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2004-09-03
Harrison, NJ. Wal-Mart Sued by University Over Land Deal.

Add one more lawsuit to Wal-Mart's impressive legal wardrobe. The Gloucester County Times in southern New Jersey reports today that Rowan University is suing developers who plan to build a Wal-Mart superstore on farmland in Harrison, New Jersey. The University is seeking to gain possession of 115 acres of land away from the developers. Their lawsuit, filed a week ago in Superior Court, says that the University offered more than $8 million for two parcels of land slated for the shopping center/Wal-Mart project. The school is trying to get the property condemned, and then take it by eminent domain. This battle between retailer and university has gone on for more than two years, according to the newspaper. The two parties were in court last year, when a judge ruled against the school, saying that it had not properly negotiated for the properties. Rowan has since tried to buy the land from the Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust, the arm of Wal-Mart that actually buys buildings. The retail side of Wal-Mart does not own the buildings it sells from. Limited liability corporations are set up for each store, so that if Wal-Mart has to bail out, any financial liability rests with a small "LLC" that has no assets or financial exposure. The university now claims that Wal-Mart officials met with them to discuss the property, but Wal-Mart denies it has had any formal negotiations on the property. The company says it is moving forward with plans to build a 149,000 s.f. store. In February of 2003, Wal-Mart got approval to build the store from Harrison township officials, who claim (without substantiation) that Wal-Mart will bring more than $1 million in tax revenue to the town. The university wants to build new residence halls, academic buildings, athletic fields and a technology research facility in the area. "There is a tremendous need in South Jersey for this university to be able to expand, and we're locked right now in 200 acres," a school spokesman told the newspaper. The university says it owns or has an option to buy about 450 acres out of about 600 acres the school wants near the Route 55 interchange. Many homeowners along Route 322 have reportedly sold their properties to the school.

What you can do: This is a classic "town vs. gown" debate, or more properly, "gown vs. greed" struggle. One thing is clear: the university's lawsuit means that Wal-Mart Realty will not be building in Harrison any time soon. Another project mired in controversy. For other New Jersey battles, search this database by the state's name.










 
 
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