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2008-02-02
Exeter Borough, PA. Wal-Mart’s Plans A “Mystery.”

Someone let Wal-Mart's cat out of the bag in Exeter, Pennsylvania, and now the retailer has to stuff it back in. It's not unusual for a local official to let the "secret" out before Wal-Mart is ready, which is why the company trains its PR people to always say, "We have no plans for this site at this time." Wal-Mart will not confirm their intentions until they have filed a plan with a local community. But in Exeter (pop. 6,000) this past week, the news got out anyway, and local officials had to scramble to deny everything about Wal-Mart. The Citizens Voice newspaper ran a story indicating that a "hulking Wal-Mart store," could be coming to the west side of Exeter. That article noted that the retailer was disavowing any plan for Exeter. "We are not the ones who are actively pursuing that site," a company spokesman said. "Wal-Mart does not have a developer working in that location. So if a developer was supposed to be before council, that wasn't Wal-Mart." Meanwhile the Borough Council was slated to meet several nights ago to talk with the developer who plans to bring a big box store to the 14 acre site, which currently houses the Birchwood Village Estates trailer park. But what the newspaper called "the mystery developer" never showed up. The Borough Council chairman told the Citizens Voice that he had heard a Wal-Mart was coming -- or even a distribution center. But 14 acres could never hold anything but a scaled-down supercenter. "We have nothing in writing from developers or even the landowner," the Council Chairman admitted. The number of people living in the trailer park has been declining. Exeter Mayor Joe Coyne told the media this past summer that the land was being sold by the owner to a national developer, and tenants started leaving. And then there were the anonymous signs that started sprouting up on mailboxes and telephone poles in the trailer park: "Although people will continue spreading rumors, please disregard them." All the rumors about Wal-Mart have made some residents in the park nervous. "Where would I go?" one resident asked the Citizens Voice. "I hope we're not (evicted)." Another trailer park resident noted, "Where I live isn't even big enough for a Wal-Mart parking lot."

What you can do: Sparks flew at a recent meeting of the Borough Council. A former Councilor who resigned in August because he said the Council used "secretive tactics," charged that the Council once again had been holding "secret meetings" with a developer for a Wal-Mart store off Wyoming Avenue. The former Councilor claimed that more than 100 trailers and their residents had moved out of the park in the last six months leaving only about 30 remaining. The residents are believed to have left willingly to pave the way for a Wal-Mart. "The public has the right to know what is going on," said the former Borough Councilor. Exeter is known as the Borough of peace and prosperity, but there doesn't seem to be much of either in the community this week. The borough is mostly a residential area. The community already has 4 Wal-Marts within 15 miles of the Borough, including a Wal-Mart discount store in Pittston, Pennsylvania less than 4 miles away, and a Wal-Mart supercenter in Wilkes-Barre less than 8 miles away. Readers are urged to contact Exeter Borough Mayor Joseph Coyne at (570) 654-3001. Tell the Mayor, "Exeter doesn't need another Wal-Mart. You've got 4 Wal-Mart stores within 15 miles, of which 2 are supercenters. With a population of only 6,000 people, Exeter can't support a superstore on its own -- and shoppers in surrounding towns already have a Wal-Mart. If they ever apply to build in Exeter, it will only mean closure of the Pittston store. This is not a form of economic development. The only things that will grow in your small community will be the car trip rate, and the crime rate. While you still have the chance, amend your zoning code to put a cap of 75,000 s.f. on the size of retail buildings. Then you'll have some peace and prosperity in Exeter."










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

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