It’s just about official now. A developer in Lower Makefield, Pennsylvania has apparently agreed in writing, after years of citizen pressure, to drop their big box plans for a Lowe’s and Sears, and replaced them with age-restricted housing, according to the Bucks County Courier Times. Town officials now hope to have a written agreement for their February 1st meeting. “This has been one of the most important land use issues facing the town, and if everyone signs off on [a compromise agreement], it would be a terrific achievement,” one town official told the newspaper. The Matrix Development Group received approval from the town supervisors nearly six years ago to build big-box retail stores, with office buildings and hotels on a massive 138 acres site just one mile from an existing mall. Residents rose up against the plan, known as the Octagon Center, and kept the heat on for nearly six years. A citizens group was formed, called Residents Against Matrix, which jammed the big box store element of the plan with legal appeals. In 2004, the town, RAM and Matrix negotiated a verbal compromise that dumped the big box stores in favor of housing and some small retail shops and office space. Gary Cruzan, one of the leaders of RAM, told the newspaper, “One of the main keys is a simple one. Everything negotiated has to be tied to the land. If Matrix gets all the approvals and decides to sell the land, the new owner has to be bound to this [compromise] agreement. Matrix said it would deliver on that, but we’ll see.”
Sprawl-Busters has been following the saga of RAM and Matrix since June of 2001, when the Octagon Center first was brought to our attention. The center was supposed to be used for a Lowe’s and a Sears Great Outdoors center. Those two big box stores have long since left the project, but because of the dogged determination of RAM members, now all the big boxes are gone from the plans.