Public feelings have been mixed toward building a Super Wal-Mart in the business-office district of the Township of Spring.
For more than a year, township officials have been challenging the conditional-use request by Wal-Mart Inc. to build a 210,000 square-foot super store with 10 other proposed buildings in the 104-acre complex at State Hill and Broadcasting Road.
The smaller facility on Berkshire Boulevard in Wyomissing would reportedly close if the new department store opens as planned.
Aside from the board of supervisors, a citizens group called STOPP (Spring Township Organized for Proper Planning) lead by Virginia Chudgar has opposed the new Wal-Mart store because of the most burning concern of potential traffic problems, possible crime increases on or near the site and the detrimental effect to similar chain stores already in the area.
Recently, a member of the legal team representing STOPP, Attorney William J. Kluck of Harrisburg offered an update of the proceedings involving Wal-Mart International.
He has been part of the cross examination team at the hearings for the concerned Twp. of Spring citizens.
"There are two separate legal proceedings under consideration presently," Kluck said, "The traffic impact study has been ongoing for over a year, but the latest hearing scheduled for Oct. 26 was postponed and has been tentatively re-scheduled for Dec.19."
He added the recent postponement was caused by a petition filed by Wal-Mart in the Berks Court of Common Pleas that accuses the Twp. of Spring Supervisors of not being impartial during the hearing process.
"By the way, this is a very serious charge," admitted Kluck. "Judge Lash is expected to render a decision following an evidentiary hearing on Dec. 13."
Regardless of the outcome, the cross examination will continue to its conclusion, he promised.
The other legal question involves the criminal activity potentially attracted by the existence of the mega-store.
"Additionally, on Oct. 24, the court ruled the crime data was relevant to the decision making process, but the figures can only be entered from counties contiguous (bordering) to Berks County during the township hearings," added Kluck.
Currently, lawyers representing both sides are waiting for the transcripts from last month's court session, he said.
Also, there is another Wal-Mart proposed for Lower Heidelberg Township but the stores representative have postponed making their application to the supervisors for the past four months, Kluck said. "The word is they are waiting to see how the situation plays out in Spring."
Senior Manager of Public Affairs for the Wal-Mart Corporation presented a formal statement via e-mail:
"We remain hopeful Wal-Mart will become a part of the Township of Spring and look forward to being a good neighbor. The proposed Supercenter will bring road improvements, tax revenue, convenience and cost savings to the Township, plus the benefits of Wal-Mart's commitment to give back to the local community. We hope the residents in the Township of Spring understand that we proposed the Supercenter at this site because it is zoned for retail use and because it will help us better serve them."