Jeannette Marie Hinsdale: Real blame lies with Walmart


Published: Monday, May 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 at 5:25 p.m.

In her Speaking Out column on May 5, Quenta Vettel alleges a “stranglehold” that a “select number of Democrats” have on the Gainesville City Commission, citing as part of her main premise the many rejections made by former city commissions of Walmart site plan proposals.

In her argument, where she tries to tie the Democratic Executive Committee leadership to these rejections, there are two factual mistakes that I know of.

On the current Home Depot site at Northwest 13th Street, Walmart proposed to pave over 50 acres of environmentally critical headwaters of the Hogtown Creek.

This would have resulted in an ecological downstream disaster.

The City Commission wisely rejected this proposal with the Republican city commissioner joining the majority vote.

Home Depot brought a proposal that would pave only 10 acres and establish a large conservation zone surrounding the headwaters.

Whereas Walmart refused to do a hydrological study, saying it was unprecedented and cost prohibitive as well as delaying to the development of the project, in its site plan Home Depot included a special stormwater system that mimicked the special hydrological natural seep drainage of the headwaters.

The Home Depot site approval was not because of a Democratic “stranglehold;” it was bipartisan teamwork with state and local government, private enterprise and a non-profit organization for responsible development.

As for the Sam's Club story, Quenta's client proposed an expansion of the store with a super-pumper next to a historical cemetery.

After much pressure, Walmart agreed to move the gasoline station to the center of the property.

The City Commission, in a bipartisan vote, approved the expansion with a gas station.

As part of the expansion, the commission insisted that Sam's Club comply with the city's noise ordinance by restricting night loading or realign the loading dock that subjected the neighbors to brief yet exceedingly loud noises every time a fork lift unloaded merchandise from a semi-trailer. Walmart refused to expand the project if it meant complying with the noise code.

For Quenta to blame the commission and the Democratic Executive Committee for the failing of Walmart/Sam's Club to be good neighbors is absurd and not supported by the public record.

Jeannette Marie Hinsdale lives in Gainesville.

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