Grove residents fight to keep Home Depot away
By Yeleny Suarez
Some neighbors are opposing construction of a Home Depot store at a former Kmart site at Southwest 32nd Avenue and US 1, arguing that the site is in a light-commercial zone and the store would make congested traffic worse, hurt local merchants and pressure property values.
"This is a storm that is developing and soon to strike City Hall," said City Commissioner Joe Sanchez. "I plan to do what the residents want, for they are the ones being affected."
A group called The Grove First has hired attorney Tucker Gibbs to battle the development.
"We'd rather pay for an attorney now than suffer the consequences of a Home Depot in our area later," said Grove resident Mel Meinhardt.
The site, owned by Kimco Realty, became available after Kmart and Sears merged in late November.
The Grove First is arguing that development would make it impossible to drive along Bird Avenue between 27th and US 1. Marc Sarnoff, founder of the Village of Center Grove Neighborhood Association, said Kmart bankruptcy reports showed it had 500 to 750 daily customers and statistics on Home Depot's Web site show 3,200 to 5,000 daily customers, which would add traffic on 32nd Avenue, 27th Avenue, Bayshore Drive, Tigertail, Grand Avenue and Main Highway.
Diana Garza, senior manager of external affairs at Home Depot in Georgia, said the company could confirm nothing and has not drawn plans for the site.
"Traditional traffic patterns to a home-improvement retail location is significantly less than at a traditional strip shopping center which houses a supermarket, cleaner and other retail venues," Ms. Garza said.
"Even though Home Depot is not in my district, I have received a lot of complaints," Commissioner Sanchez said.
Mr. Meinhardt said Home Depot's 105,000-square-foot store would cover the corner shopping center once leases expire for Milam's supermarket and Walgreen's.
Home Depot representatives met with city officials Monday for a preliminary discussion. "Since this was the first meeting on the subject, there were no detailed plans to review," Ms. Garza said in a letter to Grove residents. "The Home Depot felt it was premature to propose any specific configuration for the project until we receive input from local officials and the community."
The city has yet to receive building plans and "no plans have been submitted for that property as of yet," building director Hector Lima said.
Ms. Garza said Home Depot representatives plan to meet with residents soon to present preliminary architectural and operational plans. "It would be very helpful if we could be made aware of the full range of issues so we may properly prepare for that presentation," she said.
"There is nothing in the pipeline," Mr. Gibbs said, "but we are getting ready to fight."