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2000-11-28
Foster, PA. Developer Uses Wal-Math

On October 21, 2000 newsflash reported on community opposition in Foster, PA to a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter that abuts residential property and an important town park. The land in question is not zoned commercial. Part of the 72 acre site is zoned residential and forest slope -- a fact that is of some consequence to the homeowners who bought into the neigbhorhood expecting housing on this land, if anything. Attracted by the town park, they made a large investment in Foster. But a developer from Pittsburg, ASC Development, was attracted to the land because there is a mall located across the roadway. In typical fashion, the developer has presented "fuzzy math" numbers to butress their proposal, and the local newspaper reprinted the numbers without question. ASC claims that the 155,000 s.f. building (which will be open 24 hours) will employ between 280 and 300 full time (28 hrs. per week) workers, and yield up to $350,000 in property taxes. Neither Town Supervisors nor the newspaper seem curious as to what kind of offsetting damage the superstore might have on the existing retail market in Foster, as smaller, locally based grocery stores die or limp along. (see 11/28 entry on Wal-Mart impact in Bozeman, Montana.) Any job creation will be offset by job losses not calculated by ASC. The developer also promised not to touch the town park on the property, but offered to move the park if necessary. "We try to fit in the best we can," ASC told residents. "Wal-Mart tries to be a good neighbor." But if you ask many neighbors across America, "trying" to be a good neigbhbor is often the premise for a very rocky, unpleasant relationship, and Wal-Mart's "best" is not enough. The fact is, there is no way to buffer residential property from a giant store more than 3 times the size of a football field. The "tiny trees" and "shrubbery blocking off a view of the store" simply won't cut it. Everyone in the neigbhborhood knows the behemoth is there, and anyone thinking of buying a house with Wal-Mart superstore as a night light is not going to pay top dollar for the priviledge. ASC also has plans for out buildings on the parcel, including a fast food restaurant, bank or fashion store, etc. All of these accessory uses require the parking lot to be even larger than necessary to support "just" a 155,000 s.f. superstore. Township supervisors seem to have jumped fully clothed into the tank with Wal-Mart, even to the point of applying for a grant to move the Community Park if needed. The hearing on rezoning will take place before Supervisors on December 4th.

What you can do: The Era newspaper says the Wal-Mart supercenter project "has been a flashpoint for residents" since it first surfaced last spring. This is typical, since local residents understand fully that this supercenter will change the character of their neighborhood forever. No developer has a right to rezone lan, it is a discretionary act on the part of Supervisors, and must meet local zoning criteria. ASC could have chosen commercially zoned land, but chose to put their project right up against homeowners. As mentioned in the earlier newsflash, when one resident asked town assessors what would happen to their property values, the township said "houses near a large commercial development would be reassessed at a lower amount." That lower amount is just one example of lost revenue Foster will face. If the Supervisors give ASC a rezone, the message it sends to homeowners throughout the town is: your neighborhood could be next. Instead, Supervisors could tell ASC that the concept needs to be scaled down to be compatible with Foster and its comprehensive plan, and then moved onto land that is already commercially zoned.










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

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