Friends of the Anclote River
P.O. Box 2555
Tarpon Springs, FL 34688


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, February 11, 2005 7:12 AM
Subject: Friends/Anclote group: Friends of the Anclote River press conference on February 10

The Anclote River and its bayous have been the central feature of Tarpon Springs from the earliest days of its settlement.

The first paragraph of the history of Tarpon Springs as briefly stated on the Citys web site says this:

The beauty and the rich natural resources of the area attracted the first settlers to Tarpon Springs just after the Civil War. 
These settlers established homes along the banks of the Anclote River and around the inland bayous.  Samuel E. Hope became the first landholder here when he acquired property along the north bank of the river in the mid 1860s.  He
was soon followed by the Thompson and Meyers families.

The first landowner in the area, Capt. Samuel Hope, was my great-great grandfather.  The Anclote River provided the means for my ancestors and other early settlers to reach Tarpon Springs before the advent of the railroad or the
invention of the automobile. 

The early life of our town centered around the river and its bayous.

It provided fish for our forefathers tables, it provided a means of transporting passengers and freight, it provided recreation for boating, swimming, fishing, and exploring.  It provided an escape from the routine of daily life.

All the people of the state have the right to use and enjoy the navigable waterways and the state owns the land beneath those waterways as a public trust. 

Our local elected officials have a duty to protect our environment and to manage the development of our city. 
For reasons unknown to us, they have chosen to jeopardize the health of the Anclote River and further jeopardize our travel on U.S. Highway 19 by approving the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter on a large undeveloped piece of land on the Anclote River.

After consulting with attorney John Grandoff, of the firm Hill, Ward, and Henderson, and our land use planning expert, Jan Norsoph, of the firm of Englehardt Hammer and Associates, it is our opinion that we have a number of strong legal grounds for the circuit court to reverse the split decision of our city commission.   We have retained attorney Phil Campbell of the law firm of Schumaker, Loop and Kendrick to file suit challenging the action of the Board of Commissioners.

The mayor and commissioners who voted to approve the Wal-Mart Supercenter in a General Business zoning district have strived in the local press to convince the citizens that:

1.  Only a few citizens were against the Wal-Mart project;

2.  It is better to have us ordinary citizens sue the City than for them to face Wal-Mart in court; and

3.  They had no choice but to approve the Wal-Mart Supercenter project.

Of the 62 persons who endured the several hours of City staff advocating the approval of the Wal-mart project before being given a chance to voice their concerns, 52 of them had Tarpon Springs addresses.  Of those citizens who spoke in favor of the project, only one had a Tarpon Springs address.

The officials who voted for Wal-Mart have also tried to portray the opposition group as being mainly outsiders - not residents
within the City limits.  Even though none of us here today have the kind of deep pockets that intimidates our City Commission, a great number of residents in the City have contributed funds to allow us to challenge our City Commission in court. 

The huge project proposed by Wal-Mart will affect many who travel along US 19 even though they may not reside in our fair City.  The monstrously large Wal-Mart Supercenter will most certainly affect those who will see and hear the 24-hour operations of the giant store from across a small body of water, even though they do not reside inside the city limits.  These citizens are a part of our community; they worship with us, their children attend our schools, they shop in our stores, they belong to our service and civic clubs.  Furthermore, many of these families are in the Tarpon Springs Planning Area, Water/Sewer service area, and our fire department's service area.  Clearly, they have a right to be heard in this controversy.

To portray these families as outsiders is the thinnest of arguments.

Secondly, those officials who supported Wal-Mart have adopted the mantra that they were saving us from a perceived
lawsuit with the financial giant.  The threat of litigation should have no place in the decision of whether or not a giant super store should be allowed in a General Business zoning district.  Equal protection under the laws means nothing if it does not mean that a fair hearing requires the city to base its decision on the evidence and not on the financial resources of those at the hearing.  Over 200 communities have turned down WalMart Supercenters.  I don't know of any that have lost to Wal-Mart in court.

And thirdly, if our city commission has no discretion in the site plan approval process, then why go through the charade of a hearing?   Why do we elect a commission if the city's attorney and planning staff make the decisions?

In the process of speaking out against the Wal-Mart Supercenter, the many concerned citizens have formed the Friends of the Anclote River.  None of us alone has the financial ability to fight this legal battle alone.  We have received donations from more than a hundred concerned citizens to help us pay for our attorneys and experts.  We are asking for donations of any amount to help us fight to preserve the natural beauty of this quaint little river that flows through our unique and beautiful City.