On December 29, 2004, Sprawl-Busters wrote: “In 1996, Wal-Mart announced its intention to build a superstore in the small community of Manor Township, Pennsylvania. Wal-Mart architects had carefully designed a 220,000 s.f. store to fit onto roughly 29 acres of land near South Centerville Road — but what they hadn’t calculated was the steadfast resolve of local residents to stop them. A group called Friends Against Irresponsible Development (FAID) was formed to lead the opposition, and eight years later, FAID still exists, and there is no Wal-Mart supercenter in Manor.” Over the years, Wal-Mart has unsuccessfully sued the county in county and state court, resubmitted a second application — and still there is no store in Manor. The giant retailer apparently adopted a “won’t pack our bags” philosophy, according to their lawyer, and kept hammering away at Manor. In late September, 2006, the township Zoning Hearing Board unanimously rejected Wal-Mart’s request for a special exception for their superstore. The board ruled that the proposal failed to meet township zoning regulations. Jim Huber, a former county commissioner who has helped lead the FAID effort for ten years now, told the Intelligencer Journal, “Wal-Mart didn’t submit any report regarding the environmental impact of the store. There was no degree of certainty on how the noise level from such a store might affect the area, or what would happen to the surrounding traffic.” After the September decision, Wal-Mart had the right to either submit a new plan, or appeal the Zoning Hearing Board decision. In October, the township took the unusual step of appealing its own decision in court, as a legal maneuver to keep Wal-Mart from filing a new store plan. “What we are saying,” said the township Manager, “is that they’ve been rejected once, we don’t think they should keep getting another bite at the apple.” “We feel like this is a matter that’s already been decided, done, finished,” added the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. The part of the Zoning Board decision that the Supervisors are appealing is the part that says the latest Wal-Mart plan was a new proposal. Supervisors wanted them to rule that it was essentially the same proposal as before, and now they are appealing the ruling to get the court to rule that Wal-Mart’s application was the same as past applications.
As of last spring, Wal-Mart has spent more than $117,000 on legal and engineering fees, according to the newspaper. No figure was available as to how much Wal-Mart’s legal appeals have cost county taxpayers. During the wrangling, the township passed an ordinance limiting the size of stores to 100,000 s.f. So Wal-Mart could still come back to Manor with their “Urban 99” model and try again. For now, Manor township is a classic example of how the retailer’s “won’t back our bags” attitude has cost the company, and the community, hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees because Wal-Mart believes that one size fits all. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by “Manor.”