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2013-03-17
Decatur, GA. Citizens Take Proposed Wal-Mart Superstore To Court

By not being able to work with local citizens, Wal-Mart once again finds itself heading to court instead of heading to a ribbon-cutting. This time the court will be in the deep south -- an address that at one time would never have challenged a big corporation.

The community of Decatur, Georgia has a population of just under 20,000 people.They have one Wal-Mart superstore already on Memorial Drive, and another 7 Wal-Mart supertores within a 10 mile radius. So there is no shortage of cheap Chinese merchandise.

According to the Virginia Highland-Druid Hills Patch, roughly 200 residents in North Decatur help an evening forum to express their outrage over plans to build a second Wal-Mart superstore within a few miles of the existing superstore.

The developer, Selig Enterprises, is the same company that ended up folding its tent in December of 2012 in the city of Athens, Georgia. Once more Selig is on the receiving end of anti-Wal-Mart sentiment in Georgia, this time over a location known as Suburban Plaza.

A citizen's group called Good Growth Dekalb has hired an attorney, and is preparing its case for court. "Good Growth DeKalb takes a position that Wal-Mart at Suburban Plaza is not a done deal," one organizer of the group said. "We oppose Wal-Mart at Suburban Plaza. Wal-Mart is a giant that is breathing down our neck at the moment." "You have got to understand that this is a war," their attorney told the anti-Wal-Mart group. "It is a war for your community. It is a war for your property values. It is a war for your safety. ... You have got to make sure that you stay focused."

At the recent gathering in a local church, a number of neighbors spoke against the Selig Enterprises plan. "My hometown, Georgetown, South Carolina, was ruined by Wal-Mart," one neighbor was quoted by the Patch. "They standardize everything. They go for the lowest common denominator. ... They treat their employees like dirt, they treat their suppliers like dirt."

Residents are concerned that the big box site lies between DeKalb Medical Center and Emory University Hospital. The developer says that increased traffic along the roadway will not be an issue -- but that's what developers always say. Every traffic jam in America was brought to you by some developer whose projections were self-serving. will be an issue. One local resident told the crowd: "A Wal-Mart of that size they're contemplating will cause congestion. Everyone that is trying to get [to Emory] from the west is at risk. ... Ask yourselves, how many people will die because they can't get to the hospital quickly enough?"

Another neighbor questioned why Wal-Mart needed another superstore so close to an existing superstore. "Isn't there a point of oversaturation? Is my only choice for shopping in the future going to be Wal-Mart?" she said.

Good Growth DeKalb got organized right before the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals gave the project a parking variance in December, 2012. Shortly after that decision was made, Wal-Mart issued a statement which read, "We are delighted to be partners with Selig Enterprises in this retail redevelopment, which we believe will be very positive for the community. Wal-Mart is looking forward to adding 300 new jobs and millions of dollars in new tax revenue to the county by being part of this project. We are also excited about offering the community another option for fresh, affordable food and other merchandise."

But by early January, 2013, Good Growth DeKalb had filed an appeal to the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals, which rejected the appeal in mid February, 2013. That opened the door for Good Growth to take there concerns to court.

What you can do: The Good Growth DeKalb appeal was filed in DeKalb County Superior Court on March 15, 2013.

The lawsuit charges that the county violated its own ordinances when it heard the group's appeal of the permit issuance in January with the Zoning Board of Appeals rather than the Technical Board of Appeals, which Good Growth DeKalb claims is required by county law. Good Growth DeKalb also charged that the county ordinances related to trucking, trees and hydrology were not followed when the permit was issued for the retail store. Two of the plaintiffs are neighbors who are abutters behind the Suburban Plaza.

Readers are urged to email DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon, whose "super district" covers all of the county, including North Decatur, at kgannon@dekalbcountyga.gov with the following message:

"Dear Commissioner Gannon,

If you want to find cheap Chinese imports in Decatur, you already have one Wal-Mart supertore on Memorial Drive. If you can't find that one, you have 7 other Wal-Mart supertores within 10 miles.

Don't let Wal-Mart tell you that the Suburban Plaza means "300 new jobs." The bottom line is no new jobs from this kind of development, because another Wal-Mart will simply transfer sales from existing cash registers, and result in the loss of existing jobs at other merchants.

This project is about shifting more market share to Wal-Mart, and the more local sales they capture, the easier it is to raise prices in a non-competitive marketplace. So your Zoning Board's decision is actually a blow to the local retail market.

DeKalb County should listen to its citizen constituents, not some large developer and its retail partner. This huge project is not needed economically, and will only lead to increased traffic congestion, and reduced residential property values.

I urge you to inform the court that DeKalb County shares many of the concerns about the project, and would like to see it remanded back to the county's Zoning Board, where the citizen's complaints can be further investigated, including a peer review of the traffic impact study done by the developer."










 
 
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