Who says community groups have no power? Here’s a short story about how one civic group caused a developer to drop his plans for a Home Depot. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports this week that a developer is having serious thoughts about pulling the plug on a proposed Home Depot, because the plan has not gained the support of a local civic association. The Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations (COBWRA) says that the Home Depot exceeds the guidelines of the West Boynton master plan, which limits commercial space at four corners of an intersection to 300,000 square feet. The Home Depot plus shopping center plan exceeds the master plan limit by 86,000 square feet. The developer, John Kennelly, has apparently decided rather than try to override community opposition, he will change his plans instead of changing the community’s. Kennelly’s lawer told the Sun-Sentinel, “I think Mr. Kennelly is a wise man with lots of experience as a developer. He wants to provide a product that will be acceptable to the community. I would expect him to announce a change of the tenant and a redesign of the project.” COBWRA said they feel there is no need for a regional commercial development in that area. More than 300 residents packed a meeting several weeks ago sponsored by the developer, to hear details on the shopping center, which includes a gas station, bank and car wash. The project was “roundly booed,” according to one COBWRA spokesperson. The group told the developer he could legally proceed, because the master plan is a guideline, not a county regulation, but the group said politically, “COBWRA’s going to kill you.” The civic group noted that there are already 3 Home Depot stores within minutes of the area, in Boynton Beach, Delray Beach and Lantana. The developer complained that redesigning the project will result in lost time and money.
If the developer had met with civic leaders ahead of time, and discussed possible development plans, the waste of time and money could have been avoided. One of the site review guidelines recommended by the Domini Fund is to formally consult with community groups before, not after, plans are submitted. For a copy of the Guidelines For The Siting of Retail Stores, prepared by the Christian Brothers and the Domini Social Investments, write to [email protected]