Opponents of the controversial Walmart in Midtown Miami won a partial victory in court, but it won’t be enough to stop construction of the planned superstore.
A Miami-Dade Circuit Court appellate panel sent approval of the store, which a group of Miami residents had challenged, back to the city for reconsideration, but only on a narrow issue. The three-judge panel ruled that the city zoning code allows the store to have a maximum of three loading bays, and not the five bays that Planning Director Francisco Garcia OK’d.
It’s unclear how the loading-bay reduction would affect the design or functioning of the proposed 200,000 square-foot store at Midtown Miami’s southern end, though it would at minimum require a revision of the approved blueprint.
But critics of the store failed to persuade the judges on their broader argument: that the city’s approval of the store nearly a year ago was improper because the plan does not conform to code and should have required variances.
“We are very pleased with today’s decision, which affirms nearly all of the arguments that Walmart and the city delivered to the court,’’ Amanda Henneberg, Senior Manager of Communications for Walmart, said in a statement. “We look forward to receiving an amended permit as soon as possible and will then move forward with constructing a store that provides access to affordable groceries and creates hundreds of new jobs.”
Miami city attorney Victoria Mendez did not respond to an email after business hours Monday. The ruling is stamped Oct. 15, but was mailed out and did not circulate until late Monday.
Store opponents, represented by Coral Gables attorney Paul Savage, said they were happy the judges stuck to the clear letter of the code on the loading-bay arithmetic, which they say city officials tried to fudge.
“While we expect to see a new Walmart permit application, it should be clear to whomever reviews it or hears it in the future that our arguments are meritorious,’’ said anti-Walmart activist Grant Stern in an email. “We will oversee every single aspect of any future Walmart application in Midtown, and we won’t tolerate further shenanigans.’’
The judges found little legal issue with city officials’ decisions on setbacks for parking within the store’s garage, and the extent to which the building exterior would be lined with required active storefronts or screens to conceal the garage.