L.L. Bean scraps major development in Freeport

L.L. Bean announced on Sunday that it will withdraw its support for a developer’s plan to build hundreds of new homes on property owned by the outdoor gear retailer in Freeport.

The controversial project was far in the future – developers said the homes would be built over a period of up to 20 years – but residents opposed the idea, worried that it would irrevocably change the town.

“The process and plan for a joint project with the Town of Freeport and a local developer veered from our original good intentions,” L.L. Bean CEO Stephen Smith said in a letter to the community. “As such, we feel that the best decision is to hold on this project until there is a clear and comprehensive plan agreed upon by the town and local residents regarding the best use of land in Freeport.”

A proposal submitted by Portland-based KV Enterprises to the Freeport Planning Board calls for 329 single-family houses, 60 apartment units, 140 homes in 70 duplex buildings and another eight commercial lots in a 250-acre property off Desert and Old County Road.

At a planning board meeting this month, residents expressed concern that adding so many people to the town – potentially as many as 2,000 – would overwhelm municipal services and change the character of a community already struggling to preserve its rural feel.

Still, L.L. Bean says it wants to sell the land at some point in the future. In his letter, Smith said the company would work with the town in public forums to determine how best to divest itself of the property. L.L. Bean currently holds enough land in Freeport to make up about 8 percent of the tax base, he said.

“As we look to focus more on our core business — designing, making and selling quality products that help people get outside and being a leading employer in our state — we would still like to sell some of this property while contributing to the long-term viability of Freeport,” Smith said.

This story will be updated.

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