Philly Blurbs, March 24, 2011
CINNAMINSON – Approval of a proposed expansion of the Walmart on Route 130 at the Marketplace at Cinnaminson isn’t sitting well with opponents.
“I’m dismayed that it isn’t smart growth,” union official Gerald Chudoff said. “It’s putting lipstick on a pig, and it’s still a pig.”
Chudoff, an Evesham resident, is a representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 152.
The Planning Board unanimously approved the expansion of the Walmart at its Tuesday meeting.
The move will allow the world’s largest retailer to expand by more than 23,000 square feet on the building’s northwestern corner. The company will enlarge the store’s grocery department and plans other changes as well.
Board members granted the company several waivers, including lowering the required number and size of parking spaces, permitting smaller signs, and easing the landscaping provision.
Red Bank attorney Ron Gasiorowski, representing ShopRite owner Karl Eickhoff, who owns supermarkets in Cinnaminson, Hainesport, Mount Laurel, Willingboro and Delran, said Wednesday that his client would appeal the decision.
Eickhoff also opposed a similar expansion in Lumberton that was approved by municipal planners in January.
Cinnaminson debated the expansion over a series of meetings that spanned the last three months.
Wal-Mart Inc., the subject of repeated attacks by unions and consumer groups, has been pushing to expand its stores throughout South Jersey. An expansion also is under way at the Burlington Township store on Route 541.
John Marshall, a Planning Board member who is also the township’s zoning officer, said Wal-Mart was not given special treatment.
Marshall, the longest-serving board member with 21 years of experience, said other shopping centers in town had received similar variances from parking, signage and landscaping.
“The township is not here to stifle business,” he said. “It’s free enterprise.”
“We got the best deal we could get,” he added.
Marshall said he had seen no evidence that Wal-Mart had destroyed other, smaller businesses in the community, contrary to the common cry of many critics.
It was unclear when the company would begin work on the site.
Marshall said nothing would happen until any legal appeals were resolved.
Chudoff, who has been closely following Wal-Mart’s expansions in South Jersey, said his concerns went beyond planning issues such as parking.
He said the department store would hurt small businesses, threaten better-paying union jobs, and result in a spike in crime.
Chudoff has been attending meetings at various planning boards to express his union’s concerns with the proposals.
Wal-Mart officials have said that 60 percent of the employees at their stores are full time and receive benefits.
Company literature says the total number of Wal-Mart workers in New Jersey is 18,000. The average hourly wage for regular full-time workers is $12.32, the company says.