Court Rejects Permit For Miami Midtown Walmart Store

In a setback for the planned Midtown Miami Walmart store, Miami-Dade Circuit Court has sent the contentious development back to the city for review.
A 10-page opinion quashed a special permit issued by Miami’s Planning and Zoning Department on Aug. 12, 2013, which found plans for the store at 3055 N. Miami Ave. complied with the zoning code.
A group of business owners and activists who sued the city and Walmart claimed the city violated its own rules in issuing the permit.
Sitting as an appellate panel, Judges Ellen Sue Venzer, Victoria Brennan and Maria Verde were unswayed by most of the arguments offered by the Walmart opponents. But they agreed the city’s planning staff misapplied a section of the code on the number of commercial loading berths permitted on a project of this kind.
The panel rejected contentions that the city erred by approving a special permit instead of forcing Walmart through a more rigorous zoning code variance process. The judges also waved away the argument that the city’s planning director erred by approving a permit that a municipal urban design advisory board had voted against. The planning director was entitled to that action as long as he considered the board recommendation, the judges found.
At the same time, the panel rejected the city’s argument that a requirement for “three berths total” could be interpreted as “three berths minimum.” Walmart proposed five berths.

“That’s why I nearly shouted in my last brief when I said, ‘This court can determine what total means,’ ” Paul Savage, a Coral Gables attorney representing the opponents, said Monday. “The court knew what total means. And they had the authority to state that, which they did.”
He added, “It was a little bit of a page turner because they rejected many of our arguments but at the very end ruled in our favor.”

The decision quashed the city permit, which will require the world’s largest retailer to submit new development plans.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Walmart Stores Inc. said: “We are very pleased with today’s decision, which affirms nearly all of the arguments that Walmart and the city delivered to the court. We look forward to receiving an amended permit as soon as possible.”

More Resistance
Walmart has pushed with mixed success to move beyond suburban locations to the urban core. Its plans were seen as an urban template and would position a store near Target, which has been in place at Midtown for years.
One of the plaintiffs said local big-box store opponents intended to make seeking a new permit a difficult road. Grant Stern, a Miami mortgage broker and radio personality who is the public face of Walmart opposition, said his group would make sure the company faces resistance at every administrative step needed to obtain a special permit.

“The system failed us once, and we want to remedy that because clearly the planning department cannot be trusted,” Stern said.

One area of focus would be to get the city’s urban design review board to send objections to the planning director and demand the developer address them before getting a permit.
In February 2013, the board unanimously voted against the Walmart project design. But Stern said its concerns were easily dismissed by the planning director because they were not listed in a report to the city staff.
Source:  DBR

Enter your email address:



Get the latest industry news and information from CRE-sources delivered right to your email inbox!

And we promise…no more than one email each morning.