Some towns go out of their way to woo Home Depot, other towns go out of their way to ward them off. We have reported that Brick township, New Jersey, is one of those towns that simply did not want a Home Depot, and went to great lengths to keep them out. The Asbury Park Press announced October 1st that Brick has finalized its deal with a landowner to buy, for $6.1 million, the land that Home Depot planned to occupy. The town had environmental concerns about the store, and pointed out that there was already a Lowe’s and Home Depot nearby, so the project brought no added value to the township. The deal comes just one year after Home Depot announced plans to build a 104,695-square-foot store on the site of an old Foodtown grocery store.
Local residents and parents with kids at the nearby St. Thomas Christian Academy did not want Home Depot’s plan. Last July, after getting nowhere with Home Depot, the Township Council decided to use its power of condemnation to acquire the site. The town said siting a Home Depot within the Metedeconk River watershed would jeopardize Brick residents’ drinking water. The township now owns the 10.5-acre site,and is studying the feasibility of building a recreation center on the parcel. Officials hope to close on the Foodtown property next week.
It is somewhat unusual for a community to resort to eminent domain to take property AWAY from a big box retailer. Usually the shoe is on the other foot: in Alabaster and Birmingham, Alabama, recent stories posted here cite examples of towns willing to condemn land in order to pave the way for a Wal-Mart. So a community willing to spend $6.1 million to keep Home Depot out, contrasts with Birmingham, which was willing to pay $10 million to bring Wal-Mart in. What seems to make the difference? Some towns do land use planning, other towns just look at their treasury, and make the simplistic conclusion that big box stores mean more tax revenue. But this is “fuzzy math” at best, since the offsetting public costs of big projects can spill red ink all over the town’s books. For more stories about Brick, search this database by the town’s name. Also search by “eminent domain” for similar accounts.