UPPER DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP - Walmart wants to expand its Route 77 store with a garden center and full-service grocery, but it requires several waivers and variances before that can happen.

In particular, an existing requirement that no more than 10 percent of the store be used to sell food needs to be revisited. A Walmart spokeswoman said this week that the retailer will begin presenting its case to the Upper Deerfield Township Planning Board in January.

The application is already drawing opposition from the United Food and Commercial Workers union, whose members work at the Acme and ShopRite supermarkets, each located about a mile from the Walmart. Also nearby is an Aldi supermarket that opened this year.

The Walmart opened in 2006. Plans indicate another 46,448 square feet would be added to the store, increasing it to 195,383 square feet and expanding it toward Love Lane.

While the existing store sells some basic food staples, such as bread, a larger grocery would allow for produce, dairy and meats. About 85 new employees would be hired, Walmart spokeswoman Jennifer Hoehn said.

The world's largest retailer has been incorporating food centers into its stores - seen as sure-fire sales in a poor economy in which everyone still needs to eat. Groceries was one of Walmart's better-performing departments during the third quarter.

But Hoehn said expanding a store requires careful planning.

"With all real estate decisions, we take everything into consideration," she said. "It is a process which encompasses everything from potential traffic issues to site conditions."

Gerald Chudoff, a representative of UFCW Local 152 in Hammonton, said a revamped Walmart may create jobs, but they will not be "high-quality paying."

Walmart said that in New Jersey in November, the average hourly wage for full-time associates was $11.93.

But Chudoff said new employees do not necessarily get paid that much.

A Walmart Supercenter opened Oct. 7 in Lacey Township. The company is looking to expand its store in Hamilton Township, Atlantic County, to provide space for groceries.

Contact Erik Ortiz:

609-272-7253

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