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Sarasota News Leader CUT-THROUGH PEDESTRIANS One refrain heard over and over during public testimony was the lack of planning for pedes- trian traffic to the south of the building, to enable neighbors to access Payne Park easily. The site plan calls for that area to be the site of a loading zone and truck turn-around. Adding in dog-walkers, baby strollers and semi-trac- tor trailers struck Walmart representatives and the Sarasota Police Department as a bad mix. The official plans call for neighbors to walk out to Ringling and turn left, head to School Avenue and then go south to the park, cover- ing three sides of a long triangle. "People are going to cross through the back. It's a reality of human nature," said Planning Board member Jennifer Ahearn-Koch. "Any- thing you can do to make it better for the neighborhood, it would be appreciated," she told the Walmart representatives present. "It's excruciatingly important." Current plans call for 24-hour-a-day operation of the store, a point that concerned the neigh- bors, too. Worry about light pollution plaguing nearby homes was mentioned, as was the po- tential for sound pollution. Facing all the criticism, Walmart representa- tives came back with two points. First, they said they have not ignored the neighbors, and they do not plan on ignoring the neighbors once the store is open. Second, their plan checks off every box, meets every require- ment and is ready to go. "Your expert planner says this is allowed," said Walmart representative Jim Porter. November 16, 2012 THE VOTE "Whether Walmart has been nice to the neigh- bors is not the issue," said Planning Board member Susan Chapman. "The City Commis- sion did not opt to put this [area] into down- town zoning, so this requires small-scale de- velopment. There is nothing about this plan that is small-scale. I will not support it." Member Vlad Svekis boiled down the plan to an irreducible minimum: "Three hundred fifty jobs versus a derelict shopping center." It was clear where his vote lay. "The bottom line is, we need Walmart in this community," said Planning Board Chairman Mort Siegel. "I think you'll be very pleased with what they'll do in this community." Ahearn-Koch noted the existing shopping cen- ter was an assembly of small businesses, while Walmart is what she described as "a depart- ment store." She said that is not allowed in the current zoning for the site, and she would not support the petition for the facility. Member Chris Gallagher made the motion to find the petition consistent with city rules, saying it should be approved. Svekis seconded the motion, and the vote was 3-2, with Ahearn- Koch and Chapman in the minority. After close and contentious votes over land- use issues, it is common to find people on the losing side in the parking lot, talking strategy. Not this time, though. It was more of an "OK, let's see how it works out" attitude. The store is scheduled to open in early 2014. The existing building and parking lot will be razed before construction begins next year. % Page 27

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