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2004-09-19
Crystal River, FL. Residents Pleased That Wal-Mart's Not Coming

After a year's worth of rumors that Wal-Mart was coming, a sigh of relief greeted the news this week that the city of Crystal River, Florida will not be the home for a new Wal-Mart supercenter. Crystal River has been attempting to annex the land in question from Citrus County, and the county has objected to the annexation. The good news became official when a South Carolina developer of a proposed commercial project said it wasn't big enough for a superstore. RealtiCorp, the developer, said that although their plans encompass 200 acres, the piece of their parcel along Route 19 that was earmarked for commercial development is "not big enough for a Wal-Mart Supercenter. The land is "too small to accommodate a large, national discount department store," according to a letter RealtiCorp sent to the Citrus Times newspaper. Citrus County officials, however, have filed two lawsuits against Crystal River's annexation plans. Opponents do not believe the developer's statement, and told the Citrust Times, "If RealtiCorp thinks that the people of Citrus County are that naive to believe something like that, they are in the wrong place. We are not some backwoods, uneducated people. We are paying attention." Realticorp has been working on a deal to buy another 170 acres of land, donated it to Crystal River as a preserve, in order to get approval to fill in 13 acres of wetlands for the Wal-Mart site. When the developer got into disagreements with county officials over the supercenter, they tried to get the city of Crystal River to just annex the land away from the county. The developer submitted its permit application to fill the wetlands to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the spring of 2002. County officials asserted that the 13 acres in RealtiCorp's property on the southern border of Crystal River city limits are "connected wetlands," tied to a system of underground culverts that empty directly into the Crystal River and Gulf of Mexico. The County opposes filling the wetlands, and says construction on the parcel will interfere with a runway protection zone for the Crystal River Airport. The County has said that Realticorp's plans are too intense, would ruin historic wetlands crucial to water systems and migratory birds, and cause harm to a spring system that supports a large manatee herd which winters nearby.

What you can do: No doubt the County's opposition to this plan, and citizen opponents, have pushed this developer into renouncing Wal-Mart as a tenant. But citizens against Wal-Mart are right to be skeptical of this developer's renunciation of Wal-Mart. It's really not over until the fat company itself -- Wal-Mart -- says they don't want the site. From the county's perspective, the site is just the wrong place to put a big box retailer. It's unfortunate the Crystal River was willing to be played off the county by the developer. One doesn't need a crystal ball to see that Crystal River is thumbing its nose at its county neighbors by moving to annex this land for a Wal-Mart.










 
 
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