Neighborhood Groups Plan to Support Walmart Parking Variance in Exchange for Concessions

The Medlock Area Neighborhood Association breaks the news that area neighborhood groups have been working with Selig/Walmart to gain concessions on the Suburban Plaza project in exchange for their support of the parking variance that the property owner is hoping to get from DeKalb County.  Here’s a piece from their latest post…

Selig has asked MANA to support their parking variance request. This is not a decision the Board took lightly. After much consideration and discussion, the Board decided that it is in our neighborhood’s best interest to do so. In return, the MANA Board is negotiating an agreement that addresses a number of our concerns. The Boards of surrounding neighborhoods will also support this agreement. These negotiations are ongoing and we will post the contract as soon as it is finalized.


102 thoughts on “Neighborhood Groups Plan to Support Walmart Parking Variance in Exchange for Concessions”

  1. Nothing like being strong-armed into offering support for a mega-corporation. I hope there is an attorney for MANA who is reviewing it the agreement before it is executed. I also hope it will be made available to the neighbors so they can decide whether they agree with the neighborhood board member’s decision.

  2. Truly, truly appalled at the bullying tactics used here. Supporting Wal-Mart is one thing; but supporting a variance because Selig won’t work with the neighbors if they don’t? Simply unacceptable.

  3. If the agreement really does address the neighborhoods’ concerns, then I don’t think I see how this is bullying. Why would Selig work with someone who is trying to block them? If it was enticing enough for the board to approve, then it seems like it’s probably good for both sides, that’s hardly what I call bullying. If somebody doesn’t support what I want and I can work out a deal to get their consent, then that’s perfectly normal and fair. Admittedly, I say all of that without knowing all of the details or being privy to the discussions, but the above blurb and the MANA website don’t seem to indicate any strong-arming or bullying at all. Am I missing something?

    1. You just don’t get it, Doug. It’s Walmart. Walmart is evil incarnate. If Walmart was fighting the Taliban, half of Decatur would start wearing turbans and shouting “Death To Bentonville”. Walmart is capitalism run amok. Occupy Walmart!

      [OK, I may have exaggerated a bit. I doubt that more than a quarter of my neighbors would actually don a turban.]

    2. You’re not missing anything, Doug. If anything, I applaud the MANA leaders for actually having a grasp on reality. They’re weighing their available options and, instead of “demanding” things they have no right to demand or ever reasonably expect to receive, they’re leveraging what power they do have (in this case, their influence on the variance vote) to maximize potential upsides to their neighborhood. More power to ’em.

      I understand people hating on Walmart. Hell, I hate ’em and I exercise that opinion by not shopping there. All that said, though, they’re a legitimate business looking to legally build something in an area where the zoning says such a thing should be. If that kind of thing is unacceptable, no one adjacent to large commercial tracts should be waiting for a development proposal to rally the troops. They should be lobbying their elected officials for meaningful zoning reform.

      1. J_T,

        I usually enjoy your posts, but you’re simply incorrect in this case. The issue here is not with Wal-Mart but with Selig and, to a lesser degree, with the neighborhood associations agreeing to this. The agreement does not address all of the neighborhoods’ concerns, and the neighborhood associations have been quite upfront about this, although no one has actually seen the contract. The problem is that Selig and Wal-Mart are threatening to ignore the neighbors if the neighbors do not vocally and publicly support their zoning variance.

        Maybe you don’t mind being bullied, but whether it’s Wal-Mart or a mom and pop store, I don’t like bullies.

        1. Why is the “issue” the associations agreeing to this? Are the associations not free to decide for themselves if they will support the variance provided they receive certain concessions? The associations can blindly oppose the variance and make no attempts to reach a compromise and have the issue decided for them by the commission, or they can use their leverage and have some of their concerns addressed. Which course of action would you want your association to take? I just don’t see the bullying here (other than your preconceived notion that WM is a bully).

          1. DawgFan,
            I have no preconceived notion that Wal-Mart is a bully, but perhaps I did not express myself well in my first comment. Again, as I said before, I don’t have an issue with Wal-Mart. I have an issue with the way Selig has behaved in this particular instance. You can choose to agree or disagree with me on that issue, but please don’t mischaracterize my statements based upon your own preconceived notions about why people oppose Wal-Mart.

            To answer your other questions:
            Why is the “issue” the associations agreeing to this? This is the “issue” (why is that in quotes?) because, at least in the case of my neighborhood association, this deal was made completely in the dark; members of the neighborhood association didn’t know about it until it was already essentially a done deal. In the case of other neighborhood associations, the issue is one of–as I said already–bullying. Selig has stated explicitly that they will not work with the neighborhood associations in any way, shape, or form unless the neighborhood associations vocally support their application for a variance. Of course, you are more than welcome to disagree with me about my characterization of this behavior as bullying, but I think it’s problematic, and I think the neighborhood associations agreeing to it are cowardly.

            Are the associations not free to decide for themselves if they will support the variance provided they receive certain concessions? Of course they are. I’m not making an anti-freedom argument, for christ sake. The freedom to do something is completely different from the freedom to be criticized for doing it. Although it is worth noting that the neighborhoods have NOT received the desired concessions. This isn’t a compromise. This is a “negotiation” based on a threat, so your characterization of what has occurred is inaccurate.

            The associations can blindly oppose the variance and make no attempts to reach a compromise and have the issue decided for them by the commission, or they can use their leverage and have some of their concerns addressed. Which course of action would you want your association to take? Neither of the above. Of course, we live in a world in which there are numerous other options available.

            1. I promise I am not picking a fight, but I just don’t agree with your characterization of bullying. Why would Selig work with their opponents without getting something in return? That isn’t bullying. It is an exchange. Selig wants homeowner support to ease the variance process and the homeowners want certain changes to the master plan. Of course Selig isn’t going to agree to changes which are costly, difficult and/or cause delay if the homeowners are still going to oppose their variance request. This is how the zoning process works. The applicant bargains for public support in exchange for concessions.

              If your association made a decision you don’t agree with or without your input, I understand your frustration. But, I bet you can still personally oppose the variance request. BTW, tt sounds to me that your problem is more with how your HOA handled this than Selig.

              1. Typically, “negotiation” goes like this: neighbors meet with owner, reach an agreement whereby in exchange for concessions from owner the neighbors support the rezoning petition.

                As opposed to this: owner says that he will not meet with the neighbors until they support the rezoning petition, and only then will he hear the neighbor’s concerns with no guarantee that they will be entertained or respected.

                In the first instance, there is a bargained-for exchange. In the second instance, the neighbors have to give something (support) and in exchange, quite likely, nothing. The reason this “bullying” is possible is because of disproportionate bargaining positions between walmart and small neighborhood groups.

                This shouldn’t be a difficult concept.

                1. “The reason this “bullying” is possible is because of disproportionate bargaining positions between walmart and small neighborhood groups.”

                  “Disproportionate” in the sense that, with the exception of the parking variance, Walmart has a legal right (in fact, the zoning flat out encourages it) to build what they intend to build and the neighbors lack any legal right to tell them how to do it.

                  I’m not defending Walmart. But if people don’t like the way this is playing out, they shouldn’t frame the problem as Walmart exercising they’re rights. They should push their elected leaders to change the system, such that it produces different outcomes.

                  1. I am going to use “Walmart” generically to refer to the opening of the store and its attendant circumstances. I don’t know who is really driving the policies.

                    Let’s break down what you are saying:
                    (1) walmart has a legal right to be there;
                    (2) the neighbors lack a legal right to tell them how to do it

                    We could conclude: the neighbors lack power and anything Walmart gives them is a concession. Right?
                    Let us also conclude: Walmart has recognized that the neighbors pose little threat to it moving into the building. (After all — you acknowledged their “legal right to be there.”)

                    Now let’s look at what has happened with neighborhood negotiations:

                    (1) Walmart says it will not negotiate with the neighbors unless the neighbors first agree to support Walmart at its zoning variance hearing;
                    (2) Even if the neighbors support Walmart, Walmart owes them no duty to entertain concerns;

                    Why would Walmart make this demand if, as you say, they have a legal right to be there? They could simply work with the neighbors to EARN their support rather than presenting an all-or-nothing proposal that they knew they will win either way.

                    I do not know what you do for a living, but I hope this isn’t how you negotiate. If, professionally, someone treats me like this, I will only deal with them once. Sadly, Walmart only has to deal with us once. Maybe that’s how you think business should be done, but I disagree.

                    The real truth is that for the system to be different, the concerned citizens would have to get their city council to force Walmart to make certain improvements or follow traffic-flow considerations, hours of operation, and address other concerns. The city could make this contingent upon rezoning.

                    But it’s unrealistic to think that a small neighborhood group is going to be able to pursuade the county to have serious negotiations with Walmart. The Walmart will obviously be a benefit to the county at large, as far as jobs, taxes, and commerce. It is in Dekalb’s interest to have it there. But it’s not in the surrounding areas interest, and not in Decatur’s interest. These neighbors don’t have a very strong voice with Dekalb county.

                    And so the neighborhood has no say over what happens when there are valid concerns (traffic, namely) and other issues that should be addressed at a local level. And in spite of this, Walmart seeks for public approval before it talks to them.

                    We ought be using this as a time to talk about local issues and local governming — we live in decatur and are fortunate to have a small and competent government that will be responsive to its citizens. Believe me, we are lucky. We ought not be using this time to get offended because someone labeled the conduct as “bullying.” Because it is. Plain and simple. It amazes me that someone can make a joke about their neighbors wearing turbans (as if this is a bad thing?) — and have it go completely unacknowledged — while someone speaking out on behalf of their neighbors and local concerns gets questions and skepticism.

                  2. Scott,
                    Where is anyone in this thread trying to stop Wal-Mart from exercising their “rights”? As I have mentioned earlier, a right to do something does not mean a right to be free from criticism. And going to a zoning hearing IS pushing one’s elected officials, so I’m not sure where the disagreement lies aside from my apparently truly horror-inspiring and traumatic use of the horrifyingly offensive and degrading perjorative “bully.”

                    Here’s the way it works: corporation does something a person dislikes that elected officials have some control over. People point out the problematic behavior and lobby said elected officials. I am failing to understand how you could possibly have a problem with such an approach, or how anyone could believe this constituted an infringement upon Wal-Mart’s “rights.” I put “rights” in quotation marks because what Wal-Mart does and does not have a right to is an open question. Otherwise they would not be seeking a variance which is, of course, not a right.

                    1. Anon01, it is clear that we are not connecting on this issue because we are talking about two separate things. You are focused on what’s fair and how a system should operate such that the interests of all stakeholding parties are addressed. I don’t have any problem with your description of such a system and I’m sure we’d all be in a good position if that’s how things were.

                      That said, I’m not advocating for how things should be. I’m talking solely about how things are and my belief that the MANA group has made the best of a crappy situation by trying to get the most that they can in a manner that has the greatest likelihood of bearing fruit. This is not *how* I negotiate. Unless, of course, it happens to be the game I find myself in. Negotiators rarely have the luxury of setting the context.

                      ZV, I don’t care about the term “bullying” or anything else. I am not involved in this and have no reason to take offense because the outcome won’t affect me. This is solely a difference of opinion over, given the system we have at our disposal, how the neighbors of a likely-to-be-built Walmart can get the most benefit out of the situation. I think you feel that fighting the variance is the best option. I respect that, but my experience tells me the path being taken by the MANA group is the better way to go. Just an opinion. No judgement. Let the cards fall where they will.

                    2. I think you’re both arguing under different assumptions: Scott believes that the best thing you’re going to get is a few concessions because no one did a dang thing to rezone that piece of property in the past and ZV believes that fighting the parking ordinance might either get Walmart to make more concessions or give up the project entirely.

                    3. [big sigh]
                      Big box stores are not the disease, they are a symptom. If we don’t like them, then let’s figure out how to change the conditions that enable/encourage them to prevail.

                      Rising up in righteous indignation against a particular retailer at a particular site can generate a jolt of civic adrenaline, but what does it accomplish? The excruciating tedium of examining and lobbying to influence zoning regs is what can make a difference. That takes place in the broad, beige deserts in between development projects.

                      Anybody may have a legitimate gripe about how their neighborhood association has represented their interest (or failed to do so), but that’s neither Selig’s nor Walmart’s fault. They are doing their respective jobs within the system that is in place. (see first paragraph, above)

                      A Walmart at Suburban Plaza does not herald the collapse of the commercial district in downtown Decatur. If anything, it has potential to strengthen our community because there is a sh!tload of stuff people need in order to get along from month to month that you cannot buy within the city limits of Decatur. (Yes, CVS and Baby Kroger — I have grudges against each of them that would stack up any day against whatever anybody holds against Walmart.) If you think you’re conducting your life on a higher plane by only purchasing that stuff at Target or Kroger or Publix, you’re deluding yourself. (If those corporations have better PR, then believe me, you’re paying for it.)

                      Can’t help but speculate about what might get accomplished if the angst and energy being expended on trying to block specific projects like this, all around the Dekalb County from time to time, were channeled into pushing for better zoning across the board. Yelping about individual projects is not ever going to result in meaningful traction, it’s just going to be about different small groups of desperate neighbors fighting the same fight over and over again, and never really winning.

                    4. Smalltowngal,

                      Fighting a single development and fighting to change zoning are not mutually exclusive ventures.

                    5. ZV, of course they are not mutually exclusive. But they do represent very different ways to spend time, energy and money, and they offer different possible outcomes. I can spend a lot of time outdoors waving at individual motorists and trying to (1) get them to understand that I want them to slow down on my street, and (2) persuade them to comply. Or I can devote my time and energy to researching traffic calming strategies and lobbying the City to implement measures that will change the conditions that encourage speeding. I can certainly do both–and have–but while the first option is a good way to burn off excess energy and get some fresh air, it’s highly unlikely to have any effect on the situation. Achieving my desired goal will come (if at all) via the second option.

                    6. STG,

                      I think we just disagree on approach. Zoning variances are variances for a reason; they require some degree of community support and the approval of the ZBA. I see fighting a zoning variance as a worthwhile measure; it’s certainly something advocacy groups have a long history of doing, with many successes, so I’m not sure how it’s analogous to yelling at speeders.

                2. Apparently it is a difficult concept, as what you have described is not bullying. Selig/WM don’t need the neighborhood support to build the WM. However, they have agreed to consider some of the neighborhood concerns in exchange for support. Bullying would be demanding support and threatenig noogies and swirlies if they don’t get it, which they aren’t doing. They are just conditioning negotiations/concessions on the possibility of support.

                  Maybe this is where your misunderstanding lies: Even assuming for argument’s sake that Selig has the upperhand, just b/c they refuse to relinquish this superior position does not qualify as bullying. Each party is using its respective leverage, and, in this case, Selig may have more. If the tables were turned, would MANA be bullying if it demanded Selig and WM caved to all of MANA’s demands? I honestly don’t believe anyone would be making that argument here. IMO, your world view has WM as a giant evil corporation (although that is probably highly redundant to several who post here:)) and the rest of us are powerless to stop it. That isn’t the case.

                  1. They do not have to relinquish anything by meeting with, and having an honest discussion with, the neighbors. Yet they demand something. And yes, bargaining position is always relative.

                    Apparently your world view is so simple that you use and think words like “giant evil corporation.” I promise, this has nothing to do with Walmart or my opinion of it. I shop there. I am looking forward to the convenience. I am glad it will create jobs. I do not view the world like you seem to think. I promise.

        2. I can see how it would be harder to enjoy my posts when I completely disagree with you and your assessment of the situation. But I don’t feel bullied and I’m actually looking forward to having a Walmart in Suburban Plaza. If this makes me “simply incorrect” then I don’t wanna be right 😉

          1. J_T,

            My disagreement with you does not make it more difficult for me to enjoy your posts. What makes it more difficult is your mischaracterization of my words as coming from a blind Wal-Mart hater based simply on the fact that I had a different assessment of a specific behavior than you did. I always thought you were one of the non-reactionary people on here.

            1. Considering that I never characterized your particular words in any way, I don’t see how I could have mischaracterized them. That is all…

              1. My apologies. Given that I was the only person who opposed this development who had posted in this thread when you posted your initial comment, and given the fact that your comment seemed to be a characterization of your understanding of the anti-wal-mart sentiment, I assumed you were characterizing my statements. I stand corrected.

                1. Yours was one of two such comments in this thread but the anti-Walmart sentiment has been well represented in many previous threads. And my comment was only a *slight* exaggeration of the hardest-core opponents. But no apologies necessary here – anyone who can dish it out like me better be able to take it as well.

        3. ZV, it sounds like you have inside info that you’re not detailing. Not that I’m asking you to, I know some of this is quite sensitive at this point.

          At first blush, I’m not sure if “threatening to ignore the neighbors” is enough to call someone a bully. Isn’t the point of a negotiation give and take? What do the neighbors have to give other than support? To me it seems like there are two options here – fight to the death and let the ZBOA make the tough decision, or work in tandem and come to a compromise. The neighbors could ignore Selig’s request to work together. Would that make them bullies?

          Again, I don’t know the language or tone of the closed-door discussions, but at this point, I’m just glad to hear that the two parties are working together and that some neighborhood concerns are being addressed.
          At the end of the day, this property is still zoned for a big-box so I have trouble getting enraged that a private property owner is trying to develop it.

          1. Holy Shit! Not only did DM agree with me when he intervened, but he didn’t edit my posts! I guess I may need to reconsider my position:)

          2. DM,

            Selig essentially said, “You do this. And then at some future point we’ll consider doing something for you. If you don’t do that, we’ll never consider working with you.” So a promise of maybe a promise in the future. I do consider that a bullying tactic and am not really interested in parsing words since bullying is a rather low-grade insult, especially when we are talking about a developer and a corporation that are very clearly bargaining from a position of power to the neighbors’ position of weakness.

            Selig did not make a request to work together; the neighborhoods did, and Selig has said that, if the neighbors don’t give him what he wants (support for a variance) he won’t work with them on anything.

            I don’t think anyone is enraged that the property owner is trying to develop it; at least, I have not seen that expressed in this thread. It could be that I express my ideas very poorly, though, so I’ll emphasize that I am not enraged that anyone is trying to develop it. I am frustrated that this deal was essentially done before anyone heard about it, that Selig is behaving in a way that I perceived to be bullying, and that the neighborhood associations really have no choice but to go along with it in the hope that the carrot of cooperation dangled in front of them will actually happen at some point in the future.

            1. I don’t think that is bullying. Essentially they are saying that if the neighborhood association isn’t willing to consider supporting the variance, there is no point in discussing concessions. That is just an accurate statement of facts: “If you won’t work with me, I’m not gonna work with you”.

              1. DawgFan,

                It’s quite clear that the use of the term “bullying” is very upsetting to you. I frequently read people’s posts on here and think that there might be a better, more accurate, less (or more!) inflammatory word they could use, but I don’t derail an entire discussion debating that point. How about you let it go and talk about the meat of the discussion, which is the dealings between wal-mart/selig and neighborhood groups?

                1. Happy to do that, but the meat of the discussion you brought up is the tactics being used. Unless I am mistaken, I am on topic.

            2. ZV,
              Selig owns a lot of property inside and outside the city limits of Decatur. I know we wrassled with them over the CVS and the parking area. if I remember correctly, they “gave” us a front entrance to the sidewalk … but also demanded a parking lot …although the city was really trying to get rid of large, impervious surface parking areas.. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but this was a huge issue some 12 years ago and we fought and fought it …and got a front entrance to the sidewalk. That was it. Now the shopping center is a big improvement over what was there before, but it did not move in the direction the city was working toward … I believe it caused Decatur to toughen our zoning ordinances after that.. Smalltowngal is correct in saying that it is zoning that allows this to happen–change the zoning ordinances and you have a lot more leverage. It’s proactive stances that make the difference, not reactive.

              1. I believe it’s a bit more complicated than that. Reactive stances are usually the only motivator for proactive stances. Look at local historic districts in Decatur and throughout the country. A majority are created due to a common enemy. It’s not a great way to be proactive or hope to follow any part of a plan, but it’s still the most common motivator.

                Another thought: I recall our northern unincorporated neighbors applauding the death of Decatur’s annexation idea in 2008-09. But Suburban was a part of that. And while the city may not have been able to convince Selig to do a mixed-use overlay on this property (stand down Pat and Judd, I know, I know, detached townhomes 😉 ), I think many would be more comfortable with Decatur city staff and the commission navigating an outcome to this variance than DeKalb. That’s a problem with reactionary positions. You’ll always find yourself in another quandary a few years down the road if you only concentrate on what you DON’T want.

                1. I realize that reactive gets the rabble roused, it’s human nature and i agree, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. (sorry for the cliches DM). I think if this was a Trader Joe’s mega store, this would all go away and the neighborhood would be asking for more parking. because there would be a traffic jam of Decatrites … I’m just sayin’….

              2. Cranky Old Timer,

                My issue with your characterization is that reactive stances do not preclude proactive ones. And it is often reactive stances that encourage cities to alter zoning. Certainly reactive stances make citizens more aware of the ways in which zoning affects them. Without reactive stances, I’m unclear how citizens could even be made to care about zoning.

                I think that the best way to deal with a problem is a holistic one–dealing with the legal side, the macro level and the micro level. I’m actually really surprised to hear so many people on here insisting that opposition to an individual zoning variance constitutes failure to take into account generalized problems with zoning.

    3. You aren’t missing a thing. In fact, this is how the zoning process is designed to work and why notice is required to nearby landowners. The county commission would prefer the parties work out their differences and reach an agreement themselves. MANA isn’t going to get everything it wants, but neither will WM.

      MANA isn’t without leverage. If their concerns aren’t addressed and the homeowners are vocal enough in their opposition, the county commissioners will take notice. The primary focus of most politicians is getting re-elected.

  4. This could have been fought zoning or no zoning. The trick is to make the process so difficult that the bureaucratic friction brings it to a halt. They stopped it in New York.
    Now I look forward to the driving right by the “Jeff Rader/Kathie Gannon Memorial Suburban Sprawalmart”.

    And yes they could have made it more difficult.

  5. How could this have been fought? The property is zoned for a big-box and has the parking to support it. Wal-Mart and the developer have reached out to the community and have produced a plan that addresses neighborhood concerns and is going to revitalize a wilting strip mall. (Yes, I love the bowling alley, Decatur Estate, Big Lots and am a regular shopper at Last Chance). The real opportunity here is for Decaturites to NOT shop at the the Wal-Mart once it is built. That way, we get our L.A. Fitness, Michael’s, et al and the 800-lb gorilla from Arkansas eats it. Y’all can do that, can’t you? About once every 6 months, I decide to “give Wal-Mart one more shot” and always regret it.

  6. If they don’t get the variance they don’t get to build as big a store as they want. In that case they won’t build at all and the SpraWalton family is a few million dollars less rich. They WILL NOT build this unless they get Exactly what they want.
    This was NEVER about parking! It was about getting the size of store they want. They want to build a bigger store than actually fits on the location so they give up parking they don’t need to do it.
    In the process we get a Super duper Sprawalmart 1 mile from one of the most vibrant downtowns in the Metro area. Maybe it it won’t matter but I doubt. The best we can hope for now is that rising wages around the world substantially forces changes in Wallys business model.

    Once it’s built it will NEVER go away. The only hope was to stop it in the first place.

    1. Of course it is about parking. They don’t want to pay for unnecessary parking spots when they can use that portion of the property to produce income. Someone else made this point the other day, but WM isn’t going to build a store with inadequate parking as they don’t want to turn customers away. If 4 spots per 1,000 sq. ft. wasn’t adequate, WM would have walked long ago.

    2. “If they don’t get the variance they don’t get to build as big a store as they want. In that case they won’t build at all and the SpraWalton family is a few million dollars less rich. They WILL NOT build this unless they get Exactly what they want.”

      No, if they don’t get the variance, the next stop is Superior Court. As I have said before, the number of parking places required by zoning is arbitrary and, except for being a number in the Code, not defendable by the County. Wally probably can make a better case based upon their experience.

      And, as I also have said before, I disagree with any assessment that Wally means the downfall of downtown Decatur. If that is the case, why hasn’t the Memorial Drive Wally killed downtown Decatur and Avondale? If you would rather go to Wally than a shop in downtown Decatur looking for something, you probably would have gone there anyway because you wouldn’t have found a comparable item in Decatur.

      For those of you who weren’t around at the time, the arguments being made about the negative affect on the surroundings are similar in many ways to the arguments being made by opponents of the Agnes Scott parking deck 15 years ago. We survived that and and we’ll survive this.

  7. Superior court would be good. I can’t imagine how long that would take not to mention all the publicity focused on Sprawalmart. I imagine they’d see it through but it would certainly take some time. A lot of the community don’t want it there to start with I can only imagine what a protracted battle would be like.
    I have to hand to you guys though it’s a good plan. Parking. I mean what good Decaturite wants more parking? The variance meeting at 1:00 pm on a workday the week before Christmas. It’s the least the county could do right? No bond issue but hey.
    MANA? Cheerleading uniforms? No wait, that was the last developer.
    Oh well.
    Executive tip of the day: Don’t wear black for TV interviews it doesn’t make you look hip it makes you disappear. Except Steve Jobs of course but then he had big time lighting on his side.

    1. “The variance meeting at 1:00 pm on a workday the week before Christmas.”

      That’s normal for such a proceeding as far as the day and time are concerned. I can’t recall that such proceedings ever happen in the evening in the County, as opposed to COD, which does have such hearings in the evening, but I am subject to correction. The date and the holidays are a function of the timing of the start of the whole process.

  8. For the record, from the Glennwood Estates Listserve.

    Based on feedback, it is clear that GENA should not sign this document, and so our neighborhood will not participate in the “Zoning Agreement.” The GENA Board is not taking a position on this development, either in support or in opposition. Individuals are obviously free to attend the variance hearing to express their opinions.

    So your statement that “The Boards of surrounding neighborhoods will also support this agreement” is incorrect.

    1. GENA residents had the opportunity to review the contract and voted NO!

      That residents of other neighborhoods were not told about the contract, or given an opportunity to review it until the decision was made for them, is very unfortunate. Have they even seen it now?

      Don’t be fooled into thinking that Walmart or Selig made any real concessions. The contract includes a list of items they will have to carry out by law in any case. Here is one lawyer’s review:

      At least some of the concerns I recall being discussed on this listserv (i.e. no 24-hour Walmart, no guns or ammo being sold) have not been agreed to in this document. Rather, Walmart simply has said that it will discuss the product mix with the neighborhoods in item #4. I also see nothing to address the impact of the development on the six-way intersection at N.Decatur/Scott/Medlock.

      Frankly, I do not see many true concessions at all from Walmart or Selig in this document. Some of the items listed are ones they already are required to do, such as #14 (adhering to DeKalb County noise requirements), #19 (storm water retention according to DeKalb County ordinance) and #20 (Walmart agrees to adhere to its corporate policy on sustainable development).

      Many of the “concessions” are ones in which they “agree to consider” the neighborhoods’ input (#15 re: design and #16 re: tenant mix) or will “evaluate” the impact of certain requests (i.e. #26 re: traffic signal on N. Decatur Rd.).

      In exchange, the neighborhood associations must vocally support the parking variance, which means they would have a hard time complaining later to the county in the event that issues arise out of the development. Any dissent by any board members also would void the concessions in this agreement. Moreover, it is important to note that the concessions are entirely voided in #31 if Walmart and Selig are not successful in obtaining the parking variance from DeKalb County.


      The meeting starts at 1:00 p.m. but please arrive early to sign up to speak — or you just come to stand in support of others!

      Manual Maloof Auditorium
      1300 Commerce Drive
      Decatur, Georgia 30030
      Directions and parking:


      1. I can’t speak for members of other neighborhoods, but in my neighborhood, no one has seen the contract and no one even knew about these negotiations until they were essentially over. The overwhelming majority of the neighbors seem opposed to the position the neighborhood association has taken.

  9. Great for neighborhood involvement, but a word of caution… I label my next statement as gossip because I have only read it here by someone anonymous, but there was a post a while back that eluded to Walmart promising the Tucker neighborhood residents some things that never materialized, and I have read similar on the web about the Walmart on Memorial.

    But there are people involved in the discussions who loathe Walmart, and would never support it going there, or anywhere, no matter what they offered. And my concern is that citizens with reasonable requests will eventually be ignored and shut-out, because they’re lumped in with the more vocal, and belligerent anti-Walmart crowd who will obviously never be satisfied.

    1. Rebeccab,

      I was a teenager when the Wal-Mart in Tucker was built, but my parents were involved in one of the neighborhood groups negotiating with Wal-Mart (they lived in Tucker). This was, what? Fifteen years ago? And through a teenager’s cloudy understanding, but my recollection is that a very similar scenario played out over there, with Wal-Mart promising concessions (or at least promising to promise concessions) and then not delivering. Don’t take that as gospel. It’s been awhile. But this definitely contributes to my skepticism about the new supposed concessions (which seem to consist solely of agreeing to talk to neighbors) in Decatur.

    2. Rebeccab,

      I hear you — there will be some very strong Walmart opinions. But there are also many, many people who want to fight this development for reasons that are — at least not solely — based on anti-Walmart sentiment. They will speak out too — they already are!

      I hear neighbors talking about traffic on the main streets and connectors (cut-throughs), safety, the six-way intersection, ambulance routes, the International School going into Medlock Elementary, store hours, pollution, noise, environmental effects, public transportation and more.

      Hope you can come Wednesday to the hearing and meet up with some others who feel the way you do! The more we band together, the louder our voice will be heard.

  10. Hi, my name is George, and I like Wal*Mart. (Feels like a confession)

    I can’t wait to shop there. They have low prices and cheap crap from Thailand and China. And sometimes from India and Malaysia. I got a shirt once from Vietnam; I felt so connected to the global community. Does barefooted Tuan put less love into those stiches than some angry union rabble-rouser in Indiana, just fidgeting away the hours until his next meth fix? I’m with Tuan. One World, One Love, Michael Bolton and I say.

    I know this has been said before, but what are you going to buy there that you usually get downtown? Art? Gifts? Jewelry? Craft beer? Children’s books? Nonsense. If I wanted cheap books, I’d buy them online, but I still go to ‘Little Shop’ on the square. I’m not going to skip Worthmore to buy Arkansas diamondelles (try to get that past the Mrs.) The only casualty of my limited shopping dollars might be Target or Big Lots.

    So Selig is trying grease the deal and make some money on a long underused property. Maybe Wal*Mart is going to make empty promises? Someone apparently doesn’t love us all as brothers and sisters? So there’s going to be a busy box where a vacant building stood for years? Big damn deal. The Earth, I promise, will not shift on its axis when this happens. Neither you nor Wal*Mart are that important.

    I’m with the earlier commentator regarding the ASC parking deck (I lived in MAK at the time) — and what a hideous travesty didn’t turn out to be! It’s different, but not bad. For Wal*Mart, in 5 years you’ll love it, you won’t remember how it was before, and very few of you will grow have grown evil Spock goatees and burned pentagrams into your palms as a result. (But if you do, please take pictures and ask DM to post.)

    1. “some angry union rabble-rouser in Indiana, just fidgeting away the hours until his next meth fix”

      George, my friend, there are strong arguments to be made against a knee-jerk opposition to Walmart coming into Suburban Plaza, and you pointed out several of them. But in this day and age, with so many millions of households genuinely suffering due to the loss of American manufacturing jobs, that comment does not contribute anything positive to the conversation.

      1. Yes – I understand the larger concern. But this Wal*Mart has little or nothing to do with the global tide of manufacturers finding the lowest cost of production. It has been thus since manufacturing beccame specialized, since the start of the industrial revolution. Artificially raising prices with tariffs or trade barriers will only stifle our economy further.

        On the bright side, this Wal*Mart will create perhaps a couple hundred full and part time jobs for people who are currently out of work. So I count it as progress for the American worker.

        If the choice is between no work and low wage work (and for reasons out of our control, it is), I know which I would choose.

        1. I wonder how many people already work at that shopping center and what the net gain will be?
          More jobs or less?

        2. I’m not arguing the broader issue. I just would have thought you could make your point without resorting to that kind of cheap shot. Does the case supporting how globalization is playing out really depend on denigrating American workers?

          1. I get your point – I shouldn’t have to outline the quality differential between American and foreign workers because it’s already well documented.

            As a side note, I love meth. Not that I use. But it serves as the basis for the best show on TV – Breaking Bad. 🙂

  11. I am just sitting back and watching my property values plummet. You can argue all you want that shopping at Target is no different from shopping at Walmart, but at the end of the day, it’s the perception that matters when I try to sell my house. And most people I know would rather be a block away from a Target than from a Walmart. I am actually scared for my life if I get near a Walmart. All I can think about is all the shootings I’ve heard about that happen in Walmart or WM parking lots. In my opinion, WM is a blight on our neighborhood, more so than the charmingly crumbling area that is there now. I’ve shopped at Hancock’s, Big Lots, That Pottery Place, and even Last Chance (and even Family Dollar in absolute wild desperation!) , but I won’t be shopping at Walmart.

    1. “I am actually scared for my life if I get near a Walmart.”

      This is the kind of unreasonable paranoid rhetoric I was referring to in my post above. It does the neighborhood groups no favors.

      1. Agreed. Tiptoe, unless you are just exaggerating to make a point, you may need to see someone about that. Wal-Marts are everywhere. It won’t be long before you are unable to leave your house.

        1. So true! At least the hospital is right across the street from the Walmart, so the shooting victims won’t have far to go. 🙂

          1. Hopefully you will be able to conquer your fears and venture into the WM on a Saturday afternoon when it is packed. Great people watching!

  12. The Wal Mart is coming. Get ready for the big smiley face and the kindly elderly greeters. Wal Mart stock is near an all time high. Please to be supporting this new store and my Wal Mart dividend.

  13. So, the JD Byrider that juist got leveled on Scott Boulevard…what’s that about? Future staging area for the big trucks that will be coming in and out of Suburban Plaza once WM breaks ground?

  14. Well, the Walmart opponents have done it. They’ve turned me to their side. I am now genuinely hoping that we will somehow be able to kill this project completely and keep Walmart from blighting our neighborhood.

    Of course, I also hope that DeKalb County then gets so pissed about the lost tax revenue that it decides to take the property through eminent domain and relocates the jail there…

  15. Friends, I understand that many of you are opposed to Walmart coming into your fair city. I sympathize with your plight and imagine I’d have similar concerns if those big box bastards attempted to invade Key West. If it’s any consolation, at least you’ll be able to buy some great Margaritaville products at an even greater price. If you don’t believe that, check out this amazing deal on my Frozen Concoction Maker:


  16. J_T and G : how are your sarcastic responses any better than the antiWalmart-at-all-costs comments?

    Property values are a real concern, and the evidence does seem to point that they go down when a Walmart is built. If you can provide evidence to the contrary, I’d be interested in seeing it. I’m in a work meeting right now so I cannot easily search for mine support now but I will when I get the chance.

    In the meantime, people may be interested in reading the Hunter College study on Walmart’s economic effect on communities. Google it. I’ll also try to post the paper soon.

    1. I am not arguing that WM may have a negative effect on property values generally, especially when one is built on property that was previously raw land and had to be rezoned commercial. But, each situation is unique and I certainly think it is possible that property values will go up or (perhaps more likely) remain unchanged in this case as the WM combined with the aesthetic improvements to the rest of Suburban Plaza will be an improvement. IIMO, any effect will be minimal as the neighboring houses already abut a commercial strip center and that fact is reflected in the home prices. The occupant of the center is somewhat irrelevant. Just a hypothetical, but would you really pay $10,000 or a few percent more for a house b/c it is next to a Target instead of a Walmart? Or would you rather pay more to live next to a nice(r), rejuvenated strip center instead of a building that isn’t far from being completely abandoned or condemned?

      1. Hmm. Well, yes. If I were in the market for a new home, especially a home in the city of Decatur, being so close to a Walmart would make me look elsewhere. I can’t think of anything more backwoods than being within walking distance of a Walmart. (In fact, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to be within walking distance of a Walmart quite frankly, since Walmarts are usually located in suburbia where walking to your mailbox is the extent of your pedestrian commute.) I know this is my personal bias here and not everyone else thinks this way, by the way! I grew up in suburbia and I thought I moved here to get away from it.

        At least the unoccupied shopping center had potential to NOT be a Walmart. Hah!

        And just because no one else has posted it lately:

          1. I believe you’ll spend your entire life disappointed if you spend it trying to move or run away from anything.

            1. I don’t disagree. I indulged in a little bit of hyperbole attempting to make a point. The fact is that I moved to Decatur seeking a community where snobbery was not as rampant as where I was living before. In large part, that is what I have found, and I hope it stays that way.

        1. “If I were in the market for a new home, especially a home in the city of Decatur, being so close to a Walmart would make me look elsewhere.”

          In the immediate area there’s a great park & pool, super cool historic cemetery, and walking distance to everything downtown has to offer. I would think many families would jump at the chance to be able to enjoy all those things without having to get in a car. If someone is looking to purchase a home and the only thing about the area they’re able to focus on is a Walmart, the problem is not the Walmart, it’s…

    2. You want a non-sarcastic response? OK. I live about a mile and a half from Suburban Plaza. I am NOT worried about my property value plummeting because of Walmart’s arrival. I AM pleased at the prospect of having a Walmart nearby. That’s it. Simple as that.

    3. All effects in nature are the product of multiple competing forces. (I think that’s what I learned in HS, but Ms Russell was young and cute, and also the cheerleading coach and I didn’t pay much attention to anything else.)

      I can’t believe that the main drivers of home prices in Decatur, (community, walkability, nightlife, schools, etc.) that have already survived the Big H debacle, the “hideous” underdeveloped corridor adjacent to AE, downtown condo construction, drug dealing at Hosea/2nd, the speed demons on Scott Blvd, and any number of faux bogeymen as discusseed ad infinitum here, would collapse under the weight of a retail store about a mile outside the city limits.

      But if anyone wants to put their home on the market at fire sale prices, I’m buying.

      (Was that sarcasm free? I really can’t tell anymore.)

  17. Just a technical point, G Buck: The entrance to Suburban Plaza off Church is only 500 yards (5 football fields) from the Decatur City limits. The Walmart would be at the other end of SP, but still not a “mile outside the city limits.” Perhaps you meant the distance from the Square. That’s about 1.5 miles.

  18. This is a really fascinating argument but seems like the ship has already sailed. I’ve said before, if you don’t want a WalMart there, get some of your neighbors together, develop a master plan, line up debt and equity, and make Steve Selig an offer. The current strategy may delay things a while and is certainly a fair way to use your voice as a citizen, but he’s not asking to do something illegal – only something that some of you find distasteful. I neither support nor oppose the project because it’s not a rezoning that’s up for a vote. The contract Selig put out there is pretty silly to read, and I assume they pieced it together not to bully but to try to throw an olive branch to people mobilized to oppose a project that isn’t even up for a vote. If they needed a rezoning, they’d be holding listening tours and sitting in our living rooms – but they don’t, so they’re not.

      1. How about a park named after the Seligs. Seems to me a better legacy than a Walmart and a bunch of shopping centers.

        1. I said “viable”. The Seligs are in the business of making money developing shopping centers, not creating non-money-making green spaces.

  19. Why is it so hip to hate walmart, is target that virtuos? Is a 3/4 empty 60’s shopping center that attractive? Yea, whole foods or 2 buck chuck and you’re still cool. Can’t wait to leave decatur after 64 yrs.

  20. Which members voted which way?
    I pretty sure I know which way the two appointed by Rader and Gannon voted.

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