Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Walmart wins access to tax incentives for Largo project

LARGO — Only two Largo commissioners resisted when Walmart sought a brownfield designation for land it plans to develop on the old Crossroads Mall property, even though there is no known contamination on the land and the designation would qualify the giant retailer for a host of tax credits and special incentives.

Brownfield designations originally were intended to encourage cleanup and development of contaminated properties by offering incentives and some regulatory relief to developers.

However, Florida law allows developers to apply for the incentives even if no contamination has been found — if there is merely a perception the property might be polluted. That's the route Walmart is taking in Largo to access the incentive program.

Walmart plans to build a supercenter on the sprawling property at the southeast corner of U.S. 19 and Roosevelt Boulevard. It was formerly the site of the Crossroads Mall and, before that, the Bay Area Outlet Mall.

At a recent Largo City Commission meeting, a Walmart representative acknowledged that the company knows of no contamination on the property. But gas stations have operated on two parcels adjacent to the Walmart site and they are known to be polluted with petroleum substances, he said. That could lead to a perception, Walmart argued, that the pollution could spread onto the supercenter property.

Getting the property designated as a brownfield would give Walmart several advantages, including tax incentives, loan guarantees, expedited review of technical documents, sales tax credits, environmental assistance, and state job creation tax credits of up to $2,500 per new job.

Walmart plans to create 150 new full-time equivalent jobs with an average salary of only $20,000 annually — about $21,000 under Pinellas County's average wage. Two commissioners, Michael Smith and Robert Murray, opposed providing Walmart access to job tax credits.

"I think the jobs should be at a higher value to receive a tax credit," Murray said.

Smith also opposed giving Walmart the brownfield designation, saying the deal "smelled."

The other five commissioners had no problem with either request, noting that the state would make the final decision on whether Walmart would be approved for the program. Smith scoffed at that, saying the Walmart request was "basically a shoo-in."

Last year, the St. Petersburg City Council approved a controversial request from Walmart for job creation tax credits for a Sam's Club project. In that case, Walmart said it had discovered pollution from a nearby dry cleaner on its property at 34th Street and 17th Avenue N.

However, St. Petersburg council member Karl Nurse said he thought the contamination claim was a ruse. He noted that Walmart had earlier called the level of dry cleaning solvent found in the soil minor. He and council member Steve Kornell voted against recommending Walmart for the credits.

During the Largo commission meeting, Community Development director Carol Stricklin said the city staff has realized that the brownfield designation "is a powerful tool" to encourage development. Commissioners gave her permission to keep bringing brownfield requests to them for consideration.

Rather than handing out brownfield designations to just anyone, Stricklin said Largo will apply certain criteria to the requests, including whether they are for key properties and whether awarding the designation would be good strategy for the city.

Being designated as a brownfield, and therefore potentially contaminated, was once considered a negative. That connotation appears to be disappearing for commercial properties, but perhaps not for residential ones. According to city officials, the developer who plans to build apartments next to the new Walmart did not want to be included in the brownfield designation.

Diane Steinle can be reached at (727) 445-4152 or

Walmart wins access to tax incentives for Largo project 03/12/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 5:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Five ideas for cool summer snacks


    The 90-degree temperatures are not letting up anytime soon. We Floridians know to keep some cold treats on hand through September. Ice cream. Lemonade. Ice pops. Whether you're packing a beach cooler or preparing for a pool party, we've got you covered. Level up your summer snack game with these five refreshing …

    What’s not to like about a homemade ice cream sandwich? The thin chocolate cake bakes in about 10 to 12 minutes, and from there it’s all chilling out.
  2. U.S. Pacific commander: Remains of sailors found on USS John McCain


    SINGAPORE — The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet says a number of remains of Navy sailors were found in a compartment of the USS John McCain, a day after the warship's collision with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters left 10 sailors missing.

    The damaged port aft hull of USS John S. McCain, left, is seen while docked next to USS America at Singapore's Changi naval base on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 in Singapore. The focus of the search for 10 U.S. sailors missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters shifted Tuesday to the damaged destroyer's flooded compartments. [Associated Press]
  3. Florida education news: Solar eclipse, gender gap, new schools and more


    TOTAL ECLIPSE: More than 8,000 Hernando County students skip school after their school district gives them excused absences for the day. Students who …

    Students at Bayonet Point Middle School observe the solar eclipse Monday through their special eclipse glasses.
  4. Epilogue: Martin Giles a man of few, but strong, words for WFLA-AM 970


    As the story goes, his higher-ups at the Misawa Air Base in Japan were clear with their edict to Martin Giles: It was only the mid-1950s, not far enough away from World War II for the Japanese to be trusted.

    Martin Giles, a longtime radio news anchor for WFLA-AM 970, died last week at the age of 80.