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2004-10-14
Deptford, NJ. Residents Jubilant Over Wal-Mart Defeat.

One down, and two to go. That's the victory this week in Deptford, New Jersey, where residents are celebrating the township's rejection of a Wal-Mart proposal on a tract of land known as the old RCA site. The retailer had proposed to build a Wal-Mart and a Sam's Club along Route 41, but the Concerned Citizens of Deptford helped push that project off the tracks. Even in the middle of their victory, however, local residents are now organizing to fight two additional Wal-Mart saturation plans. "We're just going to get some more ducks in a row," one CCD member was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "They are not going to go away. We all know that. And we're not going to go away, either." The town's Planning Board voted on Wednesday to unanimously reject the proposal submitted by Alabama-based AIG Baker. The Planning Board buried the proposal based on a new zoning code that was only two days old, which changed the town's Master Plan, and put a cap on the size of retail buildings at 100,000 s.f. The developer has threatened to take the case to court. AIG Baker contends that its plan is consistent with the town's site plan regulations. They are not challengin the size cap. The developer's lawsuit was not the first legal challenge the town faced. In September, the CCD itself sued in Superior Court the town and the developer of another Wal-Mart, charging that the town had violated the Open Meetings law, by having private meetings with developers, more like "ex parte" meetings than public hearings. There is even a third Wal-Mart planned near Route 41 and 47, but the formal hearing process on that project has not begun. So the first two Wal-Mart cases are both likely to end up in court. "The battle continues," Mike Campbell, a CCD leader, told the Inquirer. "We can't be lulled into a false sense of security at this point. We're going to have to continue to keep a close eye on this." Wal-Mart has tried to pass off the absurd statement that 3 of its stores in Deptford would create 600 jobs and $1 million in tax revenues. Neither statement is true, since those numbers are gross figures, not net. The real impact of a giant discounter has to consider the jobs and revenues that will be lost at existing stores doing business in Deptford. Research across the country suggests that Wal-Mart is a form of economic dislocation, not economic development.

What you can do: I traveled to Deptford in the mid-1990s to help them fight off their first Wal-Mart attack. Since then, the community has been faced with a parade of faceless big box proposals that have encountered stiff public opposition. Despite the clear antipathy of many residents to such stores, developers lured by big profits continue to push their plans on a resistant community. For now, the second Wal-Mart plan has run into the ground, and all that lies ahead is more dissention in Deptford if Wal-Mart doesn't withdraw. For local contacts in Deptford, contact info@sprawl-busters.com.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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