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Letters to the Editors

Make Wal-Mart less of eyesore

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


Editor: It appears that Wal-Mart is going to build a supercenter at U.S. 19 and Spring Hill Drive, whether the residents of the area want it or not. The activists who have so vigorously opposed it are to be admired, but I'm afraid now is the time to accept the fact it's going to happen and try to get the least offensive project possible.

The County Commission is to be congratulated on instructing the Planning and Zoning Department to expedite new and improved standards for landscaping and lighting before Wal-Mart presents its plan. It is unfortunate there may not be time also to upgrade architectural and signage ordinances.

It would be tragic if this project turns out to be another unconscionable, ugly, monster-box eyesore with an asphalt-desert parking lot and grossly oversized and unnecessary signage. The new store in Pasco on U.S. 19 is very little improvement over the Cortez Boulevard disaster. This Pasco store design, which is being touted as the prototype for the new west Hernando County store, should be totally unacceptable. Why should we have to settle for this embarrassingly ugly design with its tacked-on facade, cliched racing stripes and sloganeering, and oversized signage?

Of course, Wal-Mart will try to build and landscape the cheapest way possible if Hernando County government lets it. But do we have to accept a project that will degrade the appearance of the area? I've been told that Wal-Mart and other mass marketers have on occasion greatly upgraded their landscaping, architectural and signage standards when local communities demand it. And it's a cinch that if we don't demand it, we won't get it. Why should we accept anything less than those communities that have insisted on more attractive designs and installations? Now is the time for Hernando County government to stand up and speak out.

And if Wal-Mart is as smart a company as it often has proven itself to be, it will make the effort to be a good corporate neighbor and win over local public opinion. Wal-Mart will come back to us with a design that is so tasteful and so compatible with the environment of the area that it will be difficult to reject.
-- Joe Bennett, Hernando Beach

New Wal-Mart is "a huge mistake'

Editor: I have lived in Hernando County for 25 years and have watched its strange development. I've also been asked to donate my property so bears and other wildlife can run through it.

Over the years I've watched local shopping malls built and then deserted; huge supermarkets such as the Winn-Dixie Market Place on County Line Road built and then deserted; and further down the road in Pasco County, a huge shopping mail lies vacant.

The Planning and Zoning Department allows large corporations to build new stores to satisfy the stockholders. What are left are large, desolate, ghostly buildings in exchange for beautiful trees and wildlife.

I believe building a huge Wal-Mart at the corner of Spring Hill Drive and U.S. 19 is a huge mistake. Local established businesses are starting to leave the area. We also have a Wal-Mart two miles away from the planned Super Wal-Mart, which is usually less than half full of people.

Hernando County is a beautiful county. It originally was largely agricultural and now is turning into urban sprawl, which is to be expected. Careful planning should be considered as this happens. Hernando County has a chance to not be a copycat community of other blighted communities in the United States. The Southwest Florida Water Management District has been very adamant about saving open lands for wildlife west of U.S. 19, so why does Hernando County want to allow a Wal-Mart supercenter west of U.S. 19? Zoners should consider careful planning for our children's future so Hernando County won't resemble a ghetto.

I have nothing against Sam Walton, but his corporate officers should be more concerned about the future of a community than with the dollar sign. If a Wal-Mart is built here, I bet you that in less than 10 years it will be deserted.
-- James Rosenquist, Aripeka

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