TAMPA — The developer of a proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market in Carrollwood has sued Hillsborough County commissioners for rejecting a plan that would have allowed its construction.
Brightwork Acquisitions, which had contracted to buy the former Hudson Nursery property on N Dale Mabry Highway, asserts the county arbitrarily rejected the proposal, bowing to pressure from residents.
By doing so, the group says in the lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday that commissioners violated its constitutional right to equal protection under the law. By denying a zoning modification that would have allowed the Walmart and Wawa convenience store on a busy eight-lane highway lined with stores and offices, Brightwork claims the county treated the group differently than other developers with similar proposals.
"We believe that the decision for denial was politically motivated and was not based on any legitimate health, safety and welfare justification," said Scott McLaren, a lawyer with the Hill Ward Henderson firm.
Representatives for Brightwork and Walmart appeared before commissioners last month seeking a modification to zoning on roughly 10 acres of largely undeveloped land fronting Dale Mabry. Their request would have gotten rid of provisions requiring offices and townhomes, instead allowing just commercial buildings, lowering the overall square footage.
Residents of nearby neighborhoods showed up by the score, saying the proposal was not compatible with nearby homes and would cause traffic snarls on a road already clogged during rush hours.
Commissioners cited a lack of compatibility in denying the application.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who made the motion to reject the proposal, said he was confident in the board's position and said it was crafted after consulting with the County Attorney's Office.
County Attorney Chip Fletcher said he was aware of the court challenge. "We're reviewing it and we're going to vigorously defend the position of the commission," he said.
Bill Varian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3387.