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2003-04-07
Brick, N.J. Town Willing to Pay $6 Million to Keep Home Depot Out

Home Depot likes to say that "good things happen when Home Depot comes to town." But apparently township officials in Brick, New Jersey think good things happen when Home Depot stays away -- and they're willing to put up nearly $6 million to keep them out. The Brick Township Council voted recently to pass a $5.95 million bond ordinance to buy property that Home Depot wanted to purchase. The property is the site of a closed down Foodtown grocery store. Home Depot appears baffled by the town's actions. "We have seen cities buy land to prevent development, but it doesn't happen very often," Home Depot spokesman John Simley told the Ocean County Observer newspaper. "What makes this particularly unusual is the amount of money being spent. Six million dollars is a lot of money for land you still need to build a building on top of." As usual, Home Depot said it needs a store in Brick because two other Home Depots are showing high sales from the Brick zip code area. The property owner is Food Circus Supermarkets, which apparently agreed upon a selling price with Home Depot. But the township wants to take the land to build a recreation center. Brick officials have indicated that they will condemn the site if they have to. The Mayor of Brick, Joe Scarpelli, says the Home Depot is only interested in the property because it wants to locate near the new Lowe's that opened just down the road within the last year in Brick. "They want to stop people from going to Lowes," the Mayor told the newspaper. "That's their philosophy. We are not getting involved with Home Depot." But Simley argues that a Home Depot is more desireable than a Lowes. "Developers usually favor us over Lowes because we have a good track record, our stores are well run, we are active in the community and we emphasize good citizenship." The Mayor claims that when the project was first pitched to the township, the developer said nothing about a Home Depot. The Mayor thought he was getting an Expo center, which he said "sounded exciting and upscale". But the Mayor was later disappointed to find out it was a Home Depot instead. Now that the town has offered to spend money to keep out Home Depot, the company has said it's going to keep on trying to build on the site. "It doesn't cost much to continue to pursue it and you never know if the bond issue would get rescinded," Simley told the Observer. "Since we are there with the application, if the town's plans fail, we will have first crack at the land." Despite the town's clear preference to buy the land, Home Depot says its just trying to "put stores where the customers want them. We put stores where the customers arae, and don't put them where they aren't." Local residents said traffic and environmental impacts are a major concern with the Home Depot, but the company says there is no difference between a grocery store, a Home Depot, or a recreation center. "No one is more concerned about traffic than Home Depot because traffic congestion has a strong negative effect on our store's ability to perform," Simley explained. "We cannot afford to have a traffic jam in front of our store. We have walked away from sites where traffic has been a negative issue and has not been able to be re-solved." For now, Home Depot says its going to wait and watch, to see if the bond issue goes forward, and the town actually purchases the land. In all liklihood, Home Depot has a second or third site in the Brick area that it is working on.

What you can do: While most public officials are willing to give Home Depot money to build in their town, in Brick they are willing to pay money to keep them out. Home Depot's arguments about taxes and property values didn't seem to penetrate in Brick. In this small New Jersey community, the plans of the big company ran straight into a Brick wall.










 
 
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