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2000-09-01
Unity, PA. Wal-Mart Splits Unity.

"It's a shame that a small community succumbs to a large corporation," Rick O'Donnell told the Tribune-Review newspaper. "I have a nice house in Edgewater Terrace. Anyone want to buy it?" Probably not, unless they like Wal-Mart as a night light. O'Donnell reflects the fears of many homeowners in Unity Township, Pennsylvania, that a Wal-Mart supercenter will rob this small community of its character and quality of life. When a Pittsburg developer came to town with a 183,645 s.f. Wal-Mart proposal (the size of 4 Pittsburg Steelers football fields), towns people began gathering signatures against the store. At least 100 homes border the 25 acre site slated for a Wal-Mart, and homeowners have not exactly put out the welcome wagon. On August 1st, the township Planning Board rejected the Wal-Mart site plan, but that was only because the company came forward without the neceesary signoffs from state transportation and environmental officials. The developer at the time said he was "not surprised" by the rejection, and vowed "we will return." Unity has already had one close encounter with Wal-Mart six years ago, when the township rejected plans for a smaller store. In typical fashion, the developer has touted Wal-Mart's 400 jobs -- but local residents understand that is a gross figure, not a net. "They say it's going to bring 400 jobs," answered resident Jim Wright, "but how many will it eliminate? As for the tax base, how much is the store taking out?" Town officials were somewhat red-faced by a media report that they would approve the plan as soon as the state sign offs were granted. "We haven't gone out of our way to attract developers," explained one township supervisor in the Post-Gazette. "It's not like we're out there saying 'We'd like you to come into our township'." But homeowners worry that town officials also aren't going out of their way to stop the project either. One resident summed up the anti-sprawl feeling in a letter to the editor in the Latrobe Bulletin: "What may bring a smile to the executives at Wal-Mart then becomes a nightmare of extended sprawl for the rest of us, changing the character of an area dramatically and permanently..."

What you can do: Somewhat defensively, the developer told township officials they "need to look at its benefit to the entire township, not just one community." In fact, supervisors need to look at the impact on Unity and Latrobe and the 30 mile radius around that store. Most of Wal-Mart gains will come from other cash registers. This is not economic development, but economic displacement. For contacts with local residents fighting Wal-Mart in Unity, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










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

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