Tarpon Springs rules against Wal-Mart

01/17/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

Critics of a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in Tarpon Springs are cheering a decision last night by the city’s Board of Adjustment.

The board voted 3-2 to accept an appeal by several concerned citizens to treat changes to the approved site plan for the store as “major" rather than "minor."

Colin Fisk is an organizer with the group Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now and one of those protesting the proposal.

If Wal-Mart continues with the project, the changes to the site plan must be considered by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board and the City Commission at public hearings.

If the board had ruled that changes were minor, they would only have to be approved by a staff committee.

Wal-mart responded to WMNF’s request for comment by email today. In it, Quenta Vettel, senior manager for public affairs, wrote,”We are very disappointed in the ruling of the Board of Adjustment. We will be evaluating the project over the next few weeks and will make a decision as to our future efforts.”

The group Friends of the Anclote River has fought against the proposed megastore even before it was approved by the City Commission three years ago. They’ve contended that the development would have a negative effect on the Anclote River, local businesses, and other aspects of the historic Greek community.

Helen Gladwin has lived in Tarpon Springs for 25 years, and is a member of the group Friends of the Anclote River. She said the store would affect where she lives.

Friends of the Anclote River filed two lawsuits to try to halt the project that ultimately ended without resolution. But then in the summer of 2006, critics alerted the Army Corps of Engineers that Wal-Mart did not qualify for a nationwide permit. Wal-Mart then withdrew its application, and made changes to the site plan.

So, three years after the Tarpon Springs City Commission approved the original plan for a Wal-Mart Superstore, the ball is back in their court.

Wal-Mart officials say they will decide whether to press on with the development within the next few weeks.

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