Wal-Mart has announced two superstore projects along interstate 99 in Freedom and Antis, Pennsylvania. The Freedom location is off the Roaring Spring exit of route 99, and the Antis location is off the Pinecroft exit. The retailer hopes to have both stores open for business by 2008, according to the Altoona Mirror newspaper. “Wal-Mart told us up front they wouldn’t dig an ounce until they have all the permits in hand,” Freedom Township’s Supervisor told the newspaper. “They don’t want to start a project and spend any unnecessary money, then not be able to do anything about it.” Blair county has given the Freedom store a permit for the discharge of stormwater runoff. But in Antis, Wal-Mart has been delayed by a coalition of BelAire Estates residents, who are neighbors of the proposed 180,000 s.f. store. Negotiations with citizens has already delayed the Antis store by a year, according to the newspaper. The store’s opening “just depends on how we can work out the different issues,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said. Residents are unhappy with traffic problems and the size of the buffer-zone between the store and BelAire Estates. Wal-Mart has offered to expand their proposed buffer zone of 50 feet, to 300 feet, but that should do little or nothing to change neighbor’s minds, since even a 300 foot buffer means little or nothing when the store is bigger than four football fields. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is also concerned about the proximity of the Antis site to wetlands near the Pinecroft interchange of Interstate 99. Wal-Mart told the Altoona Mirror that his company has been a good neighbor wherever it builds a store — a “fact” that someone seems to be lost on neighbors all across the country, who have watched their homes lose value, and their crime rate spike. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will also get into the act, examining Wal-Mart’s traffic impact statements. “It’s not a delay or anything,” the Wal-Mart spokesman explained. “PennDOT just has to make sure that location can handle the traffic, and if not, what changes are necessary so it can.” But Antis residents have hired an attorney, and the group has asked PennDOT to carefully examine the volume of traffic this project will generate. Attorney Nathan Wolf, representing the residents, told the newspaper, “The studies for supercenters are flawed,” he said, in reference to the August issue of the Institute for Traffic Engineers (ITE) publication.
These new supercenters are vitally important to consumers, who now have to travel anywhere from five to ten minutes to find an ezisting Wal-Mart supercenter. Residents in Antis, for example, now have to travel 9 miles to the superstore in Altoona, and there are two more supercenters in Huntingdon and Ebensburg within 22 miles. The deprived consumers of Freedom have 7 Wal-Mart stores within 21 miles, including the spercenter in Monaca, which is 3 miles away. There is also a Wal-Mart discount store in Cranberry Township, 8 miles from Freedon, and a supercenter 9 miles away in Beaver Falls to the northwest. One day, many of these Wal-Mart stores will be empty, and residents in Freedom and Antis will look back and wonder what town and county officials were thinking of when they allowed the beautiful landscape of Pennsylvania to become so saturated with redundant superstores. For now, at least the residents in Antis are fighting back. For strategy residents in Antis can use, go to www.walmartwatch.com/battlemart, click on ‘battle plan’ and open ‘Battlemart 101.’