Lumberton, N.J. Court Rejects Wal-Mart Plan for the Second Time
On April 25, 1999, Sprawl-Busters reported that the Mayor of Mount Holly, New Jersey was concerned about the proposed building of a 137,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter in neighboring Lumberton, New Jersey.
The Mayor worried that Wal-Mart would make a bad traffic situation even more hazardous to public safety. "Wal-Mart's good in the short-term for a tax boost," the Mayor warned, "but not in the long run." The Mayor was also worried that Wal-Mart would negatively impact the small merchants in the trade area who are "making it now, but not by much."
Mount Holly's Mayor warned his residents, "Slowly, but surely, Wal-Mart is destroying small town America." But the Mayor of Lumberton was much more upbeat. "With the expansion we have," Lumberton's Mayor said, "there's plenty for everybody. We feel the population growth is big enough that it shouldn't affect other businesses." And in the classic unsubstantiated town official "fact", the Lumberton Mayor added: "The more traffic there is, the more opportunity a businessman has to pull in a customer." Right. And the more grocery stores you build, the more food people will eat.
A spokesman for Wal-Mart told reporters 13 years ago, that Wal-Mart "never enters a market with the intention of running out other businesses." It must be just an accident that other businesses go under. "And Wal-Mart generates significant tax revenues that benefit all of the communities," Wal-Mart asserted, but provided no data to demonstrate the net tax impact on the towns or the county.
The Mayor of Lumberton eventually got his Wal-Mart discount store. But once they opened up on Route 38, Wal-Mart tried to expand their footprint to do even more damage to the competition. But the road to a bigger Lumberton Wal-Mart has been plagued with setbacks.
Township officials in this small community (pop. 12,600), were all set to allow the Wal-Mat to expand its 137,000 s.f. store to 193,000 s.f., but those pesky local residents keep cutting the project down. According to an article posted July 24th on phillyburbs.com, the Wal-Mart expansion in Lumberton, which is considered a suburb of Philadephia. "won't happen very soon."
Nothing has happened very quickly for Wal-Mart in this township, since the retailer has been trying to grow larger for almost eight years. But a Superior Court Judge nixed the expansion idea in 2008, ruling that Wal-Mart erred by not notifying neighbors of its proposal, and failed to apply to variances it need to expand its store on Route 38. This past week, the Judge ruled again that residents had not been properly notified about the plan, and that the setbacks for the store did not meet the townships zoning code.
A local resident in Lumberton took the retail giant to court to prevent the 56,000 s.f. addition, which would convert the discount store into a superstore. The whole exercise is redundant, since there are 3 other Wal-Mart discount stores within 10 miles of the Lumberton Wal-Mart discount store, and a Wal-Mart superstore less than 12 miles to the north in Levittown, Pennsylvania. According to phillyburbs.com, another Wal-Mart expansion project in nearby Cinnaminson, New Jersey 12.5 miles to the west of Lumberton, has also been ensnared by a lawsuit, and the reception in Mount Laurel, New Jersey is also stirring up opposition.
Following the shadow of all these Wal-Marts is Gerry Chudoff of Local 152 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. Chudoff told phillyburbs.com that Wal-Mart will not create new jobs, and will hurt local businesses.
What you can do: Readers are urged to email the following comment on the Wal-Mart plan to Lumberton Mayor James Conway, Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Conway,
Your small township is already saturated with Wal-Marts. They don't need to grow bigger. If they do, it will be at the expense of other merchants in town who will lose sales and cut jobs. This is not a form of economic development, but a form of economic displacement.
When Wal-Mart comes back again to try their expansion plan one more time, this go around, you, as Mayor, should take a leadership role by saying that Lumberton needs new jobs and new revenues, not just more market share for Wal-Mart."