Huffpost Miami
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Grant Stern Headshot

Walmart Approval Leaves Miami Residents Reading Between the Lines

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

The City of Miami surprisingly approved Walmart's application for a permit in Midtown Miami this week.

This afternoon I got an unsolicited email in my inbox from the man who did the approving. Below in italics is my reply:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Garcia, Francisco
Date: Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 4:01 PM
Subject: Midtown Walmart
To: [a Broad Range of Community Stakeholders]

Dear Sir[s],

Yours is among the first of many messages I expect we will be receiving within the next fortnight regarding this application.

Pesky citizens write angrily when you ignore their voices. I guess that's the difficult life of a public servant.

I will unfortunately not be able to answer them all but by answering yours I hope to advance my sentiments and hopefully preempt others of the same tenor.

I tried to preempt this email by spending 40 hours painstakingly drafting a 2000 word essay and 20 page power point presentation -- you didn't see fit to review.

Before that I went to your office where you personally promised me to review anything sent in writing AND have your department respond to it in writing. [click for video]

You never replied.

The numerous meetings I have attended and the many conversations I have had regarding this project have all made it clear that there are strong sentiments for and against this proposal.

If by sentiments you mean: Walmart's plan never complied with Midtown Miami's unique design standards and zoning code, then yes, my sentiment for this proposal is strong.

2013-08-14-CAM03160.jpg

It is not however for me, as the planning and zoning director of the city of Miami, to gauge the proposal's popularity rather I must consider its compliance with applicable regulations and its contextuality generally.

In this context, a very large corporation submitted a very non-compliant building plan.

Over the loud and repetitive objections on basis of fact, zoning code and precedent - you approved that plan anyhow.

In answer to your questions then:

- Our research indicates that the plans for the Midtown Walmart project comply with the zoning ordinance as approved.

What research?

Your staffer Carmen Sanchez studiously avoided answering if she had consulted with the City's Attorney about Active Use Liners* on the second and third floors of parking garages. Later, she later plainly admitted that she went to Walmart and their counsel to get a new definition of Liner Uses.

Your citizen review panel of architects, the UDRB knew exactly what was missing from Walmart's plan and declined the project 6-0 as not complying with Midtown's Design Standards.

(* The requirement to have pedestrian accessible offices/shops/residences on 2nd floors of parking structures where those garages front Midtown Blvd. or N. Miami Ave.)

- Also please know that my colleagues in the planning and zoning department; public works department; capital improvements program office; building department; city attorney's office...

Strangely, the Zoning Department isn't noted in your laundry list of colleagues.

I guess using a zoning approval from 12 months ago on Walmart's Plan A, then firing the Zoning Administrator after Plan B was submitted, means that they mightn't have felt this was the best possible design.

...and I have worked for approximately two years with the applicants and a broad range of community stakeholders to attain the best possible design for this facility, above and beyond mere compliance with applicable regulations, and we are very satisfied with the results.

Rather than applying the Midtown Miami code as written, you handed Walmart an illegal compromise on a plan that will wreck a neighborhood.

Oh, and you're very satisfied.

Great.

I sincerely hope this addresses any concerns you may have.

Why bother with false sincerity now? You've had 4 months to reply to my comments.

I completely understand it if this response does not satisfy your preferences but request respectfully that you afford my colleagues and I a modicum of respect by refraining from unnecessary denunciations.

My preference is that after you read this column, you respectfully resign your office.

I know we have earned it.

That you have.

Please note I have taken the liberty of blind copying the vast list of stake holders who, like you, have shown interest this project.

We get the message loud and clear. Walmart's money talks, the public's concerns can walk.