Ball in Alachua's court on Wal-Mart

Published: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 1:08 a.m.
ALACHUA - All that now stands in the way of the construction of a large, regional Wal-Mart warehouse is a memorandum of understanding detailing what the city will do for the company that must be approved by the City Commission.
The memorandum states that Wal-Mart has an option on a tract owned by Waco Properties Inc. and lists a targeted construction start date of March 15, 2004.
"The intention of the agreement, as I understand it, is that if those items set forth are met, Wal-Mart is coming," Waco attorney Ron Carpenter said. "The memorandum is not just, 'City, this is what you have to do.' It is, 'This is what we need to come.' "
City Manager Clovis Watson said a date for a commission vote has not been set. Commissioners had not received the memorandum by Thursday.
"This memorandum of understanding will be brought to the commission for discussion," Watson said. "It will be their decision on what direction to take it."
The land is southwest of the Dollar General warehouse along County Road 235A near Peggy Road.
Wal-Mart plans to build a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center that will provide about 600 full-time jobs.
Opponents believe it could pollute groundwater, create noisy and dangerous truck traffic and lessen the quality of life in the area.
The pact states the city will be responsible for water and sewer service to the site. Carpenter said the city is already obligated to provide those under a contract with Waco.
Also, the city will be expected to try to get grants to build an industrial grade road through the property off CR 235A, according to the memorandum.
Florida Enterprise Inc., a state economic development agency, has determined the project qualified for grant money, according to a letter to the Alachua County Council of Economic Outreach.
Carpenter said the city also can apply for grants to extend the water and sewer service to the site. He added that the city doesn't have to provide any services beyond what is already in the Waco contract.
The memorandum also outlines time frames for permitting and project reviews and obligates the city to use its best efforts to provide about 5,000 square feet of temporary office space.
Wal-Mart first expressed an interest in building in Alachua in September, and debate over the project erupted immediately.
The company got a narrow show of support when the City Commission voted 3-2 to officially welcome the project after long hours of debate at several meetings.
The commission later voted 3-2 to exempt the project from a building moratorium.
Officials said the commission is expected to vote on the memorandum sometime next week, though a special meeting may have to be called for it.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or

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