About 200 people wearing red showed up at Monday night's Hillsborough County's Zoning Hearing Master meeting. The red symbolized their dislike for a proposed rezoning of Floyd Road.
The crowd's stance was clear: No Walmart.
"Our biggest issue on the eastern side is the traffic," said Original Carrollwood resident Mark Tempest, a member of 813CARe, an organization consisting of several neighborhoods and businesses opposed to the Walmart.
Tempest said the project would "exaggerate and increase existing cut-through traffic."
"We've been inundated with traffic calming and I don't think our neighborhood can tolerate any more traffic calming to support this specific proposal," Tempest said. "There's something wrong with the system if this kind of thing is allowed and if it is, the comprehensive plan needs to be adjusted."
The meeting was the first of a two-step process in the proposed rezoning of the 10-acre space at the northwest corner of Floyd Road and North Dale Mabry Highway.
The development would consist of an approximately 48,000-square-foot Walmart neighborhood grocery and a 6,000-square-foot WaWa convenience store with gas pumps.
After tonight's meeting the Zoning Master, Steve Luce, will issue a recommendation regarding the zoning on Nov. 5. The case will then go before the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners on Dec. 11 when a final vote will be taken on whether or not to grant the rezoning.
The area is now zoned for light commercial office space. Developers need a heavy commercial zoning to build the stores on the site.
This proposal is not technically considered a big box, which the county classifies as 75,000 square feet or more. In 2004, the property was rezoned for 37 town homes and 17,000 square feet of commercial and 25,000 square feet of office space.
Walmart representatives at last night's meeting were quick to point out that the store would not be the traditional big box development.
"When people hear the term Walmart they expect super center," said Jim Porter, legal counsel for Walmart. "This is a grocery store."
Describing it as an upgrade to existing Walmart buildings, the building's color would be a warm brown earth tone, include design elements at the corners of the building, striping on the front and Spanish tile roofing.
Residents in the area have expressed concerns about traffic and overcrowding created by the development specifically criticizing the developer's plan to place a traffic signal at the intersection of Dale Mabry and Floyd Road.
They say the signal would produce traffic jams in residential areas surrounding the building.
The project would generate about 400 additional trips in the evening and night hours, according to a county traffic report. Without the signal, the project would not be possible.
The county's favorable report on the signal created a commotion in the crowd.
"Ladies and gentlemen we'll get through the hearing a lot quicker if we don't have interruptions," Luce cautioned to the crowd.
The size of the anti Walmart crowd often caused concern throughout the meeting. An overflow room was established on the 26th floor of the county center. And hearing master Luce often had to quiet the crowd down.
"The Fire Marshall does not like to have people standing in the aisles blocking safe passage," he said at one time during the meeting.
So far, the 813CARe group has collected and submitted to the county more than 2,500 letters, emails and petition signatures against the proposal, Tempest said.
Joan Boggs, a resident of The Enclave of Carrollwood, lives directly across the street from the proposed development.
"Our homeowners paid between $400,000 and $800,000 in that neighborhood," Boggs said. "We would never have built those homes there in that price range with zoning for any kind of grocery store or convenience store, gas station.”
Boggs said she and other Carrollwood residents are “reasonable people who are not against development."
"However, it is not reasonable for large retailers to profit at the expense of surrounding neighborhoods," Boggs said. "Rezoning this site is radically inappropriate."
Mark Snellgrove, president of Carrollwood Civic Association said the proposed project has united the community in opposition.
"I think in the history of Carrollwood never has the community been 100 percent united as they are tonight," Snellgrove said. "No one is in favor it."
Public comment will be accepted at the Dec. 11 meeting, however, speakers must sign up with the county commission's clerk first between Nov. 5-15.