Largo agrees to tweak rules so Walmart can use outdoor storage containers

The Walmart supercenter at 990 Missouri Ave. faced fines in December for these storage containers in the parking lot. City commissioners decided compromise was the best course of action Sept. 17 when they voted to bend the rules so the store could use the containers this holiday season.

LARGO — City commissioners decided compromise was the best course of action Sept. 17 when they voted 6-1 to bend the rules so two Walmart supercenters could use outdoor storage containers during the holiday season.

The stores at 990 Missouri Ave. and 2677 Roosevelt Blvd. were cited in December for violating the city’s Code of Ordinances and Comprehensive Development Code, which limit temporary storage containers on commercial properties to one container for a maximum of 30 continuous days. They are also not allowed in the commercial general land-use classifications where the stores reside.

The stores, however, informed the city in June that they needed to use the steel containers again for additional holiday inventory for about 90 days starting in October. Not using them, representatives said, would be expensive and impractical.

On Sept. 3, commissioners requested city staff come up with a short-term solution for this year until a longer-term solution, which could take six to eight months of work, can be completed. 

After some tweaking, that short-term solution that lasts only until the end of the year and applies to all five of Largo’s big-box stores proved to be satisfactory for commissioners Sept. 17.

“I’m glad we’re talking about trying to find a solution that everybody can agree with,” Vice Mayor John Carroll said. “The last thing I think any of us wants to see is a big empty building where Walmart used to be on Missouri.”

According to Planning Manager Rick Perez, the stores must still obtain small-scale site plan approval and meet several restrictions, including:

• containers shall not remain longer than 90 days;

• placement is prohibited in front yard between the building and public right of way; 

• if visible from public right of way, containers must be screened;

• containers shall not obstruct required parking spaces; 

• they must abide by all other local, state, Florida Building Code and Fire Prevention Code requirements;

• code violations, such as placing additional containers outside of the approved site plan, will invalidate the small-scale approval. 

The resolution also prohibited containers on the side yard between the building and public right of way, but commissioners struck the provision at the request of Walmart’s land-use lawyer, Marilyn Healy, who said it would limit options for the store at the corner of Missouri Avenue and Rosery Road.

Largo resident Judith Owen, who lives close to that store, said she was in favor of allowing the retailer to use the containers because the alternative would lead to more trucks delivering goods.

“So, for the inconvenience and, let’s put it bluntly, eyesore of three months of those containers, I would still rather have that there than listen to those tractor trailers pulling in and out all times during the day and night trying to restock the Walmart through the holiday,” she said. “And believe me, I can hear it all.” 

Commissioner Samantha Fenger, who cast the sole no vote, remained steadfast that the city shouldn’t change its code just because two stores can’t comply. 

“I don’t see the reason for us to have to go forward and rewrite code because of that,” she said. “I think it should be you amending your process to ours.”

Commissioner Curtis Holmes said nothing was written in stone.  

“I don’t have a problem with this thing at all,” he said. “But I want to point out to my fellow commissioners that we modify codes all the time. That is nothing new. Our Code of Ordinances is not a religious book. My God, we changed the sign ordinance. Everybody said you can’t change that. We change this stuff all the time, so this is no big deal. If they can resolve the problem about stacking these things up on Rosery Road or putting a bunch of camouflage over it, I have no problem with this thing at all.”