Sprawl-Busters Newsflash Blog, March 24, 2011
The Township of Cinnaminson, New Jersey describes itself as “a community of families, neighbors and businesses…the place where fresh waters and fresh ideas flow.” In Cinnaminson they pride themselves on being “neighbors who care about our homes and one another.” But this week, the only ‘fresh ideas’ township officials could come up with was an ill-conceived plan to let Wal-Mart expand its sprawling store even larger. And their action has spawned nothing but a lawsuit.
According to the website PhillyBurbs.com, the Cinnaminson Planning Board unanimously voted to allow Wal-Mart to add 23,000 s.f. onto its existing store so the retailer could grab market share away from the existing grocery stores in this community of 15,288 people located right across the Delaware River from the northeast side of Philadelphia. To approve the project, the Planning Board had to lower the number of parking spaces required and allow other variances from the township’s zoning code. .
But Wal-Mart will not be breaking ground for the expansion any time soon. The ShopRite grocery chain owner Karl Eickhoff has indicated that it intends to file a legal challenge to the Planning Board’s action. .
After three months reviewing the case, a member of the Planning Board told PhillyBurbs that the giant retailer did not get any special handling. “The township is not here to stifle business. It’s free enterprise,” he said. “We got the best deal we could get.” Apparently the Planning Board is also in the business of destroying local and regional businesses. The same Planning Board member told the media he has seen no evidence that Wal-Mart hurt local businesses, despite the assertions of opponents who testified at the board’s public hearings. “I’m dismayed that it isn’t smart growth,” said Gerry Chudoff. “It’s putting lipstick on a pig, and it’s still a pig.” .
What you can do: Local officials have no compelling reason to allow these stores to expand by adding a grocery section. It adds no ratables or jobs, but merely shifts sales from existing cash registers to Wal-Mart registers. The Cinnaminson Planning Board may think it is not stifling businesses, but if they did they homework, they would realize that’s the net impact of their action. .
Readers are urged to email Cinnaminson Mayor Mayor, Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick at http://www.cinnaminsonnj.org/contactus.htm with the following message:
“Dear Mayor Fitzpatrick,
When the ShopRite lawsuit comes to court, I hope you will instruct the township’s lawyer to leave the defense of Wal-Mart’s permit entirely to Wal-Mart. The township should not pay one dime to defend Wal-Mart’s expansion permit. The retailer has plenty of money to defend its profits, and township taxpayers should not have to contribute to their bottom line. This expansion is not a form of economic development, and the company could have reformatted its existing store to sell whatever it wanted, without any zoning hearings, without wasting more land, without generating more controversy in your township. It’s called an “in-box conversion,” and Wal-Mart has done it whenever towns say they don’t want more sprawl.
So let Wal-Mart pay for its own legal battles, and give your taxpayers a break.”