Wal-Mart will try again Wednesday to get approval for its planned supercenter on Oakland Park Boulevard at Northeast Sixth Avenue, but it could face the same stumbling block that stymied its efforts in August.
A divided Oakland Park City Commission supported the company's overall plans for the former Kmart property, but it wasn't able to muster enough votes to approve a plat that's also required, a separate county document that outlines how the property can be developed.
The Wal-Mart site plan and plat each received favorable 2-1 votes. However, the plat was presented as a resolution, which requires the support of at least three commissioners to pass.
Two commissioners did not vote because their employers have relationships with Wal-Mart that could be considered a conflict of interest.
"It's a highly unusual situation that two of our commissioners would excuse themselves from considering an item," City Manager David Hebert said.
Wal-mart needs the plat change to build a new store. It could still open for business in the existing Kmart building without the change.
During the August discussions, City Attorney D.J. Doody said the plat approval was a "ministerial act" and that voting it down after approving the site plan could be difficult to defend in court.
Instead of going to court, Wal-Mart submitted a new proposal that added a 10-foot public recreation easement on the property's southern border along the North Fork of the Middle River. It has requested the commission approve the plat through a simple motion, which would only require a majority vote to pass.
But commissioners in August said they were unwilling to change their unwritten policy of passing plats with resolutions solely to accommodate Wal-Mart. When it comes before commissioners this week, it will be as a resolution once again.
Hebert said changing the city's policy at this point would be "akin to stacking the deck" in Wal-Mart's favor. While commissioners said they might consider changing the plat policy after the Wal-Mart denial, they didn't take any action before the new Wal-Mart plat was submitted.
"I think the challenge here is do you switch horses mid-stream?" Hebert said. Commissioners can still change the policy if they want, he said.
The original plat was supported by then Mayor Jed Shank and former Commissioner Shari McCartney, who resigned in October. It was opposed by Commissioner Sara Guevrekian. McCartney has been replaced by Commissioner Michael Carn, who was appointed to serve until a special election is held in March.
The two who have not participated in the votes are current Mayor Tim Lonergan and Vice Mayor John Adornato.