When in doubt, buy them out. Home Depot knows what competition is all about. As a “category killer”, they have played a role in the demise of many a smaller company. But in Brick Township, New Jersey, the orange crush has to compete with the town itself. Even though Home Depot likes to boast that “good things happen when Home Depot comes to town,” the Township Council does want to test the theory. Last April, according to the Asbury Park Press, the Town Council bonded $5.95 million to buy the 10.5-acre site that Home Depot wants. The township met with the owners of the property recently to begin negotiations. The landowners reportedly want a lot more than the town is offering, and Home Depot’s lawyer says the town doesn’t want to pay fair market value for the property. If the landowners and the township cannot agree on a price, Brick could use eminent domain and simply give the owners a value they consider fair and reasonable. Home Depot wants to use the land to construct a 104,695 square foot store on Route 70. The parcel in question is the site of a closed grocery store. The Home Depot application is currently before the Planning Board, and has been continued until this August. The application process began about 10 months ago, and generated strong opposition from local residents, who complained about traffic congestion, and impact on the Metedeconk River watershed. The township council stepped in and decided to blunt the controversial project by buying the land instead of allowing it to fall in Home Depot’s empire.
We have written about a number of communities who opted to short-circuit a big box projectd by purchasing the land before the deal could be consummated. For example, in Billerica, MA, the town bought the Griggs farm, with help from the Trust for Public Land, leaving the developer, Steve Weiner, with a Wal-Mart and nowhere to go. It is unusual for a town to take this key step, but apparently in Brick, the arguments in favor of a Home Depot went over like a ton of bricks, leaving Home Depot between a brick and a hard place.