By Gretchen Metz , Staff Writer
February 10, 2003
Wal-Mart is not yet one
of Chester Countys largest employers, but it is moving in that direction.
Over the last nine
months, Wal-Mart has opened a store, a supercenter and a Sams Club that
together employ more than 800 people in the county.
Another store in East Marlborough is under construction and is expected to be
completed this summer. A fourth location is still before Lower Oxford
While school officials in Chester County welcome tax revenue from Wal-Mart
properties, the pride of Bentonville, Ark., still hasnt won over all
"Theyre a big help to the area. Were basically farmland with no industry. The
store is a help to our tax base," said Marge Miller, in the accounting office at
Octorara Area School District. The district got a new Wal-Mart supercenter in
West Sadsbury Commons at routes 10 and 30 in May.
The tax parcel where the Wal-Mart store is located is billed $234,000 annually
and accounts for 1.5 percent of the districts $15.6 million in annual tax
revenues, Miller said.
West Sadsbury officials said West Sadsbury Commons, where Wal-Mart is an anchor
and employs 400 people, pays $10,114 in annual municipal taxes.
The West Chester Area School District collects $157,000 for the 22-acre Wal-Mart
and Sams Club property at Main Street at Exton, said Florence Miller, school
Wal-Mart at Main Street at Exton employs approximately 270 workers, and the
neighboring Sams Club has another 170 workers. Both stores opened in the
"Theyre a windfall for the school districts," said Steve Ross, West Whiteland
manager, adding that stores dont generate more children like residential
developments. But "theyre of minimum value for us. We provide greater service
than what we receive in taxes -- police, ambulance, fire."
The Wal-Mart and Sams Club in Main Street at Exton pay $1,523.70 annually to
West Whiteland on the property assessed at $2.5 million.
Ross would like state lawmakers to give municipalities the right to pass an
impact tax on retail and commercial properties because they generate costs to
"Our numbers are way off the charts," Ross said. "Our police respond to parking
lot accidents, false alarms, shoplifting."
People drive through Exton and assume the township is making a lot of tax money
from retailers, Ross said, but that is not the case.
What really irks Ross is the $197 million in Wal-Mart sales tax revenues that go
to the state.
"We dont get any of it," Ross said. "Its not fair."
The hotly contested Wal-Mart on Route 1 and Schoolhouse Road in East Marlborough
is being built. Township Manager Jane Laslo expects the 135,000-square-foot
store to be open by late summer.
Township supervisors and some local residents fought off the nations largest
retailer for 10 years. Now that its going up, Laslo said several township
residents have told her they wanted it all along.
But there are still opponents.
David Yeats-Thomas, of West Marlborough, is not impressed that Wal-Mart will be
paying into the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District coffers.
He opposed it when he was the editor of the Kennett Paper, and he still thinks
its a bad idea.
"It will bring more development, more traffic," Thomas said. "Its unbearable to
get through the Longwood part of Route 1 during the busy part of the day. With
Wal-Mart, it will be impossible."
Thomas is convinced Wal-Mart will also add to sprawl as well as take business
from shops in Kennett Square.
As for the township residents who told Laslo they are anxious for the Wal-Mart
open, Thomas said they are probably new people who moved to the township.
Thomas has no plans to shop at the Wal-Mart when it opens later this year.
"Im not impressed," Thomas said about he visit to Wal-Mart when he was a
newspaper editor. "I dont know what the excitement is all about."
Nancy Mohr, of East Marlborough, raised $135,000 for traffic and environmental
studies to fight off the Wal-Mart when she was a member of the Citizens for
"Over the course of 39 hearings, I knitted all but one sleeve of one very large
sweater," Mohr said.
Mohr said her concerns were the economic, safety, environmental and open space
damage Wal-Mart would do that would outweigh any revenue advantage.
Like Thomas, Mohr does not expect she will be shopping at the Wal-Mart.
"Ill pay a few cents more to support local entrepreneurs," Mohr said.
Wal-Marts plans to build a superstore in Lower Oxford is still before
supervisors. That plan has been delayed by sewer hook-up issues.
Wal-Marts first Pennsylvania store opened 13 years ago in York. It now is the
largest employer in the state with 39,000 workers, beating out the City of
Philadelphia and the Philadelphia School District.
According to Wal-Mart figures, the retailer paid $48.3 million in Pennsylvania
and local taxes in 2002 and remitted $197 million in sales taxes from its 49
stores, 35 supercenters and 19 Sams Clubs in Pennsylvania.
In 2002, Wal-Mart planned to build 200 stores nationwide to add to its 1,603
stores, 1,179 supercenters and 517 Sams Clubs. The company employs more than 1
million associates in the United States.
Reports from the Norristown Times Herald contributed to this story.