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2000-11-05
Philadelphia, PA. Wal-Mart Gives New England Gas

Sunoco, Inc, one of the big gas suppliers in New England, has announced that it has signed an agreement with Wal-Mart to build gas stations in Wal-Mart parking lots in nine states in the region: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Viriginia. According to Bloomberg News, Wal-Mart already has petrol agreements with two gas companies: Arkansas-based Murphy Oil (145 gas stations as of 1999), and Texas-based Tesoro. Sunoco already sells gas at 3,500 stations under the Sunoco brand name in seventeen states. Many of these smaller stations may go out of business as Sunoco starts selling to the discount chain stores. In New England, Sprawl-Busters has intervened against parking lot gas stations since 1998, and has helped stop more than half a dozen such proposals from companies like the Stop & Shop grocery chain, and BJs Wholesale Clubs. In several locations, Stop & Shop has withdrawn their gas stations in the face of strong community opposition. Stop & Shop recently lost a bid to open a gas station at its store in Quincy, MA -- which happens to be its corporate headquarters. Sunoco indicated that it would attempt to build 20 to 40 gas stations in the targeted states over the next year, and as many as 100 per year beyond that. Given the fact that most targeted communities already have plenty of gas stations, the Wal-Mart/Sunoco deal is not likely to result in any significant revenue or tax gains for local communities, just more shifting of revenue, and loss of smaller, independent oil marketers.

What you can do: In 1998, Sprawl-Busters produced a 5 minute video of why gas stations in parking lots are a bad zoning precedent. To order a copy of the video, contact info@sprawl-busters.com. When Wal-Mart proposed most of its stores in New England, they never told local officials that they planned on building a parking lot big enough to accomodate a gas station. If local zoning officials would limit the size of parking lots to just what is needed for the use being proposed, these companies could not come back a year later and turn their parking lot into a home for a bank, restaurant and now -- gas stations. If all these accessory uses can be built in the same lot, then the original lot is far too large. In the interest of limiting impervious surface, and maximizing open space at the superstores, zoning boards should allow enough space for that retail square footage being requested, and no more. Wal-Mart's move into gas is about as welcome as their move into groceries. From the local perspective, every time Wal-Mart gets into another retail product, local communities brace for more small business closures. In this instance, Sunoco + Wal-Mart = gas pains for New England communities.










 
 
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