Maine House votes to repeal law banning big-box stores from downtown areas

New York City -- The Maine House on Wednesday voted to effectively repeal the Informed Growth Act, a law that was enacted four years ago to protect Maine's downtown business districts from big-box stores, The Portland Press Herald reported.

The vote, while a preliminary one, followed an impassioned debate about the character of Maine's traditional downtowns and whether Wal-Mart and other large national chains have hurt local businesses or have helped them by attracting more people to communities, the report said.

The Informed Growth Act was enacted in 2007 after several midcoast Maine communities tried to block big-box stores from being built within their borders out of concerns that the big stores would drive local retailers out of business. Vermont is the only other state with a similar law, although it is less comprehensive. Some cities and regions have adopted similar measures.

The Senate has yet to take up the bill.