Miami-Dade County

Midtown Walmart appeal back before Miami Commission following court case

SUPERSTORE: The 203,000-square-foot Walmart store is planned for North Miami Avenue in Midtown Miami.
SUPERSTORE: The 203,000-square-foot Walmart store is planned for North Miami Avenue in Midtown Miami.

One year after rejecting an appeal from opponents of a massive Walmart in Midtown Miami, city commissioners will once again consider a request to nix the permit that would allow the 203,000-square-foot superstore on North Miami Avenue.

Thursday’s scheduled rehearing follows a ruling in a court case that challenged the commission’s original 2013 dismissal of the appeal.

Commissioners last year disagreed with several arguments from Walmart foes, including one that the city’s planning director had improperly granted a permit administratively when a public hearing should have been required. That decision was challenged in court. Last month, an 11th Circuit judicial panel sided with the petitioners, ruling that Planning Director Francisco Garcia permitted five loading bays for the Walmart when only three “total” were allowed.

The panel overturned the commission’s ruling on the appeal and sent the issue back to the city.

Walmart foes declared victory, saying the retailer was indeed granted the wrong type of permit and should have to start over from scratch to receive proper approval. But City Attorney Victoria Mendez says the ruling requires only that commissioners rehear the appeal on the narrow grounds raised by the court regarding the loading bays.

Walmart representatives say they expect to receive an amended permit in short order.

That has led to arguments by Walmart opponents that the city is improperly interpreting the court ruling, going for a quick fix where a wholesale change is required. Depending on the commission’s direction Thursday, another lawsuit could be pending.

“We continue to contend that the city of Miami attorney is not interpreting the ruling from the three judges accurately,” said Peter Ehrlich, one of the activists behind the appeal to be heard Thursday.

The Walmart appeal will be heard after 2 p.m. Thursday, during the planning and zoning portion of the City Commission’s meeting.