If commissioners in Oakland Park want to avoid litigation, they have a little more than one more week to come to an agreement with Walmart.
Steve Wherry, an attorney representing Walmart, said Oakland Park has until the end of the first week of December. In a letter to the city, Oakland Park was informed that the company would file an appeal with the Circuit Court if the city failed to approve its proposal.
For years, the city and the multi-national retailer have been at odds over the planned 121,345 square foot building. Walmart wants to demolish the existing 117,692 square foot building, which was previously owned and occupied by Kmart and is located on Oakland Park Boulevard and Northeast 6 Avenue.
Walmart could move into the existing building without approval but needs the city to approve the plat change in order to construct a new building.
As part of the plat approval process, Walmart 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.
If the city does lose a possible lawsuit, Steve Wherry, the attorney representing Walmart, said it would also possibly lose some of the items offered by the company, including the solar panels and the letter of credit for landscaping. “Obviously, I hope the city will save Walmart time and money and the city time and money [by accepting the offer].” He also said the longer the city delays, the longer the old Kmart site would sit vacant.
Commissioner Sara Guevrekian has been against the project from the beginning and says she believes it will cause an unacceptable increase in crime and traffic. “I will not cast a vote I believe to be injurious and detrimental to the residents of Oakland Park.”
Wilton Manors commissioners have also expressed concern over traffic increases. Northeast 6 Avenue runs from Oakland Park Boulevard to Wilton Drive and could cause an impact in Wilton Manors.
One major dispute between Walmart and Oakland Park is the burying of power lines. Walmart doesn’t want to do it. Oakland Park does. Guevrekian said the city has required line burying in the past and shouldn’t lower its standards for Walmart. “We just got pictures back from Mars. Quite an achievement. We can bury lines. We do this all the time,” said Commissioner Michael Carn.
But not every commissioner wants to keep fighting Walmart.
“If we deny this, we will be sued. We will expend significant city taxpayer dollars on our attorney’s fees, and we will lose. And we will get a Walmart,” said Vice Mayor John Adornato. Previously, Oakland Park’s city attorney advised commissioners that a lawsuit by Walmart against the city had a good chance of being successful.
The city will take up the issue again at its Nov. 30 commission meeting at 6:30 p.m.