A battle over plans to build a new Walmart in Midtown Miami continued Wednesday night before the city's Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board.
Although both sides of the issue attended the meeting, the focus instead was squarely on the numbers, two in particular: 21 and 27. These are the zoning ordinances that govern the use and design of land in midtown.
The meeting was called in response to an appeal attorney Paul Savage filed on behalf of neighboring businesses and residents. Though some of that contingent oppose the Walmart itself, the basis of the appeal was that certain features like a rear blank wall and the current dimensions of upper-story setbacks violated code.
"There is no way in the world that I can stand up here and say Walmart is not allowed to come here," said Savage during his presentation. "Number one, there is a Target right there. Number two, the phrase 'big box' is one of the things this district is for. Whoever is a big box is welcome. The only thing they're not welcome to do is to violate the code."
However, Miami's Planning and Zoning Director Francisco Garcia recommended that the city reject the appeal saying that there in fact is no infraction of the law. Garcia also recognized the challenge of interpreting code adding, "I think it would only be fair to say that to the extent that the project is complex and larger in size and scale, there is always more room for interpretation."
Despite the numbers talk, emotions still ran high, with each presenter taking jabs at each other. Several community members during the public comment section voiced their concern about safety, community input and maintaining midtown's character.
Supporters of the Walmart said they look forward to the jobs the store will create as well as accessibility to lower-priced items. As the meeting creeped towards the 4-hour mark, the crowd dwindled.
The store would be located between Midtown Boulevard and North Miami Avenue from Northeast 29th and 31st streets.
The board ultimately voted 6-4 to deny the appeal. This means that Walmart is one stop closer to breaking ground. Although it seems inevitable that opponents will appeal the decision, Walmart was very pleased with the outcome. If an appeal is made, the issue would go before the city commission next.