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2004-02-15
Chamblee, GA. Wal-Mart offers "urban" superstore with underground parking.

Residents in Chamblee, Georgia have sent the following front lines report of their battle with Wal-Mart: "Wal-Mart is currently in the process of seeking approval to construct one of their new "urban" stores in the city of Chamblee. They are attempting to get their plans approved so they can purchase the land and begin building. Fortunately, the City Council did not feel the plans as submitted were in compliance with the spirit of the city ordinances, and Wal-Mart was sent back to the drawing boards to modify their designs. Some residents have been trying to work with Wal-Mart to attempt to get them to build something suitable for the community, but another group of us feel the Wal-Mart is completely inappropriate for our city in any form. The property they are trying to develop is within the Atlanta Perimeter, where land is sparse, and totals only 15 acres. I used the term "urban" development because they tried to tell us at the initial meeting that this was a new idea for Wal-Mart, and made it seem as though they were going above and beyond just for us. The design calls for a 204,000 s.f. superstore on a 14 acre tract of land. They made it "urban" by designing the facility with an underground parking lot. So basically it's just an enormous hole filled with asphalt and a standard, cookie-cutter, one size fits all superstore on top. Apparently, this is what passes for original, innovative, urban thought at Wal-Mart. The City Council asked if they could possibly build a 2 story facility, and the Wal-Mart representative said, "Wal-Mart doesn't know how to operate out of a 2 story facility." We have since found that they have 2 story facilities in about 5 communities in the U.S. and many countries throughout the world. We are being told by City Council members that Wal-Mart's current designs are not quite up to zoning regulations, but they are close. They are telling us that if Wal-Mart meets zoning standards the Council must approve the project or face a lawsuit. We feel that Wal-Mart is clearly in violation of many zoning regulations, and are simply unable to met the spirit of the laws with a 204,000 s.f. building."

What you can do: Wal-Mart does build 2 story buildings, but they are not fond of doing so, and generally will not offer to do so unless pushed into it, as in Honolulu, where they simply had no room, or in Chicago. The underground parking offer is rare, but likely to become more common as Wal-Martians invade the urban environment. As far as threat of litigation, most local officials have no idea what latitude they have to reject a plan that does not meet their Master Plan or zoning code. Their fear of litigation is unfounded, because most courts do not like to substitute their judgement for that of local officials, unless the denial against a superstore has been arbitrary and capricious. But just the impact on surrounding property and traffic concerns are sufficient to say no to a project, even on commercially zoned land. A close look at the zoning code is enough to give some City Councils the inspiration they need to say No, and not use fear of litigation as a weak excuse to say Yes. Would they rather have their own residents take them to court? For local contacts in Chamblee, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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