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2000-11-03
Milford, PA. Planning Board Denies Home Depot

Home Depot developers may have read the Milford Township, Pennsylvania Zoning Ordinance, but may not have read far enough. On page 62 of 65, the Milford Zoning Code clearly lays outs 5 "standards and criteria" for obtaining a conditional use permit. So even though the 43 acres Home Depot wanted to build on were zoned commercial, the shopping mall still needed a conditional use permit, and had to measure up to township standards. On October 30th, the Milford Planning Commission recommended unanimously that the Home Depot project be denied. Now the final decision is in the hands of Township Supervisors. Don Quick, chair of the Supervisors, told the Times Herald-Record: "Generally we concur with the recommendation of the Planning Board, but we're not obligated to do so." The Home Depot project consists of a 134,979 s.f. home improvement store, plus 5 other stores, for a total of nearly 289,000 s.f. A second big box store of 120,000 s.f. was not identified by the developer. According to the Times-Herald Record, "At Milford Township Hall last night, witnesses spoke out against the project. The two that seemed to make the most impact were nationally known sprawl buster Al Norman and Milford Township planning consultant Thomas Shepstone...In denying the application, the commissioners cited some of the points Norman made. There was no community need for the big box Home Depot shown. The size of the project was not compatible with the site. The project would have an adverse affect on the character of the neighborhood. The Comprehensive Plan also stated a goal to maintain Milford's rural, small-community character. Norman questioned how that would be accomplished by building a nearly 300,000 square foot strip mall." The project has been opposed for several months by a citizen's group calling themselves the Milford Alliance to Defeat Sprawl At Exit Ten (MADSET). The newspaper said experts and residents spent 90 minutes at the hearing "hammering holes in Home Depot's plans". The project had to meet ALL of the standards and criteria, and failed to come close to most of them. Home Depot promised local residents that despite the thousands of additional cars per day that it would attract, that its road improvements would actually improve traffic. Home Depot officials also testified that Home Depot has learned from the two major fires that have occurred at its stores, and now isolates dangerous combinations of chemicals. At one point in the review process, Home Depot tried to give its store a softer, more residential look, by adding an entrance with a pitched roof, "white decorative columns with a brick base" and "residential style materials", not metal and concrete. But the true box was lurking underneath, too huge to ignore.

What you can do: After the hearing, Home Depot spokesman Joanne Chesler seemed oblivious to the evening's proceedings. "People want Home Depot," she insisted. "They just want it to be done consistent with the community." Bill Kiger, coordinator for MADSET, told the newspaper: "Home Depot should feel somewhat defeated. They took a real shot." But Home Depot's real estate spokesman added: "We intend to proceed. The recommendation does not constitute a ruling. It's only a recommendation." But MADSET had a recommendation of its own for Home Depot: put down the hammer and move on. For more information on the Milford Township battle to slam dunk Home Depot, contact Bill Kiger at 570-296-6753.










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

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