Crowd mixed on Wal-Mart, development in Pa.

December 23, 2003|by DON AINES

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - No matter which way the Washington Township Board of Supervisors ended up voting, about half of the more than 100 people at Monday night's meeting were going to leave disappointed.

Like last month's six-hour marathon public hearing on the rezoning of nine properties totaling 1,025 acres, most of the hour allowed for public comment centered on a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter along Pa. 16 east of Waynesboro, Pa., in the community of Rouzerville.

The proposal by a Pittsburgh-area developer for a supercenter has ardent supporters and equally ardent opponents. They got another chance to persuade the supervisors before the board voted to approve rezoning for the retailing giant.


As she had in November, township resident Camille Bowie showed up with printed "We Want Wal-Mart" signs she made and mounted on paint stirring sticks she got from another Wal-Mart.

With a crowd about half the size of last month's, Bowie decided to make only 50 signs instead of 75. The back of her jacket was adorned with one of the 150 bumper stickers she made.

"I just know all the people I talked to couldn't wait for it," Bowie said before the meeting started. Bowie said she had taken little interest in other township issues, such as a controversial proposal to build a Pa. 16 bypass, "until they tried to take away Wal-Mart."

Others, like Al and Jeanne Bohn, worry about the impact of the commercial development and the possibility of more than 1,000 new homes on schools, traffic and resources.

"I would like to know why in the summer of 2002 we were asked to conserve water, but now there's ample supply for 1,000 homes," Jeanne Bohn said.

"The school district had to purchase trailers to accommodate middle school students next year," she said.

The proposed bypass, which died last spring after public criticism, has re-emerged as part of the rezoning proposals with the Wal-Mart developers proposing to build a relief route from Pa. 16 to Old Forge Road and other developers indicating they would cooperate on plans to extend it farther west.

"This development is going to go the whole way around us and the relief route will go across the back of our property," said Lori Frantz, whose family farm is on Pa. 16. "The relief route was a dead issue in May and now it's back on the board," she said.

"What good is a relief route if you're going to allow commercial development" along its path, asked Sharon Finafrock.

"It'll be just like the Golden Mile in Frederick (Md.)," she said.

Township resident Rick Mohn addressed those who believe a Wal-Mart will hurt other businesses. "If you run your business the way you're supposed to, Wal-Mart won't be a threat to you," he said.

"Take your time. You don't have to make up your mind three days before Christmas," resident Bill Prince said of the rezoning votes.

"Allow us to enjoy some of the nature so we don't have to see houses everywhere," Jeanne Bohn added.

"We want to get rid of our ground," said Sam Welty, whose property was one of those being considered for rezoning. He said some of the farms were no longer profitable and some of the owners were relying on the sale of the land for their retirement.

To those who want the land to remain in agriculture, Welty asked, "Are you going to pay us for it?"

Each person who spoke was allowed three minutes at the microphone. When his three minutes were up in mid-statement, Vince Cahill simply asked his wife, Claire Hunter, to come to up and finish. They asked about the "hidden costs" of Wal-Mart and other developments in terms of increasing the police force, expanding utilities and building schools.

"I don't want to see the magic and mystique that brought me here to Waynesboro disappear," said Kalman Marcus, a Quincy Township resident for 31 years, who said he opposed the Wal-Mart location.

Camille Bowie's daughter, Karen, said her family has lived in the area for seven generations. The high school student said she plans to continue to live in the Waynesboro area after college and that one of the new homes people are objecting to will one day be hers.

One person at the meeting expressed no particular viewpoint on the debate. Jim Miller said he drove from Dry Run, Pa., in the northwest part of Franklin County, just to observe what he had been reading about in newspapers.

"I'm just seeing how everyone deals with the questions up here," he said.

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