The North Miami planning commission will meet Tuesday to discuss plans for a proposed Walmart Neighborhood Market store, and make a recommendation to the City Council, after a tense community meeting between residents and the developers.
At the Dec. 15 meeting, many residents spoke out against the proposal to build a Walmart Neighborhood Market in a mostly vacant grassy lot off Northeast 135th Street between Memorial Highway and Northeast Third Court. They argued that the development would increase crime in the area, add unwanted traffic and negatively impact their property values.
Others, like Laura Hill, a 5-year resident of the Griffing Park Estates neighborhood, suggested alternative uses for the lot, including smaller, local businesses or a community garden.
Hill has also hosted meetings at her home to let other residents know about the proposal. She said that dozens of her neighbors have come and voiced their opinions.
“I’ve had more people come by my house in the last two weeks than probably the whole time I’ve lived here,” Hill said. “It’s helped us organize together to see that we have mutual concerns and mutual goals.”
The plan calls for the main Walmart store and parking lot along with a gas station and room for a restaurant or another store. Most of the land is zoned for commercial use, and the developer hopes to have the residential area zoned for its use as well.
Petitions have circulated asking the City Council to deny that zoning change. An online petition received 34 signatures as of Dec. 31, and Hill said a written petition got hundreds of signatures.
Representatives from Retrosource, the developer of the project, said they want to work with residents and have already adjusted some of their designs to address concerns from the December community meeting.
Former Mayor Frank Wolland, an attorney representing the developer, said Retrosource is amenable to closing access from Northeast Third Court and putting a roundabout on Griffing Boulevard to calm traffic.
“We want to be aware of the community’s concerns and we want to be responsive to them,” Wolland said.
Wolland said that the proposed store will be smaller than standard Walmart supercenters and that the development should create about 80 to 90 local jobs. The Neighborhood Market stores are about 40,000 square feet on average, making them about a quarter of the size of a supercenter, and they focus on selling produce, grocery and pharmaceuticals.
“People are really watching their pocketbooks and trying to save money, and we’re going to give people a choice,” Wolland said. “Of all the uses you could make on the property I think this is a very good use.”
The planning commission meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6, at North Miami City Hall, 776 NE 125th St.