City Commissioners voted 4-1 Monday to hold an appeal hearing challenging the Planning Board’s 3-2 approval of a Ringling Boulevard Walmart supercenter.
The proposed Walmart became the fourth construction project in the city to face an appeal over the past five years. The City Commission denied all four of the previous appeals (see box).
Those in support believe they have solid ground for the appeal of the construction of the proposed 97,000-square-foot Walmart.
“When a plan doesn’t conform to the code, serious questions need to be addressed,” said Jerry Sparkman, a Sarasota architect who was named on the appeal.
Susan Chapman was one of the two planning board votes against Wal-Mart’s site plan.
“I thought the criteria was very clear that it did not fit the current zoning code,” said Chapman.
Chapman, who is also running for City Commission, said she read through the code before the Nov. 14 Planning Board meeting.
The zoning classification for the Ringling Shopping Center, called Commercial Shopping Center Neighborhood (CSC-N), allows small-scale commercial projects and prohibits a larger “single use” commercial building, including department stores. This zoning classification is specifically intended for commercial property that borders residential areas.
The CSC-N zoning also cautions that “great care must be used to fit a center into its surroundings.”
Chapman felt that the proposed Walmart store, which would be open 24 hours, was not “compatible” with the neighborhood.
Wal-Mart representatives and city planners contend that the project is allowed at the Ringling Boulevard location.
“We followed procedure to the letter of the law,” Wal-Mart attorney Jim Porter, said, “And now we are here and there are shifting sands as to what the rules are.”
Roger Dehus attended a protest before the City Commission meeting.
The Anti-SRQ Walmart Direct Action Planning Committee tarred and feathered a Wal-Mart smiley face prior to the meeting at City Hall.
Dehus recently moved to Alta Vista, and he loves being able to bike to Main Street. He thinks the zoning code for the shopping center near his home encourages a smaller type of store to be built there — not a Walmart.
“It’s zoned for a neighborhood-sized store,” Dehus said. “Not a superstore. Not a 24-hour store.”
Joe Paparatto, with the Occupy Sarasota group, led the demonstration Monday, and several residents joined in, sticking feathers on the smiley face.
“We want to run Wal-Mart out of town, or at least out of downtown,” Paparatto said just before he doused the smiley face with molasses, which was used in place of actual tar.
Click here to view appeals over the past five years.