Times Record: Prosperity in Wiscasset (Dec. 13, 2013)

When assessing Wiscasset’s latest Master Plan upgrades, pollution is prosperity.

You may not like sitting in traffic on a July day on Main Street. You probably just want to get home to do errands and get dinner ready. But a New Yorker needs his Red’s Eats lobster roll. Really, it’s important.

How amusing it is, whenever Maine wrings its hands over economic development and opportunity, it tends to wring the necks of business owners. We’ve legislated away so many businesses, it’s hard to keep count — and that doesn’t mention those mainstay industries creeping away from us because of global economics, everything from papering to lobstering.

We’re glad to see the debate over traffic in Wiscasset steered in the direction of increasing development, instead of how to chase it away from Main Street in what is arguably still “the prettiest little village in Maine.”

This is a town that lost its biggest taxpayer — by far — with the closure of Maine Yankee. It’s one of the only towns in the Mid-coast — if not the only one — to record a year-over-year drop in retail sales in the third quarter (a staggering 57 percent — from $18 million in 2012 to $7.7 million in 2013, according to Maine Revenue Services). And it’s the only town in our area where the unemployment rate hasn’t improved from last year.

It’s an old debate: Does Maine risk quality of life by putting out the doormat for development?

Is Maine in danger of becoming New Jersey? Maybe … for a few hours a year on a few roads.

Mainers who whine about crossing the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset in July should try the Hudson River in New York at rush hour. For better or worse, that’s what prosperity looks like.

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