Two counties are locked in a legal battle over a Wal-Mart distribution center four times larger than one of their supercenters. Approval by the Putnam County, Florida, Commissioners of a huge Wal-Mart distribution center is going to lead to a courtroom, not a ribbon-cutting. On January 5th, the County Council in neighboring Volusia County voted to challenge Putnam County’s approval of a 1.l million s.f. distribution center. Last month, the Putnam County Commissioners voted to rezone 235 acres of agricultural land, which had been used as a potato farm near Crescent City, for a distribution center. Volusia officials were infuriated that Putnam officials did not even notify them of the project, since much of the traffic and environmental impacts will be felt in Volusia County, not Putnam. Volusia joined forces with hundreds of Putnam County residents against the plan, but when Putnam County voted to rezone, several weeks later, Volusia’s Council responded by voting unanimously to challenge the case in court. “It’s the wrong place,” Volusia Councilman Dwight Lewis told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “I think they have home rule and autonomy up in Putnam County. But this is not about Putnam County. This is about Volusia County. “I didn’t want to tell them how to do their business, but I had a responsibility to my constituents. The major impact from this will be on Volusia — more so than on Putnam.” Under Florida law, Putnam County, because of its poverty rate, does not have to notify nearby counties about development that impacts the region. Putnam County officials say they did not have to tell Volusia County of their plans. But Volusia county says thousands of trucks will roll over their roads, and that 80% of the traffic will come through Volusia. The distribution center was approved by Putnam officials after a 10 hour debate in Crescent City. Just as Volusia voted unanimously to appeal the decision, Putnam County voted 5-0 to OK it. Before the vote, Volusia sent Putnam County a letter asking that Putnam either delay or deny the rezoning because it would not fit with the rural nature of nearby northwest Volusia. The letter charged that Putnam did not do the proper traffic and environmental studies. More than 250 people attended the Putnam County hearings for the project, and a lawsuit from a local homeowner’s association is a possibility in addition to the Volusia suit.
Volusia’s suit seeks to enter into a conflict resolution process with their neighboring county. But if Volusia is correct that this site is the wrong place, there is not much give that Putnam County officials are likely to make. For more stories about some of the battles and public subsidies surrounding Wal-Mart distribution centers, search Newsflash by “distribution center.” Search by “Crescent City” for an earlier story about this debate.