Sprawl-Busters has posted stories about the Hernando County, Florida area for at least six years. The area has been flooded with Wal-Mart stores, beyond any reasonable consumer need. But this week, Wal-Mart ran into a Wal of opposition in Brooksville. The Hernando County Commission voted unanimously May 9th to turn down Wal-Mart’s proposal for a 4th supercenter in Hernando on Barclay Avenue. The Commissioners also rejected the recommendation of their Planning and Zoning Commission. “We’re here to analyze things subjectively as well as objectively, ” Commissioner David Russell was quoted as saying by the St. Petersburg Times. “We’re here to make subjective decisions based on the facts we heard today.” The Commissioners ruled that the site plan was too close to nearby residential subdivisions, and only 1,500 feet from a Middle School. Opponents of the project jammed the hearing room, and presented a petition with 2,100 signatures against Wal-Mart. One Commissioner went out of her way to say her decision would have been the same no matte what the logo on the building said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the W-word, ” Commissioner Diane Rowden said. “It has to do with the health, safety and welfare of our residents.” Wal-Mart’s lawyer tried to argue that the Commissioners did not have the legal basis on which to turn down the project. “This is not a debate about whether Wal-Mart is good or bad, ” Wal-Mart’s lawyer said. “This is a discussion about a vested development of regional impact that has zoning in place.” Wal-Mart argued that the county’s comprehensive plan does not apply to the site, because the land was approved as part of a development of regional impact in 1983, two years before the passage of the state law that mandated local comprehensive plans. One opponent of the plan showed a video of students walking along Barclay Avenue, and said the nearly 10,000 new car trips would endanger children and clog her street. “Barclay is like a major highway and the traffic and noise… is deplorable, ” she said. “Can you imagine what it will be like when the road opens to Wal-Mart?” After the meeting, Wal-Mart would not indicate if the retailer will go to court, but opponents are gearing up for that eventuality.
One County Commissioner said she was afraid that if Wal-Mart went to court, and won, the company would then not agree to do any of the road improvement work the Commissioners wanted done on the project. But most of the road improvements needed are only needed to accommodate Wal-Mart’s huge store. Wal-Mart will, no doubt, take this case to court, and spend a year or longer litigating instead of retailing. But this is how Wal-Mart has operated for years. What you can’t get by regulation, get by litigation. Opponents of the project will have to be active in the court case, and may even want to raise money to help defend the county’s decision. But this week, they are celebrating a great victory in Hernando. You can add your voice to the victory by calling 352-754-4000, and leaving word with the Hernando County Commissioners that you applaud their decision to stop the Wal-Mart supercenter proposed on Barclay Avenue. For earlier stories, search Newsflash by Hernando.