The threatened northern pine snake can breathe a little easier. Wal-Mart has decided not to build a superstore on Route 37 in Toms River after more than a decade of planning.

“After the consideration of several business factors, we have made the difficult decision not to move forward with building another Wal-Mart store in Toms River,” said Phillip Keene, the company’s director of corporate communications, Northeast/Southeast/Mid-Atlantic Divisions.

The state Department of Environmental Protection had approved the project’s Coastal Area Facility Review Act permit. And the New Jersey Sierra Club lost in its fight against the proposed 228,000-square-foot store in court. The group was against the project because it believed it would disturb the threatened northern pine snake as well as wetlands on the property.

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The snake is not venomous, is harmless to people and is a beneficial predator, the DEP has said.

Wal-Mart withdrawing its proposal for a superstore in Toms River is good news for the environment and the Pinelands, said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

“This proposal would have built a huge Wal-Mart (in an) area that is environmentally sensitive with endangered species. We felt this proposal was big for this site and clearly wasn’t needed given the existing Wal-Mart store and all the other stores in the area,” Tittel said in a written statement.

The company operates more than 70 Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs in New Jersey.

“We invested millions in the state in 2016 by remodeling seven stores, including our existing store in Toms River, Keene said.

Elsewhere in South Jersey, there is a Wal-Mart SuperCenter under construction at the Black Horse Pike and Fire Road in Egg Harbor Township that will take up almost 190,000 square feet of a shopping center to be called Oak Tree Plaza. The plan is to have the store open by this summer.

The project in Egg Harbor Township was not stopped by a lawsuit filed by Village Supermarkets Inc., back in 2011.

The Springfield, Union County-based company owns 27 ShopRite grocery stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including one in the English Creek Shopping Center four miles west of the coming Wal-Mart as well as a ShopRite in Somers Point, which is about five miles away.

A new Wal-Mart opened in July on Route 9 in Little Egg Harbor Township. It employs 300 full- and part-time workers and is bigger than three full-size football fields without the end zones.

“Over the next year, we will continue our store growth and improve our existing stores with our plan to remodel 12 locations across the state,” Keene said.

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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