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2010-03-14
Marple, PA. You Don't Need Miss Marple To Solve Mystery Of Why Residents Oppose Wal-Mart

The township of Marple, Pennsylvania is located in the heart of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, just southwest of Philadelphia. The county is literally choking with Wal-Marts -- a total of 13 Wal-Mart stores lie within 15 miles of Marple. So it's no mystery why the residents of Marple have begun a Wal-Mart battle to keep the giant retailer from moving into an existing shopping center that sits in the middle of several residential neighborhoods. Homeowners in Marple and neighboring Springfield Township have formed a group called No Marple Wal-Mart to drive their point home. If residents in Marple want to buy cheap Chinese imports, all they have to do is drive 3 miles to the Wal-Mart in Glenolden, or 5 miles to the Wal-Mart in Eddystone. There's even a Wal-Mart superstore just 14 miles away in Deptford, New Jersey, which itself is crawling with Wal-Marts. "We have formed a group to notify our township officials that we do not want a Wal-Mart at the Marple Crossroads Shopping Center," the residents told Sprawl-Busters. "Wal-Mart is political. Those in favor of Wal-Mart talk jobs, tax revenue, convenience, modern shopping, and progressive community. Those opposed to Wal-Mart talk about low-paying jobs, not the best employer/employee relationships, and loss of local businesses." The group says "Wal-Mart moves in to dominate, not play fair. What is gained from Wal-Mart in the way of jobs is lost when other businesses go under. If you have 20 local businesses who all donate $2,000 a year to the local community by supporting non-profits, youth program, etc. that's $40,000 total. Wal-Mart will donate $5,000, at one time, and pump their chest -- but the community will be out $35,000. No Marple Wal-Mart notes that a Wal-Mart will create "increased pressure on infrastructure (traffic, road improvements, police, fire, sewer - i.e. the gain in tax revenue is elusive because the community has to spend every dime it gets just to keep up with the heart beat of a Wal-Mart." "Wal-Mart coming to town does not lower everyone else's taxes," the group says, "and in fact may ultimately raise your taxes as the community has to grow its infrastructure and then maintain a larger base." Finally, homeowners say the proposal will result in the "loss of small town atmosphere," which you can't purchase at any price at Wal-Mart -- and once its gone -- they can't sell it back at any price. "There is a reason this site was selected: the shopping center is at a crossroads in Springfield and Marple Township. For most of the residents in these townships their feelings will be it is not in their back yard. This is incorrect. The way to win these fights is to mobilize the people. We need 500 people at every public meeting. When those elected to office see that their decision is unpopular and it is going to follow them around town every where they go, i.e. people are calling them at home, people are stopping them at the store, or at the basketball game, or at church, or at their place of work, they will get the message. If they go to meetings and it's a handful of other people, they'll be nice to you, but the fix is already in. How do we get 500 people? By educating people on what will really happen if Wal-Mart comes to town." The group is currently circulating a pertition which reads, "1. An application to build a Wal-Mart shopping center at the Marple Crossroads Shopping Center is currently being considered by Marple Township as proposed by Blank Ashensky Properties, the owner of the property; and 2. Any such store of this magnitude catering to an already saturated Wal-Mart market (there are already 4 Wal-Marts in a 10 mile radius) will have a profound detrimental effect on the surrounding residential community and its schools, including substantially increased traffic and decreased residential property values, and incur great harm to established businesses in both Springfield and Marple Townships. 3. Any plan by Wal-Mart to dramatically expand its impact on our region represents a major threat to the health and well-being of our entire community, residents, workers, employers and overall economy; and 4. Wal-Mart has a history of displacing established and successful local businesses (large and small), of illegal and dangerous treatment of employees, of paying low wages and providing inadequate health benefits (resulting in employee health costs billed to the community and state), of sex discrimination in employment, and of numerous other violations of basic employee rights; and 5. The distortion of employment patterns away from local businesses toward lower-paying jobs at Wal-Mart is not an acceptable trade-off for marginally increased commercial property tax revenues. We, the undersigned -- being greatly alarmed about the short- and long-term implications of this inappropriately located retail development on our community -- request the Township of Marple to turn down the proposal at Marple Crossroads immediately."

What you can do: According to the Delaware County Daily Times, Marple Crossroads is a huge, 450,000-square-foot center on South State Road managed by Blank Aschkenasy Properties. There is currently an Old Navy, Marshalls, DSW Shoes, PetSmart and Five Below at the site. But the location has been weakened by the loss of Circuit City, Linen 'N Things, and Filene's Basement -- three national chain stores that were squeezed to death by Wal-Mart. The latter is slated to occupy the space formerly used by Filene's Basement. This shopping center crosses the border between Marple and Springfield, Pennsylvania. Neighbors have protested the expansion to Springfield Commissioners and Marple Commissioners. According to the President of the Marple Board of Commissioners, Dan Leefson, no plans have been received by the township. But, again, there is no Marple Mystery at work here. "There have been discussions between BA Properties and Wal-Mart," Leefson admitted to the Daily Times, "but we have not yet seen anything official. There are no applications before the planning commission or zoning board." The good residents of Marple believe they understand Wal-Mart's strategy. "Any successful developer knows that they have to get in bed with the local officials to get what they want," the group notes. "Every site design requirement costs them money... What better way to keep your finger on the pulse of local government than to hire their lawyers to work for Wal-Mart. Marple Township is using the same attorneys as the developer for Wal-Mart... There is a specific reason this site was chosen. If the local officials bend over backwards for Wal-Mart, it gives Wal-Mart a lower cost per square foot than the local guy who is their competitor. This, and buying in bulk for their one giant store, lowers prices to a point where the local guy can not compete. The money made in a Wal-Mart store doesn't stay in its local bank account long enough to create a shadow, it's all sent to Arkansas. The big box stores are built with an intended short shelf life that just so happens to match their tax benefits. If they can depreciate a new store over 15 years, once they hit 15 years they don't re-model. No, they go build another big box, gobbling up more land. Then Wal-Mart can be very selective who they will sell to, or maybe not at all, so as to limit competition. It's not about efficient use of your community resources. It's always about the corporate bottom line." The group warns Delaware County residents to "Stop viewing Wal-Mart as thousands of independent stores. It's one giant store that has thousands of doors. Every time you walk in Wal-Mart, you're walking into the same store, whether you're in small town USA or Philadelphia. Its one giant corporation and they have a line item budget for each obstacle they face, including the group we are forming. When a store does poorly in one location, that doesn't mean they'll close it. That store is strategically located there to shut down some other business. They'll intentionally slash prices in that store to drive another store under." No Marple Wal-Mart has figured out that "our group needs to find a lawyer hopefully in another local county (not our county because that lawyer will be "swimming" in his own pool)... our lawyer needs to be able to get in the car at the end of the day and drive home to another location where his local community doesn't care what he is doing in your neighborhood." Readers are urged to support the residents of Marple and Springfield who are fighting to protect the valuation of their homes, and the character of their community, by emailing Dan Leefson, the President of the Board of Marple Commissioners Daniel Leefson at dleefson@marpletwp.com with the following message: "Dear President Leefson, If the taxpayers of Marple or Springfield need cheap Chinese underwear, they have 13 Wal-Mart's nearby from which to choose. If you allow a huge Wal-Mart superstore to locate in Marple, you will see little or no job growth or revenues. This is because 80% or more of Wal-Mart's sales come from existing merchants -- including the cannibalization of their own existing Wal-Mart stores. A 2003 study by the consultant Retail Forward says that for every one Wal-Mart grocery store that opens, two existing grocery stores will close. Look what happened to Circuit City and Filene's. Both of those store closures are casualties of Wal-Mart. Marple Crossroads is already a huge mall, which is incompatible with nearby residential homes. Good zoning never results in a win/lose situation. As President, you should consider the needs of your homeowners, not just the rich developers and their corporate customers. There are more than 200 dead Wal-Mart's today. As the retailer fills in the map of a trade area with more and more stores, some are closed once they served their purpose of draining the lifeblood of other competing stores. Then you are left with a "ghost box" that nobody wants to rent, and Wal-Mart won't allow a competitor to have. Property becomes blighted, valuations fall, and the windfall you thought was coming to Marple is gone with the wind instead. Listen to your residents, and don't make them losers to the big multi-national corporation." To help support the opponents of Wal-Mart in Marple, email: nomarplewalmart@aol.com.










 
 
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