Friday, May 19, 2006

The littlest Supercenter ever

While the Sentinel and Enterprise was examining the issues surrounding the Wal-Mart Supercenter proposed for Lancaster, the Telegram and Gazette was bumbling around the same story. Can you find the problems with this excerpt from Karen Nugent's article Thursday?
The plan is for a 200,000-square-foot Super Wal-Mart, meaning a full-scale grocery store and garden center would be included along with the department store. It would be situated at the current Lancaster Golf Center, off Old Union Turnpike Road, just south of Route 2 near the Leominster line.

Mr. Dunn, who is the chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Wal-Mart plans to build the store on the golf center's parking lot, and leave three lots along Old Union Turnpike open for restaurants -- Olive Garden was mentioned -- and coffee shops.

"It's a very clever plan," he said.

A plan for a Wal-Mart in Leominster, not far from the proposed Lancaster site, was withdrawn in April 2005 after neighbors vehemently opposed to it filed an appeal with the Leominster Planning Board.

Were the errors easy to spot?

Let's start with the size and site of the Wal-Mart supercenter. Apparently, they are going to try to shoehorn a 200,000 square foot building into the parking lot of the Lancaster Golf Center. That would be quite the engineering feat, since the parking lot appears to be around 45,000 square feet in size, based on aerial photos of the site from Windows Live Local. I suppose they could build it in the style of a Victorian-era department store housed in a four- or five-story building, but I'm guessing the planning board might have issues with that.

Next, check out the suggestion that Olive Garden might be one of the restaurants built as part of the project. In fact, the last restaurant that would be built there is an Olive Garden, since there is already one opening across route 2 in Orchard Hill Park this fall. A builder has been hired, and they've even posted ads looking for a manager of the restaurant. I guess there could be an Olive Garden built on the site. That would be the ultimate affront to Mayor Mazzarella, wouldn't it? Not only did Lancaster steal Wal-Mart from Leominster, they're building their own competing Olive Garden right across the street!

Then there is the assertion that the Wal-Mart was pulled from Leominster because it was appealed to the planning board. If only it had been that easy! The groups fighting against Wal-Mart spent a year and a half in court trying to scuttle the plan after the planning board approved it in the Fall of 2003.

There's little excuse to have the details wrong in an article like this. Checking the facts this story was just a matter spending less than an hour on Google. And even then, I only did it to have a couple of links to back up what I knew to be true. Anyone who has been reading the local papers over the last few years would have known the details of the Olive Garden and the fight against Wal-Mart, and a drive by the Lancaster Golf Center at any time in the last decade would be enough to know that you couldn't put a Wal-Mart in the parking lot.

Selectman Dunn described it as "a very clever plan." Opening a five-story Wal-Mart and a competing Olive Garden is a very clever plan, indeed!

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