The Miami Herald this week described the battle to stop a 152,000 s.f. Home Depot in Pembroke Pines, Florida as “fierce opposition from neighbors.” That hostility has spilled over to the city’s Planning Board, which two days ago voted to reject Home Depot’s application to build a bigger store in the city. The Planning Board waded through two hours of public testimony, in which 100 area residents from the Pembroke Lakes neighborhood tore the proposal apart like a hurricane. The board then voted 2-2 to recommend that the City Commission not rezone the property from community business to the more-intensive general business. A tie vote equals a rejection. But Home Depot is not dead yet, because the final word is up to the City’s Commissioners, who will vote on the plan August 3rd. Residents pointed out that Home Depot already has a store less than two miles away from their proposed site in Pembroke Pines, and will shut that store at 129th. Avenue down if they build a larger store. The existing store was built in 1994. The new Home Depot, plus another 82,000 s.f of retail, would generate at least 8,000 car trips, according to Home Depot’s figures. Residents questioned such low ball numbers, which have not been independently verified by the city. City staff members — as usual — recommended approval of the rezoning, saying a Home Depot is compatible with the surrounding development, but very few residents agreed. “Pines Boulevard has turned into a mother-loving nightmare,” one resident told the Herald. “The type of traffic that is going to come there is not the kind of traffic I want. We are talking about pickup trucks. I just don’t want it.” An attorney for Home Depot testified that if the city rejected the rezoning, the developer could build another superstore such as Target, Wal-Mart or Publix, which are allowed under the current zoning, and which would generate more traffic. Home Depot has run into strong citizen opposition in Miami’s Coconut Grove, and in Miramar.
The facts in this case show that Home Depot picked a site that is not properly zoned for this intensity of use, and which is near a substantial amount of residential property. It also is true that the company has an existing store that is only 11 years old less than two miles away. There is clearly no market need for this store, since an existing Home Depot is already in the area. The city is under no mandate to rezone land for any developer, especially when it will have an adverse impact on the character of the neighborhood, and the value of residential properties. This rezoning would be contrary to the health, safety and welfare of local residents. Like any other retailer, Home Depot should locate at a size and location that is compatible with surrounding property. There is no compelling argument in favor of harming other property, just to allow a developer to build a store that is not consistent with the intent of a “community business” zone. Home Depot is not a good neighbor to residential property, and the city commission is within its rights to turn down this project. But the homeowners clearly will have to make July a very hot month for Home Depot in Pembroke Pines.