Neighbors picket proposed Walmart site
CARROLLWOOD - Residents strongly opposed to a Walmart Neighborhood Market planned for Dale Mabry Highway at Floyd Road have taken their battle to the streets. Placard-waving opponents who gather at the corner during rush hour three mornings a week say they will maintain their vigil until the rezoning request is decided by Hillsborough County officials. The zoning change request initially slated to go before a Hillsborough land-use hearing master in May has been delayed three times. It now is set for 6 p.m. Monday at County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd. "We're trying to regenerate interest and, hopefully, gain more support as well," said Greg Scott, a Burnbrook resident among the leaders of 813CARe (Carrollwood against Rezoning). "As a leadership group we've been meeting over the last several months."We've met with the developers twice. At the first meeting we expressed our concerns, with our primary concerns being compatibility and traffic," he said. At a subsequent meeting the developers presented "a fancier-looking store" with more landscaping. "It really didn't have anything to do with traffic and compatibility," Scott said during the initial roadside demonstration Sept. 26. Leah Wooten, president of the 27-member Cedar Hollow Homeowners Association, said the proposed grocery "would be in our backyard. We're going to do this every Monday, Wednesday and Friday," she said as she and 30 others participated in the first rally at the former Hudson Nursery, which closed in 2004, ending a half-century in the plant business and leaving 10.5 acres on the market. The proposal calls for 47,300 square feet of commercial space, most of it for the Walmart grocery. It also has a Wawa convenience store/gas station of about 6,000 square feet. The 90-minute sign-waving sessions starting at 7 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the northwest corner of Dale Mabry/Floyd Road are intended to draw attention. "A lot of people, especially with land-use hearings, they don't know what it means," Wooten said. "So that's what we're trying to do here — raise awareness that there's something afoot here they're not going to like. I can't imagine anyone wanting this corner to become another Walmart," she said. "We understand it needs to be developed," said Wooten, "but we want it to be developed as it's currently zoned." Existing zoning allows for 25,000 square feet of offices and 17,000 more of retail space, with 37 town houses toward the rear of the acreage. Joan Boggs didn't have to walk far to participate in the protest. The Enclave of Carrollwood Homeowners Association president lives less than one block west of the former nursery. "We can't even get out of our gate" at times due to Floyd Road traffic backups, she said. "It's insanity" to add a large retail operation to the corner. "We feel it's going to be an unsafe condition," especially for neighborhood children. The grassroots organization battling the Walmart plan relies heavily on email, its website — www.813care.webs.com — and social media, including Facebook. "It is overwhelming," concedes Wooten. "You kind of have this fatalism — it's Walmart, the little guy is never going to win. It's the classic David versus Goliath; a small community trying to keep out a big-box retailer."