Wal-Mart has more lawsuits than men’s suits. The retailer proposed to build a 24/7 superstore on 36 acres of land in Davie, Florida. The project was vigorously opposed by residents of the Rolling Hills Lake Estates, and Pine Island Bay. In July of 2006, Wal-Mart couldn’t muster a single vote when their project came before the Davie Town Council. The retailer’s plans for a 202,853 s.f. superstore were slam-dunked on a 4-0 vote. Council members ruled that the store would destroy local businesses and create too much of a disruption for nearby residents. Wal-Mart’s argument hinged on a legal settlement from 17 years ago that allowed larger stores than the town now permits. Not willing to respect the wishes of local officials, Wal-Mart filed a lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court in October of 2006, charging that council members wrongly denied their plan. On March 21, 2007, Sprawl-Busters reported that a Broward County, Florida judge gave residents in Davie, Florida a victory, siding with the town. But Wal-Mart appealed that circuit court decision in March, 2007, and last week filed a second lawsuit on the federal level. Wal-Mart went to federal court to try to get a judge to enforce the 1989 legal settlement between the town and the property’s former owner. Wal-Mart now owns the property, and is trying to use the 1989 agreement to allow them to build. “We’re basically asking a court to enforce the agreement we had with the town of Davie, so the town will do what it promised to do,” a Wal-Mart spokesman told the Miami Herald. The town’s lawyer says the 1989 settlement with a former owner does not transfer to Wal-Mart, and that the retailer is just “shopping around” for another judge. I guess they didn’t like the result they got in the state Circuit Court,” the town’s attorney said. Now Davie taxpayers have to ante up more money to defend themselves against a second Wal-Mart lawsuit. The town has to respond to the federal lawsuit by October 26th.
Wal-Mart’s strategy is to push Davie officials to the point of “litigation fatigue,” when the town feels they can’t afford to keep paying legal bills. Wal-Mart can hold its breath legally longer than most towns. Instead of respecting the decision of local officials, Wal-Mart would rather fight than move. There are 20 Wal-Marts within 20 miles of Davie, including 11 superstores. The Wal-Mart superstore in Cooper City, Florida is only 5 miles away. Any new supercenter in Davie will only cannibalize sales in Cooper City — something Wal-Mart has said it no longer wants to do. Wal-Mart stockholders might well ask why their company has spent almost a year and a half since the town rejected the superstore, piling on the legal bills by filing multiple lawsuits. Davie describes itself as “a family-oriented and diverse community that retains its hometown feeling.” Readers can call Davie Mayor Tom Truex at (954) 797-1030 to urge him to keep battling Wal-Mart. Tell the Mayor: “Don’t let Wal-Mart’s multiple lawsuits intimidate you. As a lawyer, you know Wal-Mart’s tactic of wearing the town down. But you already have 20 Wal-Mart’s within 20 miles, and that 1989 agreement does not apply to Wal-Mart. Keep fighting to stop this kind of sprawling development. Keep that Davie hometown feeling.”