Tonight, critics will once again outline their opposition to Walmart's midtown Miami plans. And while the Planning, Zoning, and Appeals Board meeting won't be the last time the issue arises, it will likely be opponents' best shot to derail the big-box store's development project.
It was the same board that delivered a resounding 9-0 vote against Walmart's plans last year -- a decision later overturned by planning director Francisco Garcia.
A second rejection by the board would put pressure on city commissioners to do the same, whereas a reversal would give politicians political cover to approve the controversial project.
Opponents of the plan argue that Walmart's proposal violates numerous zoning laws and that the city would be bending the rules to allow the megastore into the up-and-coming neighborhood.
Walmart, meanwhile, insists that it is bringing hundreds of short- and long-term jobs to the area and that it has the backing of local residents.
Garcia, the planning director, gave the 203,000-square-foot building the green light in August when he approved Walmart's building plans, asking only that the company file final construction plans, replace uprooted trees, and ban delivery trucks from entering busy Midtown Boulevard from NE 31st Street.
But critics -- chief among them mortgage broker Grant Stern -- argue that even with the changes, the new Walmart will move the neighborhood away from a dense, urban, and residential space and instead transform it into a suburban wasteland of shopping carts and receipts for $3.99 spandex jeggings blowing back and forth like tumbleweeds.
"If you've got any desire to oppose Walmart's defenestration of midtown -- this is the time to make your voice heard," Stern wrote recently in an online petition against the project. "All we need to do is fight -- there is a strong chance that our appeal will be successful."
Tonight's Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Miami City Hall.
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