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Rockland board rejects Good Tern's appeal

By Stephen Betts | Apr 08, 2021
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Good Tern Natural Foods Co-op in Rockland.

Rockland — The Rockland Zoning Board of Appeals rejected April 8 an appeal by the Good Tern Natural Foods Co-op over the denial of a permit to expand its Main Street store.

The Good Tern can file a request for a variance, but board members questioned whether the cooperative would meet the criteria for a variance from the zoning requirement.

The cooperative applied Jan. 28 to the code enforcement office for a building permit to construct a 23-foot-by-48-foot addition to the Good Tern building at the intersection of Main and Warren streets. The addition would be in the front of the existing building.

The code office denied the permit because the addition would have the building only 11 feet from the road while the zoning requirement is for a minimum of a 20-foot setback.

John Lichtman, the chair of the cooperative's building expansion committee, said the expansion is needed to compete with other stores, particularly in the COVID-19 times when only five customers are allowed inside at a time.

The expansion would allow for aisles to six-feet wide as opposed to the current three-feet aisles. Lichtman said the cooperative in Rockland also needs to expand its variety of products to compete.

The board, however, unanimously rejected the appeal of the denial of the permit.

There was discussion that placing the building closer to the road would reduce visibility for vehicles coming out of Warren Street.

The Zoning Board will meet again next Thursday evening, April 15, to consider a variance request if the cooperative wants to consider that option. The board also suggested the addition could be designed to still be at least 20 feet from the road, then it would not need a variance.

The Maine Municipal Association stated in its Maine Townsman that state law prohibits the granting of a variance unless the property owner can convince the board that not granting the variance would cause an "undue hardship."

Undue hardship, in this context, means a problem created by some feature of the land rather than a personal problem of the applicant, such as not having as much living or commercial space as he or she would like

The cooperative moved to its present location at 750 Main St. in 2003. In 2018, the Co-op purchased the Hole in the Wall Bagel Shop, located next to the Co-op, with an eye for improving Co-op parking and to allow for future growth.

The Good Tern Co-op began operation in 1980 at 216 Main St. in Rockland, where Trillium Soap is now located.

The currently proposed addition is the first phase of plans for expansion of the cooperative.

The second phase would triple the retail floor and the building will extend towards the Hole In The Wall Bagel Shop. That expansion would maintain as much parking spaces as possible. The second phase calls for the removal of the bagel shop structure and expand parking from Warren Street to the entrance on Main Street (Route 1).

Lichtman said the cooperative will need to have a capital campaign to raise the money for the expansion.

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Comments (10)
Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Apr 11, 2021 10:58

Stay in Rockland. Move to the former BK building. You really should have a drive-thru. The possibilities are endless: Tofu Whoppers, Soy Fries, Granola Shakes to name a few.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 11, 2021 08:08

Ananur I so agree with your sentiments.  I have been a member of the co-op for several years, such a great organization and good people, but unfortunately the inmates are running the asylum.  So much potential now that they own the adjoining property, they could double the size and make it into a place the community could really support.  I have visited co-ops in Ashville N.C. and Dunedin Fl. that have full size lunch rooms and coffee shops serving a bountiful harvest of natural foods. So much profit potential and city wide support by becoming more than just a grocery store, by creating a community gathering spot selling good wholesome food instead of the current fast food options visited daily by many Rocklanders.  Let's get with the program folks before someone else who does know what they are doing moves in and steals your business.

Posted by: Sumner Kinney | Apr 11, 2021 07:57

Mariellen has a fantastic idea!  Come to Thomaston!  There are several vacant lots available which can provide all the real estate the successful Good Tern can use for decades!  THINK BIG Good Tern - DREAM BIG - Good Tern.  You continually need more and more real estate. Share your products and convictions with more and more people.  GO BIG!



Posted by: Melissa Byer | Apr 10, 2021 20:29

I have to say I agree with Stephen Carroll. Also that corner is bad and it would block it even worse

Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Apr 10, 2021 08:26

Please work WITH  the planning board

and resolve this issue right away.

We need the Good Tern HERE.

expansion is the right thing to do.

If that means changing the addition then do THAT.

Posted by: Don Dickinson | Apr 09, 2021 16:15

Excellent idea Mariellen.

Posted by: Gregory D Kibitz | Apr 09, 2021 12:53

No thank you, Mariellen!


Good Tern is not, and never will be, yet another Big Blue Box Multi Mart Super Center full of bags, boxes, cans & bottles of overly processed & overly chemical laden carp.


If you primarily buy your groceries in that miserable warehouse of horrors, you are already part of America's Big Food, Big Agra, Big Corporate, Big Insurance, Bad Nutrition, Bad Health, Sickness Care Crisis, not its solution.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Apr 09, 2021 09:59


Your post was right on the money!


Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 09, 2021 08:09

Of course it's difficult to envision the Good Tern's building sceam without seeing pictures, but it would be apparent to the casual observer that they should fire their architect and hire someone who is more familiar with construction techniques.  As I have said to them in the past, the easiest and simplest way to expand their footprint is to extend the length of the building off the gable end facing the bagel shop and double the length of the structure which would be cheaper (construction wise) then trying to build off the roof towards the road.  There's plenty of room towards the eastern end of the lot and (as the board pointed out twice) very little on the harbor side facing the road.  If the Good Tern is looking to be more competitive, they've waited way too long.  Construction and material coasts are now out of the park and it will cost them twice as much today to build. Great planning all around.  Perhaps you could provide the City with a plan on how to make Lindsey brook run in the opposite direction.

Posted by: Mariellen Eaton | Apr 09, 2021 07:46

Maybe it's time to think about moving to Thomaston.

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