The township of Carroll, Pennsylvania has already lost one battle to local opponents of a Wal-Mart store. Now the town could be heading towards its second appeal. On April 24, 2005 — four years ago, Sprawl-Busters reported that Supervisors in Carroll Township, Pennsylvania had voted to reject plans for a 250 acre retail center, anchored by a Wal-Mart supercenter. The developer, Lobar Associates, was expected to come back with another plan. And he did — this time with township blessing. The original plan included a Wal-Mart supercenter, and a Lowe’s, as well as several restaurants and a gas station. The project came under fire for its potential impact on stormwater runoff, and negative economic impacts on the area. According to the Associated Press, the township’s engineer came back with 200 issues with the project as proposed. This week, Lobar Properties continued its four year epic confrontation with local residents, still pushing a project known as the South Mountain commons, located off of Route 15 in Dillsburg. The township has given the developer until June to come up with a revised plan that addresses the stormwater issues that have dogged the project since 2005. According to the Carroll County Citizens for Sensible Growth (CCSG), the South Mountain Commons Project comprises 131 acres of land, with a 203,819 s.f. Wal-Mart superstore, a gas station, 3 restaurants, a 6,000 s.f. Shopping Center, a drive in bank, 175 townhouses, and a second 15,000 s.f. shopping center. In April of 2007, the Board of Supervisors conditionally approved the project. The following month, CCSG appealed the township’s decision, arguing that the preliminary subdivision plans failed to comply with the requirements set forth in the Township’s subdivision and land development ordinance. The appeal was brought by a family whose property abutted the huge development. By the end of August, 2007 oral Arguments were being heard in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania. In September of 2008, CCSG won its appeal of the Board of Supervisors’ Decision to approve preliminary plans for the South Mountain Commons Project. The court ruled that the plans included stormwater basins inside the required 75 foot landscape buffer zone, and that the township “abused its discretion” when it approved these structures within the setback zone. The court also found that one of the access drives was improperly placed. The developer, Lobar, then filed for extensions of time to revise its proposal and address the issues raised in the court’s ruling. In March of 2008, the township gave the developer a second extension until June 8, 2009. The CCSG continues to speak out against the extensions, but the township Supervisors continue to give the developer all the time he wants.
The township of Carroll has a population of roughly 6,000 people. The area has two Wal-Mart supercenters within 10 miles. There is clearly no market need for another Wal-Mart, and all this project will do is close more local and regional merchants, shifting more market share to Wal-Mart. As a sidebar to this story, a local hardware and home center that had been in the Carroll Township area since 1932, folded in 2004 because of competition from Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. The Castles Lumber and Home Center, a family-owned landmark for seven decades, closed on July 29, 2004. According to a news account of the closing, the store had lost “a significant chunk” of its business to Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, and when they heard a Home Depot was coming, they closed the business down, tore down the lumber warehouse, auctioned off their inventory, and tried to survive by turning the main building into office space. Readers are urged to contact the Chairman of the Carroll Township Board of Supervisors, William B. Turner, at the township’s website comment form: http://www.carrolltownship.com/page.aspx?id=172072 with the following message: “Dear Chairman Turner, For 4 years local residents have been fighting the proposed Wal-Mart supercenter. They had to take you to court to win their case, and now you give the developer extension after extension to make his case. The fact is, this project does not add value to your local economy, it just takes more market share away from existing businesses. This is not a jobs and revenues project — it’s a game of grab the market share. I urge you to put this project out of its misery. There has been enough litigation over this project. It’s the wrong size, and in the wrong location. People in your township who are addicted to cheap Chinese merchandise, have plenty of options already. This project is located too close to residential neighbors. You can’t buy small town quality of life on any shelf at Wal-Mart — but once they take it from you, you can’t buy it back at any price.”