The Big Box of the retail world wants to come to the Little Egg. Wal-Mart is being reviewed May 1st by the Planning Board in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. The giant retailer is presenting the township with a “concept plan” for a supercenter. The store would be located on Route 9, just north of Otis Bog Road. Wal-Mart’s Real Estate Business Trust is the applicant for the store. This is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) that helps Wal-Mart avoid paying its fair share of state taxes. The Wal-Mart Business Trust has told township officials that it also plans to build a bank on an adjacent lot, according to the Press of Atlantic City. There’s currently a Wal-Mart store in Manahawkin, New Jersey about 9 miles away, and another in Mays Landing 19 miles south. The concept review is not a formal application. It allows a developer to make an informal presentation to the board. The public is permitted to be part of the discussion. The Planning Board then gives the developer their reactions to the plan, and the developer can return at a later date with a formal zoning application. Wal-Mart is proposing a subdivision plan that would create four separate lots, according to the Asbury Park Press. The retailer had approached the state for a Coastal Area Facilities Review Act application, because the land Wal-Mart wants is in a coastal area. A spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection indicated about four months ago that a Cope’s gray tree frog, a state endangered species, and a Pine Barrens tree frog, a state threatened species, were found in parts of the wetlands. Therefore the wetland buffer setbacks will have to be readjusted in the area of the Cope’s gray tree frog area to require a 150-foot buffer. Other wetlands areas where there are no endangered species on the site would require only a 50-foot buffer.
Little Egg Harbor had a population in 2006 of only 20,283 people, less than half the population base needed to support a Wal-Mart supercenter. The discount store 9 miles away will probably be shut down if this store in Little Egg Harbor is approved. The township describes itself as located “amid the natural beauty of Great Bay, just 30 miles north of Atlantic City and a convenient fifteen-minute drive to the famous Jersey Shore beaches of Long Beach Island.” The Township of Little Egg Harbor calls itself a “Little Treasure By The Bay.” Wal-Mart wants some of that treasure, and if the out-of-scale supercenter is ever built, it will detract from the “little Treasure” ambiance of Little Egg. The township’s Mayor, Scott Stites, also sits on the Planning Board, and the township’s website says he can be found “at the Community Center on Friday evenings, actively involved in Open Rec Night… its normal to see Scott handing out popcorn at our drive in movie events or serving hamburgers at our senior barbeques and family events.” Readers are urged to email Mayor Stites at [email protected] with the following message: “Little Egg Harbor does not need Big Box sprawl. It will change the character of your small community for decades, and flies in the face of your tourism tag line of “little Treasure By the Bay.” People are leaving where they live surrounded by Wal-Marts, to get away to someplace unique and different. We don’t need superstores in sensitive coastal areas. Little Egg would do better to protect the little tree frog, than to promote the big box. If Wal-Mart wants to locate a much smaller Neighborhood Market, that’s another matter. But the scale of this proposed project, the traffic it will generate, the crime it will spawn — none of these things are compatible with the way of life that attracted people to live in Little Egg. If you have residents who are addicted to cheap, Chinese imports, they can travel the 9 miles to Manahawkin. Make the Big Box fit the Little Egg, not the reverse. There are 47 Wal-Mart stores in New Jersey today, but there’s only one Little Egg on earth. Which would you rather protect?”