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Lancaster grants Wal-Mart two-year delay

It could be some time before a Wal-Mart goes up in Lancaster.

Wal-Mart was scheduled to start building a new retail center by Feb. 10 on vacant property at the northeast corner of William Street and Transit Road. But ongoing opposition from Citizens Against Retail Sprawl has led the company to request a construction delay.

The Lancaster Town Board on Tuesday gave Wal-Mart two more years to develop the retail site.

The citizens group -- CARS -- initiated a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2004, challenging the fill-in of 7.5 acres of wetlands that would be required for Wal-Mart to build. The suit currently sits before U.S. District Judge John V. Elfvin.

The Town Board resolution approved Tuesday stated that Wal-Mart Stores East LP wants more time to address the lawsuit and finalize its building permit application.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart could not be reached to comment.

But CARS Vice President Lee Chowaniec said he hopes the lawsuit will permanently block the roughly 300,000-square-foot development, which would include Wal-Mart and other retailers.

"I know for certain that the lawsuit is still viable," he said. "The project was too large for the land available and had too many significant impacts."

The two-year extension by the board represents the second time it has granted Wal-Mart or related developers more time. The original site plan was approved in February 2003, then extended for another two years in February 2005.

Lancaster Town Supervisor Robert Giza said that while the town gave Wal-Mart two more years to build, he believes the retail giant will break ground soon, possibly this spring.

"I'm told they're just about ready to go," he said. "I know they're serious about building there."

Delays in Wal-Mart construction at the Lancaster location date to 1999, when Bella Vista Group, based in Bowmansville, tried to develop the property but faced numerous legal challenges. Bella Vista then sold a large chunk of the parcel to Wal-Mart Stores East last year.

However, the sale did not prevent an ongoing legal challenge against the Corps of Engineers from going forward.

"We have the right to say we don't want this in our backyard," said Chowaniec, who lives near the proposed development. "It's not against Wal-Mart. I don't want any big box in our backyard."

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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