NORTH ATTLEBORO - Wal-Mart withdrew its application for a major expansion Tuesday, saying it would reapply later, after developers were lambasted by the conservation commission for failing to do their homework.
Conservation commission members barraged the applicant with concerns - including problems with the store's original construction, when a rare slope collapsed and workers ruptured a gas pipeline that forced the evacuation of Route 1 and surrounding neighborhoods, including Emerald Square mall.
With a parking lot that already floods during rain storms and problems with trash in neighboring wetlands, conservation commission members said Wal-Mart has not been cooperative in the past.
"Wal-Mart's out there in the public eye saying it's going green. It's not going green with us," commission Chairwoman Marie Clarner said.
She brought up several concerns about delicate soils on the property.
"I'm not trying to give you a hard time, but you needed to find out what you're stepping into before you came in. The soils are very difficult to work with there and the rear slope collapsed during construction," Clarner said. "They had people in wet boots with buckets trying to clean up the wetlands when that happened. It was a disaster."
Wal-Mart is seeking to add a 66,279-square-foot addition for a grocery store to its existing building on Route 1.
Because the project is on the North Attleboro and Attleboro line, hearings are required in both communities.
Carpionato Properties owns the land where Wal-Mart sets in North Attleboro Marketplace.
The conservation commission is involved in permitting because the construction would occur within a 100-foot buffer zone that surrounds wetlands. The wetlands themselves would not be disturbed.
In addition to the concerns raised about construction, the conservation commission said the proper paperwork had not been filed.
The application filed was a Request for Determination of Applicability, which is typically used for small projects. For larger projects, a Notice of Intent is normally filed, which requires more detailed analysis and requires input from wetlands scientists and engineers
Clarner hoisted a 4-inch thick stack of paperwork from the Notice of Intent that was filed when Wal-Mart was first constructed, and said that process should be used again.
"How much investigating did you do into the notice of intent that was originally filed? Were you aware there were enforcement actions taken and the project was shut down for a long time? Were you aware that we have had at least three store managers in here because of the way the site has been kept?" Clarner demanded.
The engineer and wetlands scientist said they were not aware of the issues raised.
Commission member Mark Roberts pointed out that many of the issues could have been hashed out if Wal-Mart had come before the board for a workshop session prior to the hearing.
"Wal-Mart knows we have the workshop process. It's a chance for us to give input on what went good and what went bad on the original project," he said.
Faced with the questions, John Kokot of Carpionato Properties asked the board to withdraw the application without prejudice. He said a new application, filed as a Notice of Intent will be submitted, but not until after a workshop session with the conservation commission.
AMY DeMELIA can be reached at 508-236-0334 or at email@example.com.