Very few citizens have spent as much time fighting off Wal-Mart as the residents of Manor Township, Pennsylvania, now in their seventh year on the battlelines. “Undeterred by lost lawsuits and years of local opposition,” local activists write, “Wal-Mart has purchased a 28 acre site in Manor. The company, which announced plans to build a 214,000 s.f. store on this property in October, 1996, has now paid more than $3.7 million for the land.” A group called Friends Against Irresponsible Development (FAID) says the store will create a traffic nightmare, boost crime in town, and result in excessive stormwater runoff. “We have our work cut out for us,” said Jim Huber, a leader of the FAID group, “but we will persist.” FAID believes that Wal-Mart has been paying fees on an option to buy the land, and finally decided to purchase it instead. Under the deed, Wal-Mart is not obligated to build a store. If Wal-Mart does build a store there, they can cease operations at any time. “This is just a pragmatic business decision to save money,” Huber said. “It will cost Wal-Mart substantially less to buy the lot at $3.7 million than to continue to pay exorbitant monthly fees.” Wal-Mart will have to submit a special exception application seeking permission to build the store, because it would exceed 100,000 s.f. The company submitted plans in March, 2001, but the zoning board did not take up the plan until five months later. The township rejected that plan, saying it did not provide enough information. Wal-Mart sued the town in County court, saying the zoning board did not meet in the 60 days required by law. The County court ruled against Wal-Mart. The company then appealed again, this time to the state’s Commonwealth Court. In October, 2003, the Wal-Mart lawsuit was rejected. A land use consultant working for FAID said Wal-Mart is trying to submit a new traffic study, and that FAID will have to consult with a lawyer and a traffic engineer again. “Wal-Mart’s sinister intent is to impoverish FAID and make certain we can’t continue,” the FAID spokesperson said. But the group, he said, “is not about to succumb now,” after more than seven years of fighting.
Sam Walton never came to Manor Township. One has to wonder what he would say about his company trying for seven years to get into one small town in Lancaster County, PA. After all, it was Walton who said if a community did not want his store for any reason, he wouldn’t go in and create a fuss. Manor has been dealing with Wal-Mart’s fuss for over seven years, and it looks like the end is still not in sight. For local contacts in Manor, email [email protected]