Wal-Mart's new proposal falls flat in Tarpon Springs

TARPON SPRINGS — Bald eagles, gopher tortoises, sensitive wetlands and potential traffic backups on U.S. 19.

Those were among the issues raised by emotional residents at a Planning and Zoning Board meeting on Thursday night to discuss Wal-Mart Supercenter's revised site plan.

But the task at hand was for board members to decide whether to recommend the site plan.

They voted against it.

It took 5 1/2 hours of emotionally draining discussion by proponents and opponents, but in the end, members voted 4-2 that the certificate of concurrency had expired and the motion for application for site plan approval was denied.

New board appointees John Tarapani and Bill Vinson had recused themselves, citing previous statements against the proposed 203,077-square-foot store.

The board's conclusion is not binding. It is only a recommendation that the City Commission will take under advisement when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 324 E Pine St.

Much of the discussion Thursday night raised familiar arguments both for and against the store.

Proponents say it will bring jobs and budget-saving prices to an area hit hard by the economic downturn.

"The property they purchased is zoned for business construction," said Steven Williams of Tarpon Springs. "Why are they being held up building on property they purchased? It's a good company. They are going to provide jobs."

Opponents say it will spoil the town's unique character and destroy the environmentally sensitive site along the Anclote River.

"There are 15 Wal-Marts in a 21-mile radius," said Evelyn Conner, a Tarpon Springs resident. "Wal-Mart has more money than God, so we know they will be there."

Others raised nature and environmental issues, including a bald eagle's nest spotted on the property.

Kim Myers of Tarpon Springs said Wal-Mart has been aware of the nest's existnce on the proposed construction site since April, and yet those involved in the project never informed the city or wildlife officials of the nest.

She implored the board not to "pass the buck."

"Do your job and represent the people of Tarpon Springs and let the bald eagles raise their families in peace," Myers said.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Wal-Mart's new proposal falls flat in Tarpon Springs 10/17/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 20, 2008 6:28pm]

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