Fort Walton Beach, FL. City Manager Tries to Revive Wal-Mart After County Says N
What part of "NO" does the City Manager of Fort Walton Beach, Florida not understand? After Okaloosa County Commissioners said NO to a second Wal-Mart in the Fort Walton Beach area, the City Manager is trying to cut his own deal.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida tells tourists, “everything’s waiting for you downtown.” The city boasts that its downtown “offers local flavor and southern hospitality. Our community is home to a number of unique owner operated boutique style stores, restaurants and bars.” The city also has something that has no local flavor, and is not unique: the Wal-Mart on Beal Parkway. But the giant retailer wants to build a second store in Fort Walton Beach.
About a month and a half ago, Okaloosa County officials blocked Wal-Mart’s efforts to build a Neighborhood Market near a residential subdivision, According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, the city wants to get the Wal-Mart jump started again by annexing the property.
The City’s Manager thinks that a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market will “spur economic growth and provide jobs,” according to the newspaper. The county commissioners rejected Wal-Mart’s plan, in part because it requires rezoning residential land to general commercial. Dozens of homeowners in the Bayview residential subdivision signed a petition to oppose the rezoning, and according to the newspaper, “flooded the county with phone calls, emails and petitions.”
When the homeowners heard that the city’s Manager is out to shove the Wal-Mart down their neighborhood, they “vowed to renew their fight,” the newspaper said.
“I didn’t think it was over,” one neighbor complained.. “Wal-Mart has got more money than you or I could ever imagine.” Homeowners fear the traffic jams that Wal-Mart will create, and the increase in local crime from such stores. “Stats don’t lie,” the homeowner explained. “Those Wal-Mart stores have a lot of crime around them.”
Another resident told the Northwest Florida Daily News he was "shocked" by the talk of annexation and is planning to call an emergency neighborhood meeting. “We’re assessing our options at this time,” he said. “Even if they annex it and call it part of the city, it’ll always be our neighborhood. It changes our customary use.”
Residents said the jobs the City Manager expects from Wal-Mart “will ultimately cause the surrounding businesses’ employees to lose their jobs within two to three years. No new money will be brought into the community. It will only be pulled from the other local competing businesses.”
The City Manager promises that residents would get a chance to speak their feelings at a public meeting on the project. But the Manager said he was “keeping an eye on our economic future.”
What the county rejected in August, could be back before the City Council by early November, the City Manager told the newspaper.
What you can do: Fort Walton Beach residents need to read “Slam-Dunking Wal-Mart” and get themselves a good land use attorney to fight the rezoning.
Readers are urged to call (850) 833-9500 any evening, and leave this message for Mayor Mike Anderson:
Dear Mayor Anderson,
If you want economic development, don’t back another Wal-Mart. If you want to protect the value of residential homes, don’t back another Wal-Mart. If you want to promote the local flavor of your unique downtown, don’t back another Wal-Mart.
Back your neighbors who don’t want land near their homes rezoned to commercial. The Bayview homeowners bought their homes trusting that the city would not change the nature of the neighborhood by commercializing residential property.
Support your neighbors, not the Neighborhood Market.
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