Bloomingdale residents fight ‘big box’ near library
About 300 people packed in to the community room at the Bloomingdale Regional Library earlier this week to plan a strategy for pushing back plans for a big box store and apartments next door.
Residents from many nearby neighborhoods joined committees and pledged their support to fight what is widely expected to be a Walmart on property just east and north of the library.
The 43.5-acre parcel would contain a 158,800-square-foot store and about 260 apartments. Residents say that will add to the traffic on the already failed Lithia-Pinecrest Road and will make conditions less safe along busy Bloomingdale Avenue, where some students walk to school during the week.
“None of these commissioners or planners ever come out here at rush hour,” said George May, president of the Bloomingdale Homeowners Association and a longtime community activist. He said the school district needs to get involved to make sure safety concerns are addressed.
The community activists leading the charge acknowledge that the county previously rezoned the land to allow a big box store, but say it was done in an underhanded way.
The county advertised a countywide land-use code change in 2011 to allow for mixed use development on the property, never mentioning the property by name, activists say. So, no one would have known the change only affected one parcel in the county.
“My investment in this is that this is my home, my backyard,” said Dan Gates, who lives in Lithia Oaks, which abuts the property where the big box store would go. “This is not going to be a quick fix. We need to gear up for a long fight because this is going to be one.”
A few years back, some of the same residents pushed back against a Target store on the same property and prevailed, Gates said. “Apparently, they like to be better neighbors.”
“Don’t buy the-horse-is-out-of-the-barn argument,” said Jereme Monette. The county staff works for the County Commission and if the group can get some commissioners to listen, the project could be stopped, he said.
Several community activists appeared before the County Commission on Wednesday to have their say.
“What we’re seeing is that this is a direct assault on our community in many ways,” Jason Shiver told commissioners.
Shiver’s wife, Moira said she had moved into her neighborhood as a single mother with kids. She cashed in her 401K plan to put a down payment on her house so she could bring up her kids in a safe and friendly community. But with a big box store and 260 apartments moving in near her, Moira Shiver said she believes her property’s value will drop.
“We understand your concerns,” Commission Chairman Ken Hagan told those who attended. “We’re not ignoring them. We just have to be mindful of the law and work within those parameters.”
Reporter Mike Salinero contributed to this report