On September 7, 2005, Sprawl-Busters printed this short plea for help from the residents in Davie, Florida: “WE NEED HELP! We live in a small quiet town that is home to many upscale housing developments. We don’t need and can’t handle a store like Wal-Mart.” Eight months later, Wal-Mart has hit a snag in Davie. The Miami Herald reports that plans for a 202,000 s.f. superstore on 36 acres of commercial land, relies on a legal settlement from 17 years ago that allows larger stores than the town now allows. In the process of the hearings, the Davie Site Plan Committee asked town attorneys to research whether the 1989 land use deal is still valid. One town councilor says that Florida state law requires towns to approve land agreements every ten years, and that this agreement may therefore have lapsed. Ironically, the town’s lawyer was Mayor of the town back in 1989, and voted against the permissive land settlement. Although hundreds of Davie residents have spoken out against a 24 hour superstore, Wal-Mart’s public position is that they are on solid legal ground. ”We obviously believe we are in good legal standing,” a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Herald. ”We wouldn’t get to this point if we didn’t feel we were in a good position.” Residents formed a group called Save Davie, Stop Wal-Mart. One leader of the group was quoted as saying, “We don’t want people to think we hate Wal-Mart. The store is appropriate in some locations, but a project pressed up against two single-family neighborhoods is really inappropriate.”
The town has the right to rule that the intensity of this land use is incompatible with the surrounding properties, and would cause the residential properties to lose value. The town clearly does not want big box stores. If Wal-Mart comes in, its a win-lose situation. The retailer wins, the neighbors lose. That is the definition of bad land use. The purpose of zoning is to create win-win situations, and if Wal-Mart had any concern for the people who will have to live near its stores, it would be talking to Davie officials about shrinking the size of the store, instead of boasting about its “good legal standing” to harm the neighbors. The neighbors are right to hate the idea of a Wal-Mart supercenter in their backyard. There isn’t a single Wal-Mart Board member who lives next to a Wal-Mart — least of all the CEO, who lives in a trophy home with no Wal-Marts in sight.