That question has been on the minds of many Hamburg area residents.

By: Dan Roman

Is a Wal-Mart coming to town?

That question has been on the minds of many Hamburg area residents.

Some welcome the prospect of one of the giant retail chains coming into their neighborhood.

"That's a good thing for me," said Candace Chimics of Hamburg.

Her husband Heath agreed.

"That would be awesome, because the nearest Wal-Mart is in Reading," he said. "That would be the best thing that could happen to Hamburg."

Another resident who agrees with them is Bob Hummell, also of Hamburg.

"I think it's wonderful," he said. "There's nothing in town that compares to it."

Others worry that a super-retailer like Wal-Mart would destroy the town's already struggling small business community.

"I think it would have a devastating impact," said Deena Kershner, program manager for Our Town Foundation. "It would destroy the mom and pop stores and statistics show that."

Kershner has been raising a red flag ever since she, like many others, heard the rumored plans for a Wal-Mart.

"I advise all small business owners to contact Tilden Township (the site of the rumored store) officials and protest," she said.

Heath Chimics, however, said the impact won't effect small specialty stores, such as Blue Mountain Herbals, one of his favorites.

Arguments such as these are common between supporters and opponents of the large retail chains.

Often, mere mention of the retailer's name is enough to incite passionate praise or angry denunciation from supporters and opponents.

Supporters often cite Wal-Mart's low prices and one-stop shopping convenience, while opponents rattle off a range of negatives including low wages for its workers to the squeeze it places on local businesses.

But are such expectations, whether good or ill, premature?

The buzz around town began after land developers met with members of the Tilden Township Planning Commission on March 15.

It was then that Ironwood Properties, Conshohocken, Bucks County, pitched a proposal to rezone a tract of land for commercial use, according to Township Secretary Cheryl Haus.

Since then, all parties involved have been tight-lipped about the progress of that proposal.

The property under consideration lies parallel to Route 61 between Cabela's Drive and Lowland Road.

Two Ironwood associates, Jeremy Fogel and Eric Knopping, said they want the land rezoned to build a facility large enough to house a retailer such as Wal-Mart or Target and a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe's, Haus said.

However, when contacted, Knopping declined to comment any further on the project.

The current owners of the land formed a partnership called Mt. View Partnership to handle any future sale of the 21-plus acres of land.

Their spokesman, Paul Kilar, could not be reached for comment.

However, Beth Ann Correll, one of the owners of the land, said the parcel is "under agreement," but refused to comment any further.

At the March meeting, Knopping and Fogel said they would like to purchase the land, but in order to attract the big box retailers they needed the property rezoned for commercial use, Haus said.

Supervisors Chairman Russell Werley and Planning Commission Chairman Dale Keener could not be reached for comment.

Haus said the issue was not addressed during the April planning commission meeting.

The commission's next meeting is on May 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Contact Dan Roman at djroman@berksmontnews.com.

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