Once there was a city called Niceville. Niceville, Florida. In 2007, there were 12,370 nice people living in Niceville. When a developer came along and proposed building a nice Wal-Mart supercenter, everything went nice and easy. Niceville didn’t really need a Wal-Mart supercenter, because there was a nice one only 9 miles away in Destin, Florida, and another one 11 miles away in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. But a company called Valparaiso Realty thought it would be nice to make lots of money by putting up a supercenter in Niceville, and according to the Northwest Florida Daily News, after several years of delay, it looks like the supercenter is “making serious progress.” The new store would be located on the east side of the city on a 45 acre site, with a nice Home Depot proposed as its neighbor. The two stores would be separated by about 400 feet of wetlands. This week, Niceville’s City Council voted unanimously to give Wal-Mart a special deal on the property. Wal-Mart will be able to have only 4.5 parking spaces per 1,000 s.f. of store, compared to the normal Niceville ratio of 5 spaces per 1,000 s.f. The city manager said that will allow Wal-Mart to build wider sidewalks, which is nice. The overall plan was also unanimously approved. “Basically we’re very pleased with the unanimous decision,” a spokeswoman for the developer told the newspaper. “We’re still in the process of finalizing the site plan.” Now all Wal-Mart has to do is pay a visit to the Niceville Buildling Inspector to pick up their building permit. The City Manager did admit that the traffic on John Sims Parkway might not be so nice after these two big box stores, and the outparcels are developed. But Niceville has the traffic problem figured out. There’s going to be a wide service road running parallel to John Sims Parkway, plus a sidewalk and a bike path, part of a 100 foot wide easement between the Parkway and the service road. “That will take a lot of pressure off the traffic situation,” said the City Manager. Which would be really nice.
The city of Niceville says that it only gets about 22 cloudy days a year — the rest is sunshine. The city originally carried the name “Boggy,” after the Boggy Bayou, named for a great deposit of peat discovered at the mouth of Juniper Creek. Residents eventually decided that “Boggy” was an unflattering name for their growing community, and in 1910 the city was renamed “Niceville.” But some residents didn’t think that was nice either, so in 1919 the city was renamed “Valparaiso,” which translates from the Spanish as ‘Vale of Paradise.’ One mile outside of town, another community developed, and it was called “New Valparaiso.” The two towns became confused with one another, and caused big problems for the post office. In 1925, the town’s name was changed back to Niceville, and its been Niceville since then. Niceville boasts that if you come to Niceville, “you won’t be disappointed.” The city is “Nestled comfortably along the shores of Choctawhatchee Bay in the northwest panhandle, this friendly town is a paradise for people of all ages and interests. The size, warmth and sincerity of the community are apparent throughout the city. Couple that with an endless variety of indoor and out door recreation activities plus a healthy dose of sunshine and fresh air and it is easy to see why Niceville is an attractive community for short term visits, or long term living.” And now Niceville will have a “healthy dose” of big box sprawl to go along with that sunshine and fresh air. City government runs very smoothly in Niceville. The city has had only one Mayor, Randall Wise, for the past 37 years. Mayor Wise, who has lived his whole life in Niceville, has a vision for his city. He would like to see Niceville work to develop the old downtown area and the concept of the town center. It is not immediately clear how Mayor Wise sees a huge Wal-Mart supercenter on the edge of town helping the old downtown, or supporting the town center. Readers are urged to email Mayor Wise at [email protected] with the following message: “Dear Mayor Wise, I urge you to deny Wal-Mart a building permit before its too late. Is anyone in Niceville worried about the impact a Wal-Mart superstore might have on your vision for the city? I’ve seen what Wal-Mart can do to downtowns — and its not very nice. It’s great to promote your old downtown, but with a population of less than 13,000, you really don’t need a huge superstore. Niceville can get along very nicely without Wal-Mart. The new store is going to draw most of its sales away from the supercenters in Destin and Fort Walton Beach. Any other sales will come from existing merchants in Niceville, especially your existing grocery stores. You won’t really see an increase in jobs or revenues — but you will see an increase in crime and traffic. So this project really doesn’t fit the Vision for the future of your city, and residents would be justified in seeking yet another change to your city’s name. Sprawlville might be nice.”