Despite Pending Lawsuit, Township Paves Way For Wal-mart In Warminster The Owners Of Center Point Think The Township Gave The Retail Giant Preferential Treatment. They're Suing.

Posted: March 09, 1995

WARMINSTER — After two years of wrangling with the township, private citizens, unions and other business owners, Wal-Mart is set to come to Warminster.

Well, almost set.

A lawsuit against Wal-Mart by the owners of Center Point Place shopping center is still pending over the proposed 117,000-square-foot store at the corner of Street and Jacksonville Roads. However, Wal-Mart attorney Jordan Warshaw said he didn't think the suit would stop the development.

Chris Chandor, the attorney for the owners of Center Point, said the reason behind the suit is that the township gave Wal-Mart zoning variances that Center Point had been denied.

The township gave Wal-Mart unanimous approval this week and encouraged the company to begin tearing down the dilapidated former Channel Home Center as soon as possible.

"This has been ongoing for a long time," said Supervisor Benjamin Casole. ''The building on site has been an eyesore for too many years."

But if the Center Point suit overturns the township decision, Wal-Mart would either have to comply with zoning ordinances or raze whatever work it had done. Warshaw said Wal-Mart had not yet decided whether it will start working on the store while the suit is still pending.

Wal-Mart could begin construction this month and the shopping center could be finished as early as the winter holiday season, Warshaw said. Although Wal- Mart hasn't put out bids for construction, he estimated that costs could run from $5 million to $7 million.

Also, Wal-Mart will be paying for about $500,000 in improvements in the area, Warshaw said. Two streetlights will be installed, one light will be improved, and the company will pay for work to widen sections of Jacksonville Road. Wal-Mart negotiated with the Centennial Village apartment complex next door to construct an access road between the two properties.

Three years ago, Warminster resident Eleanor Wilson wrote a letter to corporate Wal-Mart headquarters, saying how much she'd like to see a store nearby. She's lived at her home on Date Street for 33 years and said she's not worried about nonunion workers, which Wal-mart uses, the loss of open space, or too much competition for local stores.

"I like to see us keep the shopping in our town and keep the money in our town," Wilson said. "I like Wal-Mart. It's a fine store to shop at. The prices are good, the people are friendly, and I get tired of driving all the way to Reading to go shopping."

Wal-Mart also survived a suit by Warminster resident Tim McKevitt, who challenged the Zoning Board's approval of the project. A judge dismissed the suit, and McKevitt later dropped the appeal of the judge's decision, citing

financial problems. McKevitt's union paid for the expenses, contending that the Wal-Mart would threaten local jobs and businesses.

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