McCandless Residents Take Walmart Fight to Court

Sep 2, 2014

A group of McCandless residents are hoping to prevent a Walmart Super Center from opening near McKnight Road.
Credit Flickr user el Neato

Exactly one month after McCandless Town Council approved a plan to construct a 150,000 square foot Walmart Super Center off McKnight Road, a group of 15 residents has filed an appeal to that decision with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

The appeal, filed Thursday, seeks to overturn the development’s approval on the grounds that the public was not able to review the plan before Town Council took a vote, according to attorney Dwight Ferguson.

“Once we get all of the application, we’ll submit that to review by engineering experts and they will produce a report which will inform as to whether, and to what extent, the plan did or did not comply to township standards,” Ferguson said.

Officials with the Town of McCandless declined to comment on this story, but Ferguson said that the town pointed to an ordinance requiring council to take a vote within a certain period of time after the plan was complete. Town solicitor William Reis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in July that the 120-day window was closing less than a week after the vote took place.

“McCandless takes the position that under those statutory deadlines for deciding the case, that they were up against it, and unless Walmart agreed to extend the time to give my clients at least a voice in the process, that their hands were bound,” Ferguson sad.

Ferguson called that characterization “inaccurate” and said Walmart was still modifying the application two days before the July 28 council meeting at which the plan was approved.

He said when citizens filed Right to Know requests in attempt to view the plan before approval, they were told by the town that it would take 30 days to get the documents together, which would have been after the July 28 vote.

“With some frustration, both legal counsel as well as the neighbors pleaded with the town of McCandless … to give them some time to at least see the application, and that request was denied,” Ferguson said.

According to Walmart spokesperson William C. Wertz, the company followed all town guidelines, rules, and regulations in seeking approval of the project.

“It’s unfortunate that a small number of project opponents are continuing to try to block a new store that will bring affordable shopping options to customers, generate jobs and tax revenue and benefit the community as a whole,” Wertz said.

But Ferguson said the assertion that Walmart followed town zoning guidelines is false, as the area in which the Walmart Super Center is to be located is zoned as mixed commercial and residential, to provide a buffer between McKnight Road businesses and adjacent neighborhoods.

“Of course this Walmart doesn’t have anything which bears any resemblance to a residential component, and it would be hard to imagine a more intense commercial development than this Walmart,” Ferguson said.