WERD not Deterred!

Despite the Town of Wawarsing’s dismissal, at this time, of the suggested moratorium which would have allowed time for the Town to do impact studies and strengthen zoning laws to protect Wawarsing against the adverse effects of “big box” developments, WERD (Wawarsing-Ellenville for Responsible Development) is moving ahead with a campaign to educate the public about the impact a Wal-Mart supercenter could have on local businesses, potential employees, and the region, while continuing to advocate for the moratorium and other protective measures.

“We’re certainly not giving up,” said Steve Krulick, the group’s facilitator. “The Town Board didn’t get it. The pro-Wal-Mart people at the last meeting weren’t addressing the moratorium at all,” he continued, “which is a more comprehensive measure than merely dealing with one store.”

The group, which has doubled in size from its original members, continues to gather support as they held another meeting January 25th. Among the new participants:

Tom Gale, a town representative to the Shawangunk Scenic Byway coalition, spoke of the detracting effect a Wal-Mart store would have on the corridor’s appearance and a visitor’s overall experience. “We chose not to extend the corridor further south because of the Kohl’s warehouse on Rte. 209 and the threat of the mushroom plant, which would further spoil the view,” he said at Thursday night’s meeting. Ken Hassett, a representative of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union (one of two unions representing employees at ShopRite), brings with him experience in the ongoing battles with Wal-Mart throughout the state. David Porter, the co-author of Megamall on the Hudson: Planning, Wal-Mart, and Grassroots Resistance was a key figure in stopping the proposed Wal-Mart project in New Paltz, and will be available to offer his expertise.

Ready to actively engage the community, WERD has set dates in February to offer a free screening of the film Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices at the Ellenville Public Library’s Community Room. The film is a documentary that shows the impact Wal-Mart stores have on local economies, communities, and individuals in towns throughout America. A brief question-and-answer session will follow. The film will be shown Wednesday, Feb.7th and Friday, Feb.23rd from 7 - 9 p.m. with refreshments offered.

An informational panel, with representatives from labor, environmental, business, and community groups has also been planned for early March.
WERD plans to continue putting pressure on the Town Board to adopt the moratorium by initiating a petition drive. The petition asks the Town to, “fully study the possible impacts of new, large-scale developments to our economy, community, and environment, so that appropriate protections for the Town be added to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code.” As the group’s website (www.w-e-r-d.org) states: “W-E-R-D has been established to address concerns over locating any “big box” retail stores within the Town of Wawarsing. Although there are clear needs for enhanced shopping opportunities within our community, we support locally-owned, appropriately-scaled retailers as being in the best overall interest of the long-term economic and social health of our Village and Town.” They will continue with the intention of educating the community and focusing on alternatives to “big box” development in Wawarsing.

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