LARGO — The question of whether to stick with the city’s rules or give Largo’s two Walmart supercenters an early holiday gift by temporarily allowing outdoor storage containers proved to be a tough one for the City Commission.
The stores at 990 Missouri Ave. and 2677 Roosevelt Blvd. told the city in June that they want to use the steel containers for additional holiday inventory for about 90 days starting in October. But they risk hefty fines if they do so, Planning Manager Rick Perez told commissioners.
The city’s codes limit temporary storage containers on commercial properties to one container for a maximum of 30 continuous days, and they are also not allowed in the land-use classifications where the stores reside.
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Last December, after complaints about the containers, a magistrate gave the Walmarts 30 days to remove the containers or face $500 fines per container each day.
Since the Roosevelt Boulevard store was able to keep most of the containers in the back, Mayor Woody Brown said most of the complaints he heard stemmed from the store at Missouri Avenue and Rosery Road.
“They were extremely visible. They took up a lot of parking places very close to the store,” he said.
Brown said the thought of changing city codes to accommodate two stores gave him “heartburn,” but he was sympathetic to their situation.
“I think there’s a solution, but I’m hesitant to just say, ‘okay, we’re going to change our rules because this is the way you do business now,’ ” he said.
Commissioner Jamie Robinson, who lives near the Rosery Road store, said he was also torn because it’s a standard business practice for the retailer.
“In the Rosery Road store situation, there’s no way that you could put 12 or 15 or 16 storage containers out in that side parking lot and make it fit into the character of that neighborhood,” he said. “You just can’t do it.”
Commissioner John Carroll also expressed concerns about how a decision could affect the city’s other two big-box stores, Home Depot and Lowe’s.
“It’s not just Walmart. There are other retailers around town who, over time, have used their parking lots more and more for other purposes,” he said, citing the storage of rental equipment or putting up tents to sell Christmas trees.
Commissioners Curtis Holmes and Samantha Fenger did not express the same reservations.
“I’m not in favor of changing whatever it is that we are doing to make someone else happy or feel better or whatever the case may be,” Fenger said.
On Tuesday, the Commission voted to allow the Walmart stores to use the shipping containers wtih some limitations.