Walmart had big plans for the small town of Exeter in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The company wanted to build a massive superstore in the borough of just under 5,000 residents. However, Walmart faced resistance and was forced to make the following announcement:
“We have decided to discontinue efforts to develop the store,” Walmart Director of Community and Media Relations William C. Wertz stated in an email Monday. “We were unable to obtain all of the permits and approvals necessary to proceed in advance of a March 31, 2012, deadline that was contained in our agreement to purchase the properties.”
What happened? Ordinary citizens joined together and demanded to know what Walmart would do to their neighborhoods. There were many issues, but the biggest was traffic congestion and the possibility that Walmart might require road work that would be paid for with local tax dollars.
The first step was filling City Council meetings with opponents of the new Walmart. They demanded that the full impact of the Walmart be studied without glossing over the potential negatives. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation found Walmart would create a tremendous amount of traffic and therefore require a major restructuring of the roads leading to the proposed site. Community members demanded that Walmart shoulder the costs for these changes, which led to the company withdraw the proposal.
Mary Pat Coleman, a member of the anti-big-box store group Exeter First, said she was “very, very pleased” to hear of Walmart’s decision.
The group’s position was that Walmart wasn’t just going to be an Exeter issue: traffic would also move through Wyoming and West Pittston, she said.
“I have to give kudos to Wyoming Borough, because they were not going to benefit from having Walmart in Exeter,” Coleman said, noting the borough would get the increased traffic but not the tax revenue. “They weren’t bulldozed by Walmart’s demands, and I think they looked out for their community.”