The Mayor of Deptford, New Jersey is unhappy with Wal-Mart’s superstore saturation of his community. This trade area is flooded with Wal-Mart — but it wasn’t always so. Sprawl-Busters reported on October 14, 2004, that residents in Deptford were celebrating a victory over Wal-Mart. The township had rejected a Wal-Mart proposal on a tract of land known as the old RCA site. The retailer had proposed to build a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club along Route 41, but the Concerned Citizens of Deptford helped push that project off the tracks. Even in the middle of their victory, however, local residents were organizing to fight two additional Wal-Mart saturation plans. “We’re just going to get some more ducks in a row,” one CCD member was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “They are not going to go away. We all know that. And we’re not going to go away, either.” The Deptford Planning Board buried the 2004 Wal-Mart proposal based on a zoning code that was only two days old, which changed the town’s Master Plan, and put a cap on the size of retail buildings at 100,000 s.f. Despite the 2004 victory, a long line of Wal-Marts was taking form. A third Wal-Mart was planned near Route 41 and 47. “The battle continues,” Mike Campbell, a CCD leader, told the media 5 years ago. “We can’t be lulled into a false sense of security at this point. We’re going to have to continue to keep a close eye on this.” Five years later, the Courier Post reports this week that the new Wal-Mart being built is about 2 miles from Deptford’s other 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter at the Deptford Landing shopping center, and that store is less than 9 miles from a 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter in Washington Township. “When the new store in Deptford is done,” the newspaper reports, “there will be 10 Wal-Marts in an approximately 10-mile radius between Deptford and Burlington townships.” A spokesman for Wal-Mart told the Courier Post this saturation was part of the retailer’s “smart growth plan.” She claimed that half of Wal-Mart’s site selections are “scientific” and half are based on “real estate experience.” But Deptford Mayor Paul Medany wasn’t exactly thrilled that a second Wal-Mart superstore was opening in his township.”We don’t like that fact but it’s a fact,” Medany said. “We don’t know why they need two.” Neither the Mayor nor the Planning Board in Deptford seemed to be curious enough about that question to ask it before granting Wal-Mart their second building permit.
Wal-Mart explained that the second store will give people from outside of Deptford better access to a Wal-Mart, as it sometimes can be difficult to drive through the township because of traffic congestion. But Mayor Medany now says he is “extremely concerned” about the added traffic that will come into the township from outside the town. The Mayor says his township doesn’t have the cash to underwrite its own traffic engineering study, and he suggested that Wal-Mart should pay for the transportation analysis. “It’s only developers, if anyone, who contribute money to traffic improvements. If Wal-Mart wanted to be a good neighbor they could help us,” the Mayor expounded. “Why should Deptford residents fund engineering studies when the problem is created by a store that’s profiting off of this traffic?” So far, Wal-Mart has not offered one penny towards the cost of traffic studies. Readers are urged to email Mayor Medany at: [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Mayor Medany, You are definitely justified in asking Wal-Mart to pick up all the costs for additional traffic engineering studies as a result of their over-building in the township. But I have to wonder: where was the township on this issue during the Wal-Mart hearings? The time to ask these questions was before giving Wal-Mart a building permit — not after. The one thing you had that Wal-Mart wanted was that permit, and now you have lost that leverage. Why was Wal-Mart allowed to build a second store just two miles from the first? And what happened to Deptford’s size cap on buildings? This second project should never have happened, and your traffic concerns would never have been an issue either. It’s too late to ask the tough questions of Wal-Mart, but its not too late to tighten up your size cap to prevent the further proliferation of these big box stores. When Wal-Mart decides to close down one or both of these stores, Deptford is going to have another problem on its hands: ghost boxes. These two Wal-Marts are not economic development projects, because most of their sales are going to be transferred from existing merchants, who will also leave behind empty stores. If you keep crowding in national chain stores, Deptford is going to become a retail Dumpford.”