Fishkill Ridge
Community Heritage

Wal-Mart/Sam's Club Spells Desruction


 Dark CloudsThe Jersey Journal,
December 27, 2004

Sam's Club Store Needs Variance For Gas Station On Preserved Land
Patricia Churpakovich

An application by Sam's Club in Secaucus to build a gas station has been the cause of some disruption in the area recently.

The issue came to a head at a recent New Jersey Meadowlands Commission meeting, which pushed a vote off until Jan. 27, its next regular session.

"The Wal-Mart and Sam's Club in Secaucus has applied to the NJMC to build a gas station on their site," said Christopher Gale, public information officer for the NJMC. "This would not conform to existing zoning for the area, and Wal-Mart has therefore requested a variance, or alternatively an official interpretation of the regulations that would allow a gas station," he said. After the NJMC had stated its opposition, lawyers for Sam's Club requested that the Board of Commissioners pull the item from the Dec. 15 meeting agenda.

Capt. Bill Sheehan, of the Hackensack Riverkeeper, said he showed up at the meeting to oppose the application.

"I felt obligated to go on record that the Hackensack Riverkeeper will be opposing it. We'll be throwing the full weight of our organization behind it," Sheehan said.

Sheehan's concerns about the gas station center on the adjacent Eastern Brackish Marsh, a preserved wetland.

"Putting gas tanks underground would be looking for trouble," he said. "Sooner or later they would spring a leak. That leak might get through the porous materials and further pollute the Eastern Brackish Marsh."

But Sheehan apparently wasn't the only one upset by the topic at the meeting. According to Sheehan, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell "threw a fit and walked out in a huff when I started talking about it."

Elwell said there are several other gas stations that have been permitted in the vicinity over the past five years and that they drain their groundwater and surface water into the Mill Creek Basin. Elwell also said that modern gas stations have been enhanced so that communities no longer have to worry about leaks.

Sheehan also expressed concerns that the proposed gas station would violate the new Master Plan adopted by members of the region.

"The Wal-Mart corporation has come very late to the table," Sheehan said. "Wal-Mart, they're new neighbors here and they're not being very neighborly by trying to undo the success we've achieved."

Mia Masten, community affairs manager with Sam's Club and Wal-Mart, said that the environmental concerns had been addressed by the company.

"We've looked at all aspects from an environmental standpoint, from a traffic standpoint, and we've addressed all of those concerns."

She added that there are checks and balances built into the gas station's system that would prevent any detrimental impact to the environment. Those include dual level containers and 24-hour monitoring.

"It's in our best interest to have the most state-of-the-art equipment available," Masten said. "We do this around the country so we've got experience with this."

Elwell also said that when Sam's Club and Wal-Mart moved in, they donated $1,000 each to at least 10 local volunteer services in the community and that the more successful the stores become, the more donations might increase.

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