According to the Orlando (FL) Sentinel, Wal-Mart has filed a lawsuit challenging a decision in June by the Volusia County Council to reject plans for a new supercenter in Deland, Florida. Wal-Mart claims that the county had no right to turn down their supercenter on land that is zoned for commercial development. “It’s zoned for a Wal-Mart,” said Doug Daniels, an attorney for Wal-Mart. The council turned down Wal-Mart’s plans and its request to relocate four giant oak trees after environmentalists and residents packed the council chambers in DeLand. According to the Sentinel, opponents said a Wal-Mart supercenter had no place on land that featured live oaks, 10 acres of wetlands and canals thought to have been dug by settlers of the 18th-century Turnbull colony. “It really is going to look like no other Wal-Mart,” Wal-Mart’s lawyer said. “It’s going to be beautiful.” The attorney said it’s rare for Wal-Mart to sue local governments that turn down the company’s plans, but apparently Mr. Daniels has not read the sprawl-busters website. The Sentinel also mentioned the case of a developer who filed a lawsuit in Seminole County court in 2000 after the County Commission turned down plans for a Wal-Mart supercenter. The appeal was ultimately settled, with the developer building a mix of apartments and other commercial developments instead of a Wal-Mart.
Contrary to the statement made by Wal-Mart’s zealous lawyer, there is no such thing as “land zoned for a Wal-Mart.” These big box stores have been rejected, even on land zoned commercially, because of other objectionable features: anything from insurmountable traffic problems, to storm water run off, to negative impacts on surrounding properties. There is no automatic approval of a parcel for a Wal-Mart just because its commercial dirt.