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. Wal-Mart came before the Manor Zoning Hearing Board in March of 2001, looking for a “special exception” to build their superstore. In a decision dated June, 2002, the township Zoning board rejected the plan to build the town’s biggest retail building in history. The board noted in its decision that “special exceptions are made available as a privilege, not as a right,” and that Wal-Mart had failed to adequately study many of the impacts on traffic and the environment that the board insisted needed to be done. The board found, for example, that “the Wal-Mart store as proposed will detract from the use and enjoyment of adjoining or nearby properties and will substantially change the character of the neighborhood due to increased inadequately controlled traffic as evidenced in the deficiencies of its traffic impact study.” The board ruled that “the objective Zoning Ordinance criteria with which Wal-Mart has failed to comply are numerous and significant and can not be remedied or lessened in impact by the imposition of conditions.” After Wal-Mart’s sound rejection in 2002, some residents assumed that was the end of Wal-Mart’s story. But in August of 2004, Wal-Mart annnounced plans to build a 229,000s.f. store — but once again it will need a special exception to build on land that is zoned for structures no larger than 100,000 s.f. According to FAID President, Jim Huber, his group “has defeated Wal-Mart on the township, county and commonwealth court levels.” Wal-Mart appealed its loss at the Zoning Board to the commonwealth court, but later withdrew their court appeal and simply came back to Manor to try again. Over the past eight years, Huber estimates that his group has had to raise $90,000 to fight Wal-Mart. “Wal-Mart’s main tactic has been an attempt to impoverish us,” Huber explains. He says that FAID owes money to its attorney and to some of its expert witnesses. Since this past August, the township has held four zoning hearings on Wal-Mart’s new application. Huber’s group has had to sell hotdogs to raise money to fight the world’s richest retailer, with over $9 billion in profits last year. More recently, FAID held a “Subway Sub sale fundraiser” to try to cut into its debt.
The biggest disadvantage that citizen’s groups like FAID face is lack of money to go head-to-head with giant corporations like Wal-Mart. Huber credits FAID’s progress to the testimony of experts in law, traffic, noise and light pollution. “Our experts have helped us get this far,” Huber told Sprawl-Busters. But experts cost money, and over the past 8 years, FAID has fallen into debt fighting Wal-Mart. Huber said FAID’s greatest need at this time is money. Anyone wishing to help FAID fend off Wal-Mart for another eight years, if necessary, can make out a check to “FAID”, and mailing it to Jim Huber, 113 Shannon Drive, Lancaster, PA 17603. For earlier stories on Manor, search this database by the name of the town.