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Rezoning fuels rumors that big retailer is coming to town

August 17, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Rumors that a major retailer will open a store in the Waynesboro area were fueled recently with the announcement that developers are looking to rezone more than 1,000 acres of farmland in Washington Township.

Most of the buzz is that Wal-Mart is coming, officials said.

"There's been no official confirmation that it's Wal-Mart," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

"I have spoken with people who I would like to think have good inside information, but no one is sure where the rumors got started," Ross said.

"Everyone's been saying that the township is trying to get Wal-Mart here, but Wal-Mart hasn't shown any interest in Waynesboro", said Gerald Zeigler, Washington Township's zoning enforcement officer.

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Since July 23 Washington Township has received nine applications to rezone 1,005 acres of farmland. About 70 of those acres are earmarked for commercial development. The lion's share is being requested for single- and multi-family housing developments.

The largest commercial rezoning applications were filed by Echo Waynesboro Associates L.P. at 701 Alpha Dr., Pittsburgh. The developer wants to rezone about 35 acres on two tracts north of Pa. 16 in Rouzerville, Pa.

A call Friday to Echo Real Estate Service Co. at the same Pittsburgh address drew a no comment.

Echo Waynesboro Associates' map included in the rezoning application calls for two large retail buildings - one 173,000 square feet and one 101,000 square feet.

Aimee Sands, spokeswoman for Target Stores' headquarters in Minneapolis, Minn., said the company doesn't confirm plans for new stores until five months prior to opening. Target has 1,191 stores and opens about 100 new ones every year, she said.

Traditional Target stores need 125,000 square feet, she said. Intermediate size stores require 140,000 square feet, and Super Targets that include grocery stores require 173,000 square feet, Sands said.

Olan James, a spokesman for Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., said the company owns 1,514 discount stores, 1,343 Super Wal-Marts that include grocery stores, 528 Sam's Clubs and 52 smaller neighborhood grocery markets.

Super Center stores require from 110,000 to 230,000 square feet, discount stores range from 40,000 to 125,000 square feet, Sam's Clubs from 110,000 to 140,000 square feet and neighborhood markets from 39,000 to 55,000 square feet.

Asked if Wal-Mart was considering the Waynesboro area as a possible store site, James referred the question to John Bisio, spokesman for Wal-Mart's eastern division in Indianapolis. Bisio did not return calls Friday.

Jennifer Stanbery, spokeswoman for Lowe's headquarters in Wilkesboro, N.C., said the company doesn't confirm real estate transactions until the deal is closed.

"We're opening 130 new stores this year and 140 in 2004," Stanbery said. "Obviously we're looking all the time." The company has more than 875 stores in 45 states, Stanbery said.

Lowe's stores take up about 116,000 square feet, excluding garden centers, she said.

Don Harrison, spokesman for Home Depot in Atlanta, said employees in the company's real estate division are looking at property every day. He said the company, which has 1,610 stores, opens about 200 new ones every year.

Harrison said negations are not discussed until real estate deals are complete.

"We play it close to the chest. We don't speculate on rumors," he said.

Most Home Depot stores require from 95,000 square feet to 140,000 square feet, including garden centers, Harrison said.

"It's hard to imagine a Home Depot jumping into the Waynesboro area, but a Lowe's might," Ross said.

He said a strip shopping center like the one on U.S. 30 east of Chambersburg, Pa., anchored at one end by a Wal-Mart Store and the other end with Lowe's, might work in the Waynesboro area.

Ross said Waynesboro, like Hanover, Pa., in York County, is a niche community.

"It's separated from the rest of the county," he said.

Ross said he believes the 900-plus acres of farmland that applicants want rezoned for residential development would be built up with homes in the next four to five years.

"Waynesboro and Greencastle are hot markets," Ross said.

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