Wal-Mart has literally abandoned its plans mid-stream in Stratham, New Hampshire. The company’s plans to construct a 200,000 s.f. superstore in the middle of a stream and wetland area in Stratham was inundated with opposition from local residents, who flooded every town meeting to defeat the project. “That (wetlands) was the issue,” explained Keith Morris, Wal-Mart spokesman, as the company announced it was pulling the plug on its 11 month swim upstream in Stratham. “Even if you reconfigured the store, you’re still going to have the same issues.” One has to wonder why Wal-Mart even optioned the land knowing that significant wetlands issues existed on the site. Last month, Wal-Mart tried to float by the Conservation Commission a “dredge and fill permit” to allow 2.5 acres of wetlands to be filled and replaced. But the company didn’t even show up to the meeting to defend its plan. The Conservation Commission sunk Wal-Mart’s dream with a unanimous NO vote. Conservation Commission Chairman Gordon Barker was quoted in the Portsmouth, NH Herald as saying: “I guess the only dry spot is in front of the place.” The Wal-Mart site plan showed the store located in the middle of a stream. Barker said it was “pretty arrogant” for Wal-Mart to try and locate in a wetlands. Every Conservation Commission spoke against Wal-Mart, noting that the company failed to make any of the changes the Conservation Commission had recommended. One resident at the hearing spoofed Wal-Mart’s plans to recreate new wetlands elsewhere on the site. “I can’t imagine a Great Blue Heron flying into a mitigation area next to a Wal-Mart that’s open 24 hours a day with lights on,” said Peter Mason. Resident Bonnie O’Keefe added that Wal-Mart would have to construct its own septic system beneath the store, creating the need to bring in 7 feet of fill dirt, elevating the height of the store. “What you’re going to have,” O’Keefe is quoted as saying, “is a castle of a Wal-Mart with a moat around it.” In the end, it was Wal-Mart that ended up getting dredged.
Having come up all wet in Stratham, Wal-Mart in typical fashion has indicated it will now lavish its intentions next door on Exeter, NH and see if it can stem the tide in that community. The Citizens for Stratham, however, which helped raise the level of opposition in town, has already helped form a new citizen’s group in Exeter called the Citizens for Smart Growth. For further information on the Stratham defeat of Wal-Mart, go to www.citizensforstratham.com.