What you can’t get by regulation, try to get by litigation. That’s been Wal-Mart’s mantra for years. Sprawl-Busters noted on July 20, 2006, that the town of Davie, Florida had turned down the retailer’s supercenter request 4-0. Wal-Mart’s plans for a 202,853 s.f. superstore on 36 acres of commercial land, relied on a legal settlement from 17 years ago that allows larger stores than the town now allows. Wal-Mart filed a lawsuit this week in Broward Circuit Court, charging that council members wrongly denied Wal-Mart’s plan. Town Attorney Monroe Kiar told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he would file an answer next week to Wal-Mart’s suit. Kiar “we’re very confident the court will uphold the Town Council’s decision.” The council said the superstore would be bad for neighbors in Rolling Hills Lake Estates and Pine Island Bay, which border the property. Residents wearing “No Wal-Mart” T-shirts jammed Town Hall during the public hearing to protest the project. They said the store would create unwanted traffic and noise from delivery trucks would keep them awake at night. The Mayor couldn’t vote on the site plan because his brother works for the company that designed the project. But the Mayor told the newspaper that Wal-Mart wasn’t cooperating with the town’s attempts to lessen the project’s impact. “For a 24-hour operation, it was too close to a residential neighborhood,” the Mayor explained. “They were adamant it had to be 24/7.” Wal-Mart says a 1989 lawsuit settlement between Davie and the previous property owner resulted in the site being rezoned for commercial use, and that town planners said the superstore was “compatible with surrounding uses and properties.” A Wal-Mart spokesman, said the company sued because “we feel that we have the legal right to develop that site.” Wal-Mart also has a lawsuit pending in Miramar, Florida, which refused to rezone a 29-acre site from agricultural to community business district so Wal-Mart could build a 221,000-square-foot store.
Attention Wal-Mart stockholders: Your company has a sense of entitlement as big as its bottom… line. When local officials protest that a 24/7 store is too intense a use, rather than bend, Wal-Mart tries to break the town. And in Miramar, no company has a right to force a rezoning of land for their needs. Rezoning is a discretionary act. In both of these Florida communities, local officials say Wal-Mart did not try to cooperate with them, and thus an impasse develops that leads to delays, and unnecessary expense. Wal-Mart’s litigation will cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, simply because the company knows how to litigate, not negotiate. For the history of the Davie case, search Newsflash by the name of the town.