Years after purchasing the former Kmart site and multiple rejections by the city commission, Oakland Park has approved Wal-Mart’s plan to build a 121,345 square foot store.
The city commission and Wal-Mart executives finally resolved their last dispute over the undergrounding of powerlines along the east and west portions of the property, located at Oakland Park Boulevard and Northeast 6 Avenue.
The city’s code requires powerlines be undergrounded but, according to city staff, no business has ever requested a waiver. “I think that’s important to recognize,” said Mayor John Adornato.
The mayor, Commissioner Matthew Sparks, and Commissioner Michael Carn voted in favor of allowing Wal-Mart to build its new store without burying the power lines. Vice Mayor Tim Lonergan abstained, citing a conflict of interest.
Commissioner Sara Guevrekian, who has opposed the project from the beginning, voted no and said the city shouldn’t be ignoring its own rules. “Wal-Mart made a business decision to purchase the property without approvals. Didn’t like the way it came out and now are choosing to fight with us tooth and nail,” she said.
In a previous interview, Steven Wherry, the attorney representing Wal-Mart, said the retailer would most likely sue the city if commissioners didn’t approve the project. City Attorney D.J. Doody said the city would have a tough time winning if Wal-Mart had sued. The property is already zoned for Wal-Mart’s use and the proposed building is only 4,000 square feet bigger than the former Kmart building. Wal-Mart also could have moved into the current building without approval from the city.
As part of the plat approval process, Wal-Mart has offered to limit truck delivery times, prevent its trucks from using Northeast 6 Avenue, install solar panels on its building, provide Oakland Park with a $100,000 letter of credit for landscaping and $300,000 for the city’s tree fund. It also agreed to provide a greeter and hire BSO officers to work private details if incidents of crime increase.
“Wal-Mart truly wants to be part of this community,” Wherry said.
“Is this good for the city or bad for the city? I’ve heard people say both,” Adornato said.
As for the possible impact on local businesses, Linda Damiani, owner of The Bedpost Furniture and Home Décor, located across the street from the old Kmart, said she hopes Wal-Mart brings people back to Northeast 6 Avenue.
“The street’s been dead [since Kmart closed]. It’s been almost the worst year I’ve had. When Kmart was there, people would come out of Kmart and see my store. For me, personally, I’m tired of looking at a dead building. I want some kind of business there.”