TOMS RIVER – The sign promising a new Walmart on Route 37 near the Manchester border has faded with years of sun and graffiti. And now, the retail giant confirmed March 8 that long-stalled plans to build at the 21-acre site are officially abandoned.
Walmart officials said in an emailed statement that “after consideration of several business factors, we have made the difficult decision not to move forward with building another Walmart store in Toms River.”
In 2016 the existing Walmart on Route 37 west was remodeled, and a corporate
spokesperson confirmed the company is focusing on new in-store and online options, remodels and associate training across its .
But for more than a decade Jaylin Holdings had plans to build an approximate 200,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter on the border between the towns, on the eastbound side of Route 37.
From when the project was first heard in 2004, environmentalists from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and New Jersey Sierra Club were among those in opposition, pointing to what they said was environmentally sensitive land that is pineland snake habitat.
Opposition also came from Perlmutter Shoprite, while others favored the idea of a new, larger supermarket such as Walmart and the ratables it could bring.
Still, over more than a decade, the plans snaked through several layers of government approvals and court proceedings. An issue with how the parking lot versus the store would meet land use laws for the two towns, and how taxes would be assessed as a ratable, was another concern, as were approvals needed by the state Department of Environmental Protection which were denied twice.
The fight made it to the state Supreme Court, ruling on whether Manchester properly gave approvals to the plan. The township had to amend its zoning laws as a result in 2014.
Jaylin Holdings, the name of the developer formed by Jay and Linda Grunin, original proposed a main store of 203,091 square feet, with a 19,884 square-foot garden center and 1,049 parking spaces. In 2010, the plan was scaled down to 189,797 square feet of retail space, a 5,703 square-foot garden center and 833 parking spaces.
While calling it a difficult decision to stop pursuing plans, Walmart gave a nod to Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher and others, giving appreciation to those who helped “work through the development process.”
Phillip Keene, Walmart’s director of corporate communications for its Northeast/Southeast/Mid-Atlantic Divisions, said that no plan to build a new store does not mean the company sees less potential for growth in New Jersey. Two new stores in New Jersey opened in 2016, with one coming to Little Egg Harbor on Route 9. There are more than 70 Walmart’s and Sam’s Clubs in New Jersey.
“Although we no longer plan to build a new store in Toms River, we are committed to continuing our growth and investment in New Jersey,” Keene said. “We invested millions in the state in 2016 by remodeling seven stores, including our existing store in Toms River, opening an associate training academy in Williamstown and adding the Hoboken headquarters of Jet.com to the Walmart family.”
Keene said there are plans to remodel another 12 locations in New Jersey over the next year.
The Sierra Club responded to the news, calling it a win, but saying more work is needed to protect habitat, aquifers, wetlands and Pinelands in that area.
“Walmart withdrawing their proposal for a superstore in Toms River is good news for the environment and the Pinelands. This proposal would have built a huge Walmart superstore in an area that is environmentally sensitive with endangered species. We felt this proposal was too big for this site and clearly wasn’t needed given the existing Walmart store and all the other stores in the area. We are glad to see Walmart pulling out so this environmentally sensitive area can be protected,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.“
After 13 years of fighting against this project, this environmentally destructive project is stopped. Even though we went to Court against the endangered species permit and lost, we kept fighting against the CAFRA permit. This shows that if you keep fighting instead of giving up there is more chance you can win. This is because market conditions can change and the business can pull out like what happened here. Walmart pulling out is a victory for now, but we will have to remain vigilant against future development plans on this site.”