If a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania comes out of his hole on Route 119, he’s likely to see the shadow of a huge Wal-Mart supercenter. Five miles away in Hamilton, Pennsylvania, Wal-Mart wants to build another supercenter, almost in the shadow of Punxsutawney. Hamilton has a population just under 10,000 people. According to Public Opinion News, plans have been submitted to the township for a 151,765 s.f. Wal-Mart superstore on 50 acres of land along Route 30 near Highway 995. The store would be located west of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, but get its sewer services from Hamilton. A land development plan will have to be reviewed by the Hamilton township Supervisors. “We have not talked with the developers at all,” Township Supervisor Michael Kessinger told Public Opinion News. “Until they do a formal submission, we have nothing to talk about.” Wal-Mart has hired the engineering firm of Lennon, Smith, Souleret, the same firm that handled the defunct Wal-Mart project in Kilbuck Township, Pennsylvania, where a landslide during site preparation buried the project in 2006. Even though the township says it has seen no plans and spoken to no developer, the project has a name: the “Hamilton Township Retail Center.” This store was supposed to begin construction in the spring 2008, according to a plan that was submitted 15 months ago to the Borough of Chambersburg and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “It’s in the review process,” said the assistant office manager of the Hamilton Township Municipal Authority. “They made a revised (sewage planning module) submission in June.” The Authority “delivers safe, clean, good-tasting drinking water to approximately 8,000 customers on a daily basis [and] maintains an extensive sewer collection system for residential, commercial and industrial users.” They also deliver Wal-Mart supercenters, because the authority seems to be the only hurdle that Wal-Mart faces in this small town. The project also has to get water from the Bear Valley Water Authority, but the manager of that Authority is already in the tank with Wal-Mart. He told the News, “We’ll be there for them, I’m sure.” A traffic impact study was concluded six months ago — but the township claims it has not seen the study. The traffic study has to be submitted to the township for approval, and officials can ask Wal-Mart to upgrade the roads. As if this huge superstore in a town with less than 10,000 were not enough sprawl, the township is also considering a project to build 900 new homes about a mile from the Wal-Mart. In one fell swoop, Wal-Mart gets its site, and it gets a built-to-suit customer base of 900 roofs. It could only happen like this in a community that has no zoning ordinance.
A group called Citizens for a Quality Environment, which is “an organization consisting of individuals working together toward preserving, reclaiming, and protecting a quality environment” says that rumors have circulated for some time that Wal-Mart would be building a new store on Route 30, West of Chambersburg, in Hamilton Township. “It now appears that Wal-Mart may be seriously considering a new store north of Route 30 near the entrance to Warm Spring Road.” The group asks: “Have any plans been shown to Hamilton Township officials? When will the public learn what is planned?” Clearly the skids have been greased in Hamilton, and the township wants the public to believe that there is less here than meets the eye. If a traffic study has been public for more than half a year, but the township claims not to have seen it, they are either derelict in their duty, or hiding what they know. Readers should contact Hamilton Township Supervisor Michael Kessinger by calling the Franklin County Courthouse at (717) 261-3810 and asking for his direct phone line. Give Supervisor Kessinger this message: “Hamilton already has a Wal-Mart supercenter 5 miles away on Route 119. It makes little sense to place another store in the shadow of Punxsutawney. A community of less than 10,000 people does not need a Wal-Mart supercenter built to serve 5 times your population. This project can be objected to based on traffic. You should have the plan Wal-Mart has submitted given to a traffic engineer peer reviewer for an independent analysis. It is also remarkable that its 2008, and Hamilton still has no zoning code. Your little town is going to be shredded by big box stores if you have no zoning requirements. The people who came to Hamilton to get away from suburban sprawl, are now going to find themselves in the thick of it. What you will get with Wal-Mart is more traffic and more crime. You can’t buy small town quality of life at a Wal-Mart — but once they take it from you — you can’t buy it back at any price. Reject this Wal-Mart, and insist that they dramatically reduce the store to be compatible with the size and scale of Hamilton. Then look to Chambersburg to borrow their zoning code to create one for Hamilton.”