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Residents oppose plan for Wal-Mart in Wilkins

| Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012,

Wal-Mart's plan to build a store in Wilkins' biggest commercial center is being met with opposition by some township residents.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. wants to build a 124,715-square-foot supercenter, which would include a grocery store, in the Penn Center East development off William Penn Highway, according to an application it submitted to the state Department of Transportation regarding a traffic impact study.

Citing concerns about the potential increase in traffic and crime on and near William Penn Highway, and a decrease in residential property values, some Wilkins residents criticized Wal-Mart's plan during the public comment portion of a board of commissioners' meeting Monday night. Eleven of about 40 residents in attendance spoke against the retailer's plan.

“We have a wonderful community here. Don't mess it up, please,” Thelma Landay, 83, told the board. She and several other residents said they were compiling petitions against Wal-Mart.

Neither Penn Center East nor Wal-Mart representatives returned calls for comment.

The Wal-Mart store would replace a 178,986-square-foot Sears store that would be demolished in Penn Center East, according to the PennDOT document.

Wal-Mart, which has signed a lease with Penn Center East, would open in late 2014, Wilkins Manager Rebecca Bradley said.

The retailer has not submitted any plans to the township for approvals, but it likely will do so in November, she said.

A Robinson-based civil engineering firm, Trans Associates, is conducting a traffic study for Wal-Mart to determine whether road improvements, such as traffic signals at Hawthorne Drive and William Penn Highway, or Business Route 22, would be warranted, Bradley said.

The retailer estimates that there are 1,964 vehicle trips to and from Sears daily, and that a Wal-Mart Supercenter would generate 6,626 trips, an increase of 4,662 trips daily, according to an updated PennDOT document that Trans Associates provided to Wilkins on Oct. 2.

The Sears store will close in mid-January, said Kimberly Freely, spokeswoman for Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears Holdings Corp.

On Monday, Sears corrected information it previously had released about the number of employees at the Wilkins store and the amount of time the store had been in Penn Center East. The store has 135 employees and has been in the center since 1966, Freely said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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