, and so retained natural vegetation is limited. In this way, potential natural features for buffer elements as referenced in 716.4.2 are not available.”

“If possible within the discussion of parking provisions, additional depth of screening should be pursued,” Lane wrote in his report.

In terms of water treatment and stormwater peak control, the engineer found the developer’s proposal to be in excess of municipal and state requirements.

The report also noted that the site has shallow groundwater, which Lane described as a limiting factor.

Residents raised concerns about the potential future use of salt or de-icing agents in the parking area. Although the plans do not call for storing salt on the property that isn’t packaged for sale, Planning Board Chairman Joanne Richards indicated she was writing down a note to consider imposing a restriction that would prevent the retailers from ever storing salt in bulk at the site.

Palmer said he felt the peer review was a fair review of the project.