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2005-04-11
Tarpon Springs, FL. Citizens Take Wal-Mart Decision To Court

Residents of Tarpon Springs, Florida have been fighting a Wal-Mart supercenter for months now, and because of one person's vote, have been forced to take their case to court. Here is a report from the frontlines by the Friends of the Anclote River: "Picture a coastal quaint village in Greece with an electic downtown, known as the "Sponge Capital" of the US. Our community is set around many bayous,waterways,a serene lake and the beautiful Anclote River and Preserve which is home to endangered turtles, 43 species of birds and other wildlife. On January 19, 2005 at 6:45am after nearly 12 hours of testimony, OPPOSED by over 300 plus citizens and business owners, the Tarpon Springs Board of Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to APPROVE an enormous Wal-Mart development on the Anclote River.The site plan approved contains a 24 hour SuperCenter at nearly 24 acres in size.It includes a 1,000 space parking lot, tire and lube center and an out parcel for a restaurat or retail store plus 6 acres for residential or office development. "Friends of the Anclote River" are an unincorporated concerned citizens group formed to OPPOSE this irresponsible development project. The ecological, economical, environmental damage, traffic burden, our small town character and future of our town is at stake. On February 18, 2005 our attorney, Philip Campbell of the Law firm, Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick, LLP filed the legal challenge in the Pinellas County Court system on our behalf. We need the public's help and support. We have raised the funds necessary to initiate the lawsuit but more funds will be needed to insure litigation will continue.Contributions will be greatly appreciated and a trust fund has been set up for this. Contact our website at www.friendsoftheancloteriver.com

What you can do: Here's the rest of the story: On January 18, 2005, Channel 10 News in Florida reported that Tarpon Springs, Florida Mayor Beverley Billiris admitted “she didn’t want to approve the plan” for a Wal-Mart supercenter, but said, “Wal-Mart has a legal right to build on the site, and she doesn’t want to spend taxpayers money defending against a lawsuit.”

MAYOR BEVERLEY BILLIRIS: “So there is no limit to what this would have cost the City of Tarpon Springs if we lost the lawsuit. At what price do I say no?”

CHANNEL 10 NEWS: But if the city had to approve this anyway, why go through all of the effort of that long marathon public comment?”

MAYOR BILLIRIS: “Because that’s our process. Everyone has the opportunity to speak on anything that comes before this commission.”

CHANNEL 10 NEWS: City Commissioner Peter Nehr says the city should have fought in court.

CITY COMMISSIONER PETER NEHR: “If it costs us 30 or 40 thousand dollars, I think it’s a fight that would have been worth for the city to pay for to save the heritage, the culture that we in Tarpon Springs are known for.”

The Mayor of Tarpon Springs epitomizes one of the major problems facing environmentalists and land use activists across the country today: public officials who think all developments, everywhere, are “as of right.” They believe that a building going means progress and tax revenue, and that if you don’t give developers what they want, they will take you to court and beat you. The Tarpon Springs hearing on Wal-Mart ran for 12 straight hours into the early morning hours. Sixty people spoke against the plan, eight in favor. The Commissioners then approved the superstore by a vote of 3-2. Although these Commissioners were supposed to protect the “health, safety and welfare” of the residents of Tarpon Springs, they protected the profit of developers instead.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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