Bermello slammed Walmart for repeatedly trying to “get away with” less than required in the Midtown code.
“I feel like a violin and I’m being played,” Bermello said.
Walmart officials rejected those claims. Sanchez denied any implications that the city planning department had bent the rules to favor the Walmart proposal.
“At no time, sir, does the planning department make a preference from one project to another, or push one [project] through over another,” Sanchez said. “We simply apply the rules based on the project’s merits.”
Sanchez said her department had already given careful consideration to the proposed plan.
“It is a work in progress and we would still like to see some additional refinements,” she said. “But for the most part, we’re comfortable with what they have presented.”
Because Walmart is not seeking any exceptions from the Midtown zoning rules, the application will not be reviewed in a public hearing or by the City Commission. The final decision rests with planning Director Francisco Garcia unless an appeal is filed. That appeal would be heard by the ccity planning board and finally the City Commission.
In a prepared statement, Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo called Wednesday’s meeting “a procedural step in the city’s approval process,” and said that the company values public input.
“We will continue working with the city and community to deliver a store that reflects the look and feel of Midtown Miami while providing new job opportunities and shopping options to our Miami customers,” he wrote.
But Grant Stern, a community activist who has fought against the Walmart proposal, said Walmart has hardly been cooperating.
“This is a flawed project that does not meet the Midtown Miami guidelines whatsoever,” Stern said after the meeting. “It would be a disaster.”