"Just the tax revenue alone is fantastic for East Brunswick and it brings others into the neighborhood to shop," said Lisa M. "Also, the revenue from the traffic camera won't hurt either. On top of everything else, lets think about the employment opportunities. Nobody is being forced to shop there, but their prices make it affordable for the average family to buy necessities. Princeton has a Walmart, and if its good enough for Princeton, well then it's good enough for E. Brunswick!"
The Planning Board approved plans to build a 151,507-square-foot Walmart on the Golden Triangle site in April, and while many people are angry over the decision, it is a safe bet that many others will shop there, including East Brunswick residents.
More than half of the 420 votes cast in the poll (51 percent, or 216 votes) indicated that readers would shop at the Walmart once it was built. The poll also saw 155 people say they wouldn’t “be caught dead” in the store, and 49 people said here is a variety of other places in East Brunswick where they can get similar products at similar prices.
Readers indicated in several stories on the new Walmart that they would consider moving because of the store’s arrival, saying that the retailer would destroy other businesses along Route 18, create traffic hazards, attract undesirable shoppers and ruin the reputation of East Brunswick. Others said that with the Walmart, higher end retail stores such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Wegmans would not consider moving to East Brunswick.
“When we moved to East Brunswick almost 39 years ago, this town was a source of pride for our family; now, it has been reduced to a source of embarrassment. The quality of stores, the empty malls, the downgrade of major businesses is pathetic. I feel sorry for the local store owner who has tried to remain in business, in spite of its low quality competition,” said Susan Jones.
Patch Reader Christopher K agreed, and said much of that has to do with the current state of the economy. He also said that, considering the demographics of surrounding towns, attracting high-end retailers might be difficult for the township.
“It's definitely feeling a lot more run down these days, though I'd chalk much of it up to the bad economy than something unique to East Brunswick. I still think East Brunswick has a lot of great qualities, or I wouldn't have moved back. East Brunswick seems to be having an identity crisis these days. A real mix of lower income and higher income housing coming online. And as someone earlier said, being bordered by Spotswood, Milltown, North Brunswick and New Brunswick makes it harder for East Brunswick to attract higher end stores and restaurants. That's unfortunate, but probably true. It doesn't mean we have to lower the bar quite as far as it seems to be heading, of course. Hopefully we'll eventually see some leadership that focuses on revitalizing East Brunswick for the longer term. Until then, only support the establishments you really believe are good for the township,” he said.
Patch poster John Romano blamed the development on the township and how it has managed the Golden Triangle property situation.
The plan is part of an agreement between Toll Brothers and the township that will end years of litigation between the two. The property was originally owned by the township and leased to a company that in turn subleased the land. In anticipation of that deal expiring in 2008, the township explored alternative uses for the land and in 2005 reached a deal with Toll Brothers and Jack Morris to purchase the 32-acre property from the township for $30.4 million. However, the developer had the right to terminate the agreement, and the township would have to buy it back, plus 8 percent. The clause came into play years later when the developers backed out and after seven payments totaling $22.5 million, said the township was in default of the contract and demanded East Brunswick buy the parcel back. The township in turn sued and the two sides have been litigating the issue since.
As part of the proposed settlement, there will be no additional payments from Toll Brothers to the township, meaning that the land has been bought for the $22.5 million already paid. In addition, the developer also has the right to sell the property back to the township within three years - but at no interest - if the township does not live up to its end of the bargain, said Mayor David Stahl. However, the township’s responsibilities are largely administrative and ones that can be easily performed, he said. In addition, that part of the deal would be nullified the moment a “shovel hits the ground,” said Mayor Stahl. The agreement also calls for Toll Brothers to drop approximately $600,000 in tax appeals it has filed with the township.
Toll Brothers is allowed to build up to 220,000 square feet of commercial retail space—with no one store being larger than 180,000 square feet—and 200 to 400 housing units. Under the agreement, no more than 10 percent of those units can be three bedroom apartments. Mayor David Stahl has said he expects Toll Brothers to build close to the maximum number of units allowed.
“It seems it was too easy for EB Town and Planning boards to accept the deal which is the ‘Tarnished Tin Plate Triangle,’ " said Romano. "They made an insane land deal to begin with. They had no leverage in the choice of end-user. They had no power to challenge the variances that were ‘requested. They were swatted in the ‘hind quarters,’ with absolutely no recourse but to say, "Thank you sir...may I have another. Heaven forbid the town's leadership put some effort into outlining strict criteria for the development of that site…this deal...top to bottom.... reeks of incompetence and indifference to the best interests of the town. THAT is the direction that the town leaders are steering us...and it makes me seriously wonder if any of them are related to the captain of the Titanic.”
The anger of the new Walmart led some posters to attack people who would one day use it, calling them “nonborn,” “riff raff” and “low lifes.”
“(It’s) a disaster for East Brunswick. What goes on in North Brunswick will be replicated in our town. Say hello to more traffic, low life shoppers, increased need for police presence. And lets say goodbye to the hopes to get a Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or Wegman’s. Perhaps we will also be saying goodbye to ShopRite, Stop n Shop and/or Pathmark,” said poster John Gault.
Others were harsher in their assessment of Walmart shoppers.
“So, this will give me about a year to get pizza stains on most of my shirts, buy a rusty pickup truck with a broken muffler, and grow a mullet,” said East Brunswick Patch poster “Rob.” “Walmarts remind me of those blue bug-zappers that you put in the backyard in the summer. They attract lowest life-forms from all around to descend on one location where they buzz around living and dead creatures in the structure. I avoid the ones in North Brunswick and Piscataway because the shoppers going through there are the types you end up seeing on the Maury Povich show when they're trying to figure out which one of the 17 guys is actually the father. Now I have one in my backyard. Awesome. peopleofwalmart.com now has another location to get some good pics. With any luck, I'll be able to find a disabled Camaro from the 80's from the junkyards on Harts to permanently park on my front lawn to celebrate the occasion.”