Wal-Mart seems to have a hair-trigger legal department. The company has filed a second lawsuit against Manor Township, Pennsylvania. The town recently voted to reject Wal-Mart’s proposal for a supercenter on South Centerville Road. The lawsuit, filed August 23rd, charges that the town’s Zoning Board did not hold a hearing on Wal-Mart’s request for a special exception within the 2 month timeframe, but instead took 141 days to hold the hearing. This legal action is on top of a suit filed in July by Wal-Mart against the Zoning Board. Wal-Mart needed Manor officials to give them a special exception because their 213,667 s.f. superstore is not a permitted use. This marathon battle in Manor has been going on since 1997 (see 7/24/02 newsflash). Town supervisors passed a zoning ordinance in that year which requires that stores bigger than 100,000 s.f. need to have a special exception. When Wal-Mart came in for a special exception, the Zoning Board on June 27th rejected their request, citing such issues as inadequate access road and ownership, problems with lighting, landscaping, traffic movement, and storm-water runoff.Wal-Mart’s first lawsuit in Lancaster County Court complained that the company did not need to own land for an access road, but only required an easement for the land. Wal-Mart also said that some of the problems the Zoning Board found with their application, such as the height of their light poles and the width of access drives, were not the proper subject of a special exception request.
You would think that after five years of pushing Manor to let them in, that Wal-Mart would act like a responsible corporate citizen and realize local folks don’t want to say ‘yes’ to them. Instead, Wal-Mart starts layering on the lawsuits, hoping to get by litigation what they can’t get by regulation. The fact is, this community has made it clear for 5 years that very large buildings require special rules, and a special exception is just that: a discretionary act used in special cases and not for everyone, every time. The township has the right to deny exceptions when they feel a proposal does not meet its stated regulations. Exceptions are not issued “as of right”, and Wal-Mart is not entitled to special treatment. The issue of corporate responsibility also comes to play here, since the township is obviously not thrilled with the scale of development, yet Wal-Mart continues to, in effect, harass the town hoping that such continual pressure will force a more favorable decision. The responsible corporate course would be to simply find another more acceptable location. The double lawsuit can only be described as rude corporate behavior from a company that seems to have no limits to its bad corporate manners.