A group called Saving Florida, Inc., a non-profit devoted to economic and political justice, growth management, and environmental protection in the state, has scored a victory against Wal-Mart. Attorney David Russ, head of the group, sent Sprawl-Busters the following account of how a mobile home park beat the world’s largest retailer: “A couple of months ago I went to Jacksonville to represent the folks at Buccaneer Mobile Home Park, which was established in the 1960’s. The Park is located on 24 acres and has matured into a site with a hardwood canopy and a pristine creek running through it to empty into a salt marsh of the St. Johns River. The residents called me 6 days before a hearing on a comprehensive plan amendment. Wal-Mart wanted to redesignate the property from Mobile Home (MH) use to General Commercial (GC) use to locate a new SuperCenter, on only 24 acres. I was told by the powers that be that it was a lost cause, because of the pro-development attitude of the Jacksonville City Council and because the owner of the park was going to start proceedings under Florida statutes to give the residents the one-year notice required prior to evicting them, regardless of what occured on the plan amendment application. I was also told it was useless to oppose Wal-Mart. Luckily, both my clients and I are too hard headed to listen to common wisdom. I spent 7 years as the supervisor of growth management attorneys at the Florida Department of Community Affairs (the state land planning agency that is responsible for administering the Florida Growth Management Act), and managed to learn something about land use cases and how to fight bad amendments. We mustered our meager resources. We used the tools we had and showed up at the hearing with about 50 of the most diverse and pleasant people you could ever meet. Their park is wonderfully run down but the kind of place where kids can play safely in the street and, as the local park organizer said, “if you show up at dinner time, you don’t leave hungry.” Somehow, we were able to threaten, cajole, appeal, and beg the City Council enough that at the end of the evening it voted 15-2 to turn down the amendment, which was illegal as well as being a bad idea. Plus, after I pointed out to the City and the Buccaneer owner that it had a steady, if not spectacular, revenue stream from the park, and that the City is under a consent decree from the Department of Justice not to reduce the supply of affordable housing, the owner still has not delivered the one-year notice that Wal-Mart’s lawyer said would be going out regardless of what happened. Wal-Mart is doing the same thing now in Gainesville, Florida with Sunshine Mobile Home Park located in southwest Gainesville.
Attorney Russ notes, “If people should want to contribute financially to the effort to save Sunshine and stop Wal-Mart there, they can send donations to Saving Florida, Inc., 601 S. Main Street, Suite 9J-5, Gainesville, Florida 32601, [email protected], (352) 281-8841.” The group is a nonprofit but is not tax-exempt. For more examples of big box stores lusting after mobile home parks, search this database by “mobile home”