Wal-Mart to expand store

Its Palm Harbor plans include adding a grocery, and it says its Tarpon plans are entirely separate.

By Elena Lesley, Times Staff Writer
Published February 19, 2008

PALM HARBOR - While environmentalists and Wal-Mart representatives battle over a proposed Tarpon Springs supercenter, the company is moving forward with plans to expand its existing Palm Harbor store.

Wal-Mart plans to transform its discount store at U.S. 19 and Alderman Road into a supercenter, company spokeswoman Quenta Vettel said.

The building will expand to the west, increasing by 26,000 square feet, to 118,640 square feet.

The expansion has no bearing on the fate of the proposed Tarpon Springs store, Vettel said.

"They're completely separate," she said.

There is no timeline for the expansion of the Palm Harbor store, but Vettel said Wal-Mart is working with Pinellas County officials to secure permits. The upgrade would include adding a grocery to the location as well as repaving and landscaping the parking lot.

Just a few miles to the north, the Tarpon Springs project recently hit a major roadblock. In January, the city's Board of Adjustment overturned a previous staff decision and declared changes to the company's site plan "major" instead of "minor." The move could force Wal-Mart to undergo a new, lengthy series of public hearings.

The company is currently conducting an internal review and weighing its options, Vettel said.

Jackie Fiori, who lives northwest of the store, said she was concerned the expansion could adversely affect the surrounding area. Traffic could get even worse on U.S. 19, she said, and she wouldn't want to see Wal-Mart build too close to residences.

Plus, she asked, "Aren't they already building one in Tarpon Springs?"

Elena Lesley can be reached at elesley@sptimes.com or 727 445-4167.