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Pinellas, Tarpon Springs officials in dark over Wal-Mart plans for Anclote River site

TARPON SPRINGS — Shortly after Wal-Mart put a controversial supercenter project on hold in November, a company official indicated a willingness to discuss offers to sell the 74-acre property.

But nearly three months have passed and there's been no word from the company.

Not to the county, which sent a letter in December expressing interest in buying the Anclote River site.

Or to the city of Tarpon Springs, which has asked Wal-Mart to clarify its intentions for the property.

"I don't know what their thoughts are, what their strategy is, because they're just not communicating with us," said City Commissioner Peter Dalacos.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Quenta Vettel couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

But Wal-Mart attorney David Theriaque said he expects company officials will soon answer the city's request.

"I am waiting to chat with my clients about how they want to respond," he said.

Theriaque said he did not have any information about the county's inquiry into purchasing the land.

For nearly five years, the proposed 203,000-square-foot supercenter faced serious opposition from local activists who said the store would destroy the environmentally sensitive site, create burdensome traffic and hurt local businesses.

When Wal-Mart pulled out of the deal, city and county commissioners said they would like to find the money to buy the property — valued at $6.6 million on county tax rolls — to turn it into a park or preserve.

But those plans are in limbo until the company agrees to sit down and negotiate a deal, Dalacos said.

"I guess it's just a matter of waiting it out," he said.

The company's building permit application has expired and its development agreement has lapsed, said interim City Manager Mark LeCouris.

"In our mind it's pretty much over for now," LeCouris said, "but obviously the people and the citizens involved want to see it resolved."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Pinellas, Tarpon Springs officials in dark over Wal-Mart plans for Anclote River site 02/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 16, 2009 8:47pm]
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