Home Depot is trying to nail down a deal in Newark, Delaware, but local residents aren’t cooperating. Residents in Newark told Sprawl-Busters in mid-January that “Home Depot has been twisting ears of council with promises of jobs and perks for our town. They are ignoring our 3.7% unemployment rate in Delaware, and their current two stores within 7 miles of city hall. The land is zoned for good manufacturing jobs and not commercial. We don’t need more retail in Delaware! Council can’t be sued to change the zoning. We need as many Newarkers as possible for the 2nd reading on Febrary 26th at the city council meeting. Please call your council members and say NO TO DEPOT! We are hardly deprived with Lowes opening up across town along with the two Depots!” The group against Home Depot met this week, and has taken out full page ads in the past few weeks in the Newark Post. The residents have gathered a few thousand signatures on petitions, which will be presented this coming Monday night at 7:30 pm. The council agenda was purposefully split to consider the zone change first. Without the zone change Home Depot can’t move in. According to the Newark Post, “many people in the community have spoken out against” this project. Home Depot’s plan is to build behind the Suburban Plaza Shopping Center, which requires the rezoning of 13 acres from manufacturing, office and research (MOR) to general commercial to allow for the store to be built. The city’s planning commission reviewed the project, and in January 2006 voted unanimously to recommend that city council vote against the project and the necessary rezoning. A Home Depot spokesman told the newspaper, “A lot of things that needed to be said at the meeting last year before the planning commission about the nature and purpose of the application weren’t said.” The retailer is promised Newark 150 jobs and $120,000 in taxes, but these are gross figures, not net of the costs of the project to the city, and lost jobs elsewhere. The area is saturated with big box home improvement centers. “How much do you need,” asked Rocco Curro, owner of Scott True Value in Newark. “I try to stress to people…if you put stores like mine out of business, your only options are those big stores. And no matter what you think, they don’t have everything.” Curro has also raised the quality of life issues that big boxes threaten. “We live here for a reason…Newark has something special, but, you know what, you can lose it quickly too,” he said.
With a Home Depot on Churchman’s Road, and another on People’s Plaza, the city of Newark has already paid its dues to the giant retailer. There is a third store close by in New Castle, Delaware — not to mention a new Lowe’s store. The marketplace in Newark is saturated, and the level of community opposition is measured by the level of over-building in the area. Residents know that these new stores are not being built for consumers on Main Street, but for investers on Wall Street. Home Depot is trying to convince shareholders that it is a vital, growing company, by focusing on sales growth, rather than appropriate placement of stores. The company cannibalizes its own stores by placing them so close to one another. In this case, the land is not properly zoned, and will never be used to create higher paying jobs once this rezoning takes place. The highest and best use of this land is for manufacturing, but if it becomes general commercial, it’s not likely to ever create any industrial jobs with decent wages. Home Depot has no right to a rezoning. The city council already has a negative recommendation from its own planning commission. For local contacts in Newark, contact [email protected]