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2008-05-12
Holiday, FL. Wal-Mart Backs Out of 59th Project

Wal-Mart has withdrawn from its 59th. project since its growth implosion in June of 2007. The latest withdrawal came this week in Holiday, Florida. This marks the second time that a Wal-Mart project has failed in Holiday. On February 5, 2003, Sprawl-Busters reported that residents in Holiday were gearing up to battle Wal-Mart, to prevent the company from building a supercenter next to the Westwood subdivision. The 30 acres of land Wal-Mart wanted had an extensive gopher tortoise habitat, a wetland, and Native American artifacts buried in the ground. There was no major intersection at the site, and residents feared that Wal-Mart wanted to use the neighborhood as a delivery entrance for their trucks. There are two Wal-Mart supercenters within 10 minutes of Holiday. The land had to be rezoned from residential (MPUD) to commercial (C-2). On June 11, 2003, residents learned that the 207,500 s.f. supercenter plan was being withdrawn. The Pasco County, Florida Commissioners announced the pullback at a county hearing. Instead of proceeding with a rezoning hearing, the Commissioners turned the event into a party atmosphere. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the room burst into applause at the announcement. The decision to take a holiday from Holiday, was apparently a mutual one made by the landowner, Dimmit Car Leasing, and Wal-Mart officials. "I think the opposition was vocal enough that it made an impact," the Times quoted Corrine Patera, a resident who battled the supercenter, as saying. "It was too much, too big, too close. It just wasn't appropriate." Before the June 11th. decision, the project was already in trouble. The County Commissioners had announced in April of 2003 that they wanted to limit traffic on congested U.S. 19. The Holiday Wal-Mart would have added 11,750 car trips a day to the busy highway. "It looked like an uphill battle," one of the County Commissioners told The Times. Wal-Mart then shifted its attention to a backup site in Holiday, on State Road 54 and Grand Boulevard. This time county officials were more amenable. The same citizen's battle started up again, just in a different part of Holiday. From 2005 until today, residents in Holiday fought the Second Coming of Wal-Mart. This time, the battle had a totally unexpected outcome. Wal-Mart pulled out again. "We were going through the re-evaluation, and the things we look at are based on growth and what's going on in the economy, as well as how a new store impacts existing stores," a Wal-Mart spokesperson told the St. Petersburg Times. In November of 2007, Pasco county officials voted to allow the store to proceed, despite strong citizen protests. After years of tooth and claw battling, the residents are the ones left standing. "I'm so excited," said Cynthia Besio, one of the leaders of the neighbors' opposition told The Times. "I don't know if it was anything we did. It may have been just the economy. But I don't care."

What you can do: Wal-Mart now has on its hands a 22 acre piece of land that it bought three years ago from a flea market owner for $6.3 million. They made the landowner a multi-millionaire, but now Wal-Mart Realty has to put the land up for sale. Even though Wal-Mart is the big loser here, the company said that Pasco County will now lose out on as much as $4 million worth of road improvements in the Holiday area. But these "improvements," which really mean road widening and traffic lights, also changes the character of this small community. The roadwork now will not be needed because it was being done just to accommodate the Wal-Mart. "The vast majority of the $4-million was on access and concurrency," the county's chief assistant administrator told The Times. Concurrency is the term in Florida for the law that requires infrastructure to keep up with growth. "If there's no Wal-Mart, we don't need the vast majority of those improvements," the county official added. Wal-Mart Realty already has 19 pieces of land for sale in Florida -- not counting the empty stores they have on the market. The Holiday acreage has not yet come on the market. In one location, Wal-Mart is selling 102 acres of land, but most are much smaller. Readers are used to email Ted Schrader, Chairman of the Pasco County Commissioners, at tSchrader@pascocountyfl.net, with the following message: "Now that Wal-Mart has left Holiday at the altar, now is a good time to put in place zoning rules that will prevent small cities like Holiday from being over-run by sprawl. Holiday wants to keep its character and continue to attract visitors on holiday. Building large supercenters along the highway bring no added value economically to Pasco County. Why not make Wal-Mart fit into Holiday, rather than make Holiday fit into Wal-Mart? You can stop superstore sprawl with one sentence limiting the size of retail store to fit the image and character of Holiday. Now that Wal-Mart has failed twice in Holiday, it's time to change the rules for the better. You can do it, Mr. Chairman, with a one sentence amendment to your zoning code."










 
 
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