If Wal-Mart at first does not succeed, they will try, try again. Residents in Tallahassee, Florida turned back a Wal-Mart proposal once, but now Wal-Mart is back for a second round. Here’s the Tallahassee story, as submitted to Sprawl-Busters: “The Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart has been planning its move to build Tallahassee’s fourth Wal-Mart Superstore, this time on North Monroe just beyond the I-10 interchange, as far back as March 2003 (2 and 1/2 years ago). However, few of us knew when a local attorney hired by Wal-Mart drafted a revision to the Leon County Revesting Ordinance and got the County Commission to pass it on April 15, 2003. This revision to Ordinance 03-09 would have allowed Wal-Mart to demolish the 101,000-square-foot Sam’s Club (which they would soon be vacating and moving to a larger “big box”, and build a 220,000 square foot Wal-Mart Supercenter in its place. The scheme entailed buying adjacent parcels of land including a 22-acre parcel owned by the Hastings family, no longer residents of Leon County. This 22-acre parcel includes most of the Gwynndale Ravine, a large steep ravine with high-grade beech wood and Magnolia tree secessional forest and seepage springs that flow into Lake Jackson. Wal-Mart planned to transfer the vested density rights from that parcel to their Sam’s Club
site property, thus allowing them to increase the “footprint” of the old Sam’s Club and increase the size of the parking lot. Because the Leon County Board of County Commissioners adopted a Comprehensive Plan in 1992, which postdated the development of the original Sam’s Club in the 1980s, the Sam’s building was exempt from new zoning laws in the Plan which do not allow commercial developments larger than 20,000 square feet in “lake protection district” zoning. Lake protection district zoning applies to the entire Lake Jackson Basin. Without this amendment, which would allow it to transfer the vested rights for 200 residential units on the original Gwynndale Planned Use Development (PUD), Wal-Mart could not demolish the Old Sam’s Club
and rebuild any building larger than the original 101,000 square foot building for which its property is vested. Neighbors started circulating petitions to prevent the building of the Wal-Mart Supercenter, gathering over 350 signatures which were presented to District 3 County Commissioners before a public hearing held on April 27 2004 on Wal-Mart’s application for revesting of Hastings property. The County Commissioners voted unanimously to repeal the “reviled” revision to the revesting Ordinance. A lot has happened since that victory in April 2004. As is the case with
communities fighting the Wal Mart “bully” all over the US, winning a battle does not mean the war is over. Wal-Mart has come back with a vengeance. It now has “Plan B”
which entails amending the Redevelopment Ordinance so that it can build on the old Sam’s Club site. The first public hearing on this amendment will be on December 13, 2005. The battles continue!
For local contacts fighting Wal-Mart in Tallahassee, email: [email protected]