On July 16, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that the Leon County, Florida Board of Adjustment and Appeals voted 2-1 to limit the size of a proposed Wal-Mart superstore in Tallahassee to 102,000 s.f. That vote, however, was thrown out, because the board’s attorney said not enough board members supported the motion because several members were absent or abstained. So the BOAA had to take a second vote. Local residents resumed the story this week: “The Wal-Mart Corporation sought to build a 124,000 square-foot SuperCenter to replace a 102,000 square-foot Sam’s Club on the site which it owns in the unincorporated area of Leon County just outside city limits, which Wal-Mart vacated in 2004. Property owners in the Gwynndale Subdivision, Friends of Lake Jackson Board members, and over 400 signers of protest petitions and letters opposed this redevelopment on the grounds that the request did not meet the requirements of Leon County land development regulation related to waiving “grandfathered” non-conforming uses. This was Wal-Mart’s third attempt in three years to have Leon County amend or waive local land use regulations to allow this supercenter. A 223,000 square-foot Wal-Mart SuperCenter is located 6.8 miles away. The land use issue was whether Wal-Mart could demolish the vacated 101,760 square-foot Sam’s Club built in 1987 before the enactment of the Leon County Comprehensive Plan and replace it with a 121,000 square-foot SuperCenter using Leon County’s “Previously Established Land Use Conformity” (PELUC) process. The site is located in Lake Jackson Protection zoning where current zoning (since enactment of the comprehensive plan in 1991) allows only 20,000 square-foot commercial buildings. Opponents asked the Tallahassee-Leon County Board of Adjustment and Appeals (BOAA) to deny Wal-Mart the PELUC certificate or grant it only on condition that the proposed Wal-Mart supercenter be limited to 102,000 square feet. On July 13, 2006, the BOAA voted to award the PELUC certificate with the condition that the footprint of the supercenter not exceed 102,000 square feet. Although opponents sought denial of the PELUC request, they consider the BOAA’s decision a victory. This “site fight” has lead them to form the North Monroe Community Alliance, Inc. to expand grassroots efforts to protect the environment of the Lake Jackson Basin, the small businesses in and around North Monroe Street, and the quality of life for the surrounding residents.” According to the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, the BOAA voted again yesterday to limit the size of a proposed new Wal-Mart to the size of the vacant Sam’s Club. This second vote the means the new store now will be limited to 101,760 square feet. The vote was 4-1 this time. Board members said the bigger stor would add to traffic congestion.. “To me, it’s a public safety issue,” one board member said. Wal-Mart needed to be exempted from Lake Jackson zoning that limits new
commercial buildings to 20,000 square feet. Wal-Mart tried to argue that its larger store would produce less traffic during the afternoon rush-hour than Sam’s and the existing businesses combined. But citizens challenged the traffic numbers Wal-Mart was using.
Wal-Mart now has the choice of appealing the decision in Circuit Court or opening a new store in their old Sam’s Club building. Wal-Mart said they could expand the store by 10%, but the county rejected that idea because of the vote. For local contacts in Tallahassee who down-sized the Wal-Mart, contact [email protected]