Schnecksville, Pennsylvania is a 1.3 square mile area within North Whitehall Township. Schnecksville is a suburb of Allentown, Pennsylvania, in Lehigh Valley, with a population of roughly 2,000. The community has 7 Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles, including three supercenters, with a supercenter in Whitehall a mere 7 miles away. In its continuing drive to saturate the area, Wal-Mart has proposed a 176,846-s.f. superstore on 32.6 acres at Route 309 and Levans Road. North Whitehall Supervisors will have the final say on the proposal. The township’s website says the community is ”Primarily agricultural in nature… a desirable place to live and continues to do so by retaining its unique blend of residential and rural character.” A Wal-Mart supercenter is clearly incompatible with the goal of retaining rural character. In the fall of 2007, local residents organized to form a group called North Whitehall for Sustainable Development. The group’s opposition to the project is based on traffic safety; air, water, noise and light pollution; and loss of open space. Sprawl-Busters reported on November 4, 2007 that the North Whitehall Supervisors had granted the township’s Planning Commission an extension of time until the end of the year to review the development plans submitted by Wal-Mart. The Planning Commission began reviewing the plans in September. Wal-Mart notified the Commission that it wanted its plans taken off the agenda, and held until November. The Morning Call newspaper reports this week that the township has given Wal-Mart yet another length of rope. The retailer now has until mid-April to submit its revised plans for a Schnecksville store. The newspaper said Wal-Mart’s plans have “stalled,” and not been seen for months. The retailer says its still refining its plans, according to the newspaper, and the developer has hired a new legal team to represent the project. This new new deadline for plans is April 16th. With Wal-Mart backing out of superstore plans all over the country, the hope of residents in Schnecksville is that Wal-Mart will put the entire project on the shelf.
This turns out to be the 4th extension of time Wal-Mart has been granted.
The earlier “deadlines” for this project were in October, November, and this February 20th. “This extension is being granted to afford further time to address various review comments, which we have received on behalf of the township,” Wal-Mart’s lawyer told the supervisors. Under Pennsylvania law, towns have 3 months to review development plans — unless the developer asks for an extension. At the only hearing Wal-Mart came to last fall, their project was met with strong opposition by local residents. That sent Wal-Mart back to the drawing board, and their new “revised” site plan is expected to reach the Planning Commission by late March — unless Wal-Mart asks for another delay. When one resident asked to see a copy of Wal-Mart’s plans, the township’s lawyer actually told the resident that Wal-Mart’s plans were “copyrighted, and it would be up to the developers to decide it they want to provide copies to the public,” according to the Morning Call. This, of course, is incorrect, and the Chairman of the North Whitehall Supervisors clarified that once the plan are submitted to the township, they become part of the public record, and can be viewed and copied (for a fee) by anyone in the public. Readers are urged to leave a phone message for the three supervisors, Ron Stahley, Chairman, Terry Stoudt, Vice Chairman, and Ron Heintzelman. Two of these people will decide the fate of the Wal-Mart application. Call 610-799-3411, and leave this message for the North Whitehall Supervisors: “No more extensions for Wal-Mart, please! Do the Supervisors realize that this project is three times the size of a football field? If Wal-Mart restricted this store to North Whitehall’s 2,000 residents only, the business would shut down within three months. It’s a regional store — but you already have 7 Wal-Mart’s within 20 miles. Route 309 can’t handle the extra 14,000 or so new car trips that this project will generate. The superstore is the wrong size and the wrong place for Schnecksville, and is incompatible with the rural character of the township. I urge you to reject the plan as too large for the location.” To help out financially with this battle, go to the website: http://home.ptd.net/~nwsd/ or send a check to: North Whitehall for Sustainable Development, Box 117, Orefield, PA 18069.