Top Court Won’t Stop Walmart

Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka

Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka

LINDEN — The state Supreme Court refused to hear objections to the city’s approval of development plans but one observer says taxpayers should oppose an invasion of big box retail stores at the vacant former General Motors site.

Mayor Richard Gerbounka said the New Jersey Supreme Court’s refusal to hear ShopRite’s appeal of an appellate decision regarding concerning the site plan approval for a Super Walmart removes the latest obstacle standing in the way of development on the property.

Rockaway ShopRite Associates Inc., owner of a store on the northbound side Routes 1&9 in Linden directly across from the former GM property, claimed there were flaws in the rezoning process.

ShopRite asserted that the planning board failed to give the public adequate notice of the zoning change and that the city didn’t ask the developer for open space or other public benefits, as state law encourages municipalities to do.

Gerbounka said construction has been halted by “frivolous lawsuits” filed by the ShopRite owner.

“My argument is that ShopRite doesn’t want competition,” said Gerbounka. “That’s what made this country so great, competition. What do they have to be afraid of, if their product is so great?”

“Mayor Gerbounka’s claims seem based on outmoded thinking,” said James J. Devine, a Democratic strategist. “Walmart helped wipe out America’s economic power by undermining manufacturing and exploiting workers.”

“For the record, Walmart does not practice ‘competition’ in any practical sense,” said Devine. “The giant corporation’s engulf and devour method of operation puts smaller companies out of business, drives up welfare costs for underpaid employees, and makes unreasonable demands on government for corporate subsidies to benefit America’s most aggressively anti-union company.”

Indiana-based Duke Realty, bought the site in late 2007 intending to build a 40,000-square-foot retail center anchored by a big box stores, which Gerbounka believes would bring the city about $5.2 million in annual tax revenue.

Devine said millions in tax revenue would not pay for the damage a community-killing company like SuperWalmart can have.

ShopRite’s attorney, Ron Gasiorowski, said the court ruling puts matters back at “square one” — which means it could be an issue if Gerbounka seeks re-election in the year ahead.

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