Residents in Neptune Beach, Florida are trying to throw sand on Wal-Mart’s plans to locate an out-of-scale superstore in their picturesque community. Here’s a report on their efforts to keep Wal-Mart from washing ashore: “On Monday, April 17th, 2006, Wal-Mart representatives submitted a formal development application to the City of Neptune Beach to build a 100,000+ square foot retail center on the site of the former Food Lion/Big Lots in the 600 block of Atlantic Blvd. The city of Neptune Beach is only a quarter of a mile and Wal-Mart wants to build a 100,000 plus square foot retail center. Neptune Beach doesn’t need Wal-Mart, because the 14-acre site on Atlantic Boulevard that formerly housed Scotty’s, Food Lion and Big Lots (including the parking space) is roughly equal in size to Neptune Beach’s entire central business district (including parking and streets). Unlike the proposed Wal-Mart store, which would dedicate 2.7 acres to one store, the Central Business District houses nearly 50 thriving small businesses. It is in the citizens of Neptune Beach’s interest to support the interests of the many instead of one mega-
enterprise that has a history of putting small and unique enterprises out of business. Wal-Mart also is known for tax-base complications and empty buildings are bad for our tax base. But if the Wal-Mart store is allowed in to fill a gap on Atlantic Boulevard, several new gaps will quickly exist nearby. The ailing K-Mart and Winn Dixie are two likely
candidates. And the market carefully shared by Walgreen and CVS will be knocked off balance with the arrival of Wal-Mart. We all know that Wal-Mart is also famous for putting small enterprises (mom and pop stores) out of business. Many of us willingly support these unique shops now and will feel the void when they cannot sustain profits and are forced to close their doors. Wal-Mart prices can be easily accessed with a 10 to 15 minute drive to San Pablo and Beach Boulevard, or by driving a bit further to the existing Super Wal-Mart on Atlantic Boulevard. I mean how much easier does it need to be, and at what price? The community will be best served by several mid-size businesses setting up shop. Jacksonville Beach has given us the model. The mixed-use project that went in to the old Pic-N-Save site on A1A is lively and thriving. Something similar is a superior match for the city. Competition is a valuable aspect of a free market economy. Wal-Mart however always has an unfair advantage over smaller locally grown businesses because of its megalith purchasing power. We can keep this one large store from overshadowing our business community. It is time to weed the garden while this is still only a threatened possibility. The Citizens of Neptune Beach believe that our city leaders should be promoting smart growth and encouraging appropriately scaled commercial developments that compliment the unique beach character. The Citizens of Neptune Beach believes that the beaches has a unique and enviable blend of coastal living and small town charm that would be shattered by the addition of a Wal-Mart to the Neptune Beach community. The Citizens of Neptune Beach also believe the development of a
Wal-Mart at the beaches will be devastating to the local small businesses. The Neighborhood has tried to tell the elected officials, but it just seems as they don’t care. There is already congested roads and the area would be overwhelmed by the traffic generated by an enormous big box store! The Neptune Beach City Council should vote NO on Wal-Mart’s development application, on the grounds that an ordinance to block development of big-box stores larger than 60,000 square feet was already in progress when Wal-Mart submitted their application. The Neptune Beach Planning and Development Review Board will hold a public hearing concerning Wal-Mart. The board will be reviewing Wal-Mart’s application and passing a recommendation for approval or rejection on to the City Council. This meeting was originally scheduled for May 16th, at Neptune Beach Elementary School, but has been postponed. The date and location of the meeting will be announced soon. This is an ill-conceived development plan. The elected
representatives need to hear from everyone opposed to this project instead of dodging the citizens of Neptune beach’s concerns of this project.
For more information about this fight, go to http://www.saveourbeachtown.com/