Wal-Mart has made a financial deal with the Lord. The retailer has found religion in this small community, and is willing to pay good money to turn church land into a superstore. A Wal-Mart developer has offered money to the Cross of Grace Lutheran Church to buy a piece of its front yard. Church Pastor Jerry Kliner revealed that Wal-Mart wants to buy at least 2,000 square feet of the Cross of Grace’s front yard. The Church will be paid $13 a square foot, or at least $26,000 for the easement. The developer will also pay the church $4,000 for landscape improvements to their property, $8,000 for a sign, and $3,000 for legal expenses involved in acquiring the land. One church Trustee indicated that the congregation “Welcomes Wal-Mart to the neighborhood.” The Church seemed unmoved by the neighbors who are unhappy about the prospect of Wal-Mart running down the neighborhood. “It isn’t our decision whether or not Wal-Mart comes,” the Trustee said. Because the neighbors are not part of the Church, they will not be allowed to address the congregation about their concerns, but will have to write letters instead. “I don’t think we will have time during the meeting,” the Church Trustee said. “Why didn’t people contact us before?” Pastor Kliner described Wal-Mart’s approach with the church as “aggressive,” and said the retailer called the church “greedy” when it refused to make a quick decision.
Sprawl-Busters has written a number of stories over the years about churches that get into land development. In this case, it only takes a small piece of land to create a big problem for the community. The Cross of Grace Pastor says he is very concerned about the neighborhood, but apparently the promise of a little money and a new sign was enough to override the church’s concerns. The church is acting in its own financial interests, and is ignoring the needs of its neighbors. There was a time in America when churches cared about their neighbors, but that time seems to have come and gone in Hurricane, West Virginia. When it comes to land deals with Wal-Mart, it looks like the neighbors don’t have a prayer. Wal-Mart has now become their cross to bear.