What’s with the Building Permit Appeal Signs at Suburban Plaza?

If you’ve noticed the blue “Public Notice Board of Appeals Notice” signs surrounding Suburban Plaza recently, you may have wondered “What’s that all about?”.

Well, the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association website has the answer.  Deanne sent around a note pointing to this latest post

MANA has received clarification on the basis of the appeal, filed January 9th by Good Growth Dekalb’s (GGD) attorney on behalf of GGD and Kristina and Abhay Mishra. The appeal states that:

  1. Medlock Road is not an authorized truck route, and therefore Walmart’s use of this road violates DeKalb Code Section 17-94
  2. various hydrology requirements were not met, and
  3. there are various violations of the county Tree Protection Ordinance

DeKalb County thoroughly reviewed the redevelopment plan and determined that all criteria were met before granting the building permit. Selig is confident they’ve met the criteria and is prepared to address the appeal at the Feb. 13th hearing.

According to Deanne, the hearing will be held on Feb 13 at 1pm in the DeKalb County Auditorium at 1300 Commerce Dr. in Decatur.

Photo courtesy of MANA website

115 thoughts on “What’s with the Building Permit Appeal Signs at Suburban Plaza?”


    1. You betcha, Dawgy! And you know what? I’ve changed my mind and I now agree with them. And I WILL be there to STOP WALMART! Medlock Road is no place for trucks! Hydrology requirements were not met*!, and trees were violated**! Selig and Walmart must pay. Now please, for God’s sake, give us our constitutionally mandated Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s*** in that same exact location!

      *I have no idea what this means. Someone remind me to look up “hydrology requirements” later. But it sounds damn good, so I’m just rolling with it for now.

      **Not even gonna touch this one. Trees were violated. Use your imagination.

      ***Yep, Good Grief DeKalb’s very own website says they’d be just overjoyed to have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods in that very spot, clogging up Medlock Road and killing trees. http://goodgrowthdekalb.org/why-not-a-walmart/alternatives/

      [OK, flame away folks. Pretty sure that Mrs. J_T is going to revoke my DM privileges for at least a week after this one 😉 ]

  1. Community activism is necessary, it is never easy, and it requires massive investment of time and energy. It also should involve periodic examination of the question, “Are we just making a point, or are we really making a difference?”

      1. Exactly. If they had a coherent point, I’d say good on them for fighting for their principles, even in a losing cause. But GGD is so internally inconsistent that all they’re making is noise.

      2. yeah. I keep hoping that somebody(s) who can see clearly and see farther than the end of their own nose will throw a rope around all that energy and momentum (and money they seem able to raise) and direct it toward efforts to examine and change zoning so as to actually, eventually contribute to good growth in Dekalb County. It’s an audacious hope.

        1. Not to mention that it doesn’t matter if you somehow see something as a problem. Nothing gets solved until those in power see it as a problem and, at least currently, I see no meaningful political will among the DeKalb Commission to confront the status quo and grow in more responsible, productive and endearing ways.

          The inarticulate and inconsistent messaging on the part of GGD, their lack of any specific vision or desired outcome, and their decision to pursue this legalistically rather than through broad-based coalition building, ain’t helping matters either.

          1. It sounds like you have some clear and well thought out ideas, Scott. Have you shared them with anyone else other than Decatur Metro readers? You could help with messaging, you could help with vision.

            By the way, the only way to fight this type of development is through the legal system, not that its the only path GGD has taken. We’ve gone door to door, we’ve made phone calls, we’ve met with commissioners, we’ve met with DeKalb’s leadership. I don’t think you understand the amount of time that GGD has put into this fight. If you have other ideas, get involved. Don’t just sit there, man, do something!!

            1. I appreciate it and don’t discount the scope of the work that’s been invested, Troll. My objection is that I prefer to invest my energies towards the long-term policy change and collaborative community visioning that will redirect everyday development practices moving forward. I believe that fighting what is essentially a legal, practically dictated, use under the present zoning is a misallocation of limited resources, though I understand that some folks feel differently.

              Sometimes it’s better to take the hit and use that blow to empower efforts towards lasting change. My gut tells me these present tactics will fail and, in doing so, will demoralize whatever momentum GGD has been able to build, leaving the effort sputtering out before, as I see it, it really ever sinks its teeth into the deeper issues. I hope I’m wrong on that, and that GGD will ultimately be able to, in collaboration with the wider community, shape and articulate a vision, build broad-based political support around it, and truly make an impact on the county’s archaic and misguided standards for growth.

              1. DeKalb has applied for an LCI planning grant from ARC to examine the long-range land use and transportation planning in the area surrounding Suburban Plaza. The study area generally includes North Decatur Road, Scott Boulevard and DeKalb Industrial. The intent will be to build a community vision out of this underutilized commercial area. ARC turned down a similar application in 2012. None of this would have prevented Wal-Mart, but there will be an opportunity to change the course of growth for this area. Outcomes from these studies are often new overlay zoning districts and design guidelines.

                1. This is the path with the greatest potential, IMHO, and I was disheartened when the last application was denied. Here’s hoping this second effort gets some traction.

                  It’s important because, more often than not, LCI efforts force the acknowledgement of competing interests. Assuming it’s orchestrated in a way that brings everyone to the table — residents of all stripes (given the large immigrant community in that area), business interests, property owners, institutions, and others — its outcome can claim meaningful legitimacy that, over time, will prove to be the best shot at holding political feet to the fire. Good luck.

                    1. Not specifically, no, but it’s typically just a matter of limited resources. More applications than available grants and this one presumably lacked sufficient “mojo.”

        2. You make an excellent point, but there are wildly different opinions about what constitutes good growth. Many, many posters here and CoD residents (and apparently GGD) are NOT opposed to big box stores; they are opposed only to one particular big box store. Neither DeKalb nor CoD (if the property is annexed) can enact an ordinance which simply says “No Wal-Mart” as it would not pass any test of constitutionality (it’s that whole equal protection thingy). So, if we are going to allow (or, in some cases, actively solicit and/or beg certain big box stores to open a local store (think Trader Joe’s)), we have to take the good with the bad.

          Just my $0.02, but I think big box stores should play a role in our economy, regardless of whether I choose to shop at all or only a few “acceptable” ones.

        3. If you’ve ideas, smalltowngal, why don’t you offer them up? GGD’s got a lot of you hot under the collar and there’s plenty of criticism, some of it quite nasty, so it must be doing something right. There’s always room for improvement though. Go to a meeting and pitch in.

          1. “there’s plenty of criticism…so it must be doing something right…” — That doesn’t really follow. In any case, I’m not hot under the collar at all. I just think it’s a shame that so much energy and time and money are being expended in ways that (1) are not going to prevent this development and (2) are very unlikely to have any substantial effect with regard to future development/redevelopment around Dekalb County including the acres of dormant commercial space in that immediate vicinity.

    1. I think your point remains to be seen. If GGD influences the county to adhere to community standards, then the group will have done good. Walmart & Selig also shouldn’t be able to violate state laws when it suits them — would the county and state let either of the beloved Ace Hardwares do so? Fox Brothers? Hop-n-Shop? I seriously doubt it.

      And JT, I think you’re missing the point. It’s not just that it’s a Walmart. Most people don’t like the placement and size of the store and others fear the traffic it will cause there (Memorial Drive is huge and not a 6 way intersection, FM — plus, there’s a Red Box at Walgreen’s Kroger and a bazillion other places). There also are people opposed to the Walmart for other reasons: they disagree with Walmart’s labor practices; are concerned about the international bribery scandal; worry about property values; and so on.

      1. “There also are people opposed to the Walmart for other reasons: they disagree with Walmart’s labor practices; are concerned about the international bribery scandal; worry about property values; and so on.”

        With the exception of effect on property values (and that is largely moot in this case given the current zoning), none of the stated reasons to oppose WM justify not allowing WM to open a store where allowed by zoning (and this will ruffle some feathers, but they also don’t justify denying a re-zoning application (although they might cause commissioners/councilpersons to look other factors in a different light)). We simply can’t pick and choose who gets to avail himself/herself/itself of vested rights based on some perceived evils.

        1. I can’t believe that I’m agreeing with DawgFan because he said pretty much what I was going to say in response to that comment. If I start woofing, someone shoot me…

        2. I don’t know if folks recall when the business media was all abuzz over a Walmart and housing prices study last year. What the researchers found is pretty interesting (and yes, it was a real study, not a “study”). This article briefly covers it and a couple of other Walmart effect studies:

          http://business.time.com/2012/06/04/the-unexpected-effects-of-walmart-coming-to-town/

          Free access to the study (link from the Athens Banner-Herald. Go Dawgs!):
          http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/devin.pope/research/pdf/Pope_Pope_walmart_aej_applied.pdf

      2. iheartnelliebelle, what you meant to say is: “I’m *assuming*Walmart’s & Selig’s plans are in violation of state laws… (insert rest of your insult here).”

  2. The counting of trees, the arguing over hydrology requirements, the attempts to prevent public streets from serving in ways they’re physically suited to serve, while perhaps all necessary in a bureaucratic world, have never once, in the history of the world, added up to the prospect of a place worth caring about.

    Good growth is not about metrics — it’s about design that serves a community’s articulated social, economic and environmental goals — so I’d suggest that Good Growth DeKalb is misnamed. By-the-Book DeKalb might be a more apt description of how their mission is being carried out.

    1. If they’re changing names, they need to drop the DeKalb part too.They sure as hell haven’t helped DeKalb on the annexation front. Where’s their leadership on that? Two of them just sat there grinning as the City voted to pursue it. Tells you just how concerned GGD is about small local businesses being affected by stuff!

  3. Grasping at Straws DeKalb. I wish the zoning were in place to give us something “good.” But it’s not. We needed to fight that battle long before Wal-Mart showed up. But we didn’t. So here we are. And so on.

  4. If the three issues noted in this article are the sole basis of their appeal, GGD needs to start raising money to file a malpractice claim against their attorneys. Those issues are related to issuance of a Land Disturbance Permit, not a Building Permit. This is a important distinction and i’m surprised their legal counsel didnt know this.

    1. Starting to get the feeling this whole thing is about causing delay for WM out of misguided spite and publicity for GGD, and not necessarily in that order. Regardless, the only people who are going to “win” in this situation are the lawyers.

    2. Wonder if their attorneys are handling their financial arrangements too. GGD’s first fiscal partnership was fraudulent. Lord knows how they talked their new partners into putting themselves on the line if GGD ends up getting themselves sued.

      1. Would you mind offering proof of this so-called fraud? Not insinuation, but proof. It sounds like you’re just blowing smoke.

        1. GGD’s first fiscal partner was a nonprofit that helps folks with Alzheimer’s, mostly seniors, by providing day center services and running a thrift store to raise proceeds. (I’m omitting the nonprofit’s name since they saw the light and got out.) Here’s the relevant info that will explain why it wasn’t legit (http://nonprofitexpert.com/fiscal-sponsorship-an-alternative-to-creating-a-nonprofit/
          ):

          How can a new nonprofit get started right away without waiting to file all its papers and obtain tax-exempt status?

          Individuals or groups in a hurry to begin operations and accept tax-deductible donations can become sponsored by an organization that already has 501(c)(3) status. By doing so, the group can apply for and accept grants, accept tax-deductible donations, and carry on other activities under the tax-exempt status of their sponsor. However, the activities of the sponsored group must be consistent with those of the sponsor. For example, a group that intends to provide services to homeless people cannot be sponsored by a 501(c)(3) that is tax-exempt for the purposes of providing classical music concerts.

  5. Would there have been a fuss if it had been Target instead of Walmart? Would the increased traffic have been any different? I haven’t noticed any traffic issues at Columbia and Memorial since the devil, I mean Walmart, opened.
    If I had the inclination to get up on my roof, I could see a Walmart a few blocks away. The only reason I go there is to check out the Redbox. It is, however, a lifeline for many people in the area, with people taking the bus, walking, or taking a cab to get there.

    1. “Would there have been a fuss if it had been Target instead of Walmart?”

      Why you gotta make me laugh like that, right after I took a big gulp of coffee? Of course, there would’ve been a fuss. It would’ve been exactly as big a fuss as they are currently making over YDHM quadrupling in size to like a billion square feet!

        1. I was enjoying trying to figure out what “H” stood for. I had just about settled on “harmers” when I saw your correction.

        2. You mean that same YDFM that works overtime to suppress living wages and avoid insuring employees? That one?

          1. That burns me up. But how many people do you think don’t shop there because of their labor practices? I don’t and wish no one did. It’s really not cool to quadruple your size on the backs of the working poor.

  6. As someone who lives down the street, I’m opposed to *any* store the size of 149,000 square feet going in there.

    1. What would you prefer? 149,000 vacant square feet? A flea market? Given the struggles independent retailers are having in City of Decatur, it’s not likely that there will be a flock of nice little mom and pop stores looking to set up shop in Suburban Plaza. I don’t care who goes in there, but if that property is revitalized it paves the way for the rest of the neighborhood to be revitalized when it becomes worth it to developers to take on the dead car lots all over the place.

    2. As someone who lives down the street, I’m not opposed to *any* store the size of 149,000 square feet going in there. I knew that’s what it was zoned for when I bought and moved in!

  7. I hope the attorneys for GGD or whatever they are, get payment in advance. They had a “big” fundraiser a couple of months ago and sure didn’t trumpet its success.
    Oh, and didn’t they challenge certain County Commissioners last summer to reveal where their “secret” WM related donations were coming from? Never did see the outcome to that.

  8. Just to clarify, there isn’t a 149,000 square foot store there currently. I’d be surprised if our local Home Depot was even 149,000 sq ft.

    1. Because this is an anonymous, online forum and there are no repercussions in the real world.

        1. It makes it easier to be less civil when you really aren’t accountable for it. We are ALL guilty of it at one time or the other

      1. Decatur Patch has a hypothesis for this: “Does Internet Anonymity Scramble Our Brains?”

        Certainly, IMHO, DMers are all a lot more polite, gallant, and attractive in person.

  9. Target sucks just as much as Walmart. If I want bad traffic I can just go up Clairmont to North Druid and try to get to I-85. Fats, I would prefer 149,000 vacant square feet to ANY 149,000 store at that location. JT, it’s too bad that you live here and love crappy traffic… why, yes, you’ll be able to walk to your local Walmart but good luck going anywhere else in a timely manner! It’s bad enough having all of the Emory employees driving in from the ugly east.

    1. And now we’re supposed to despise Emory employees commuting from the “ugly east?”

      Could someone just please make me a list of all the people/companies/institutions we’re supposed to hate? It really would make my life easier.

    2. Ehh, what do you want in that location? It ain’t ever going to be a wildlife preserve. It might make a great charter school, thereby further sucking life out of the already gasping DeKalb school system. I understand people having a gut reaction to Walmart, I understand people having concerns about traffic. I don’t understand how people would prefer a deteriorating eyesore to a potentially thriving commercial development that generates jobs and sales taxes while driving up neighboring property values and generating even more real estate tax income for the county.

    3. I dunno about that — traffic was horrible in that area before the Richway was even built. I think it’s grown more because Emory and the CDC and the east side has grown much more than because the Richway grew into Target which grew into huge Target.

      And the traffic seems to be the worst at Clairmont and N Druid Hills. And N. Druid Hills and Lavista.

      1. But I suppose the Target doesn’t help. Walmart may be a nightmare. Just remember: 6-way intersection. It’s already horrible.

        1. There will be almost no traffic problems if GDOT would do the smart thing and put in a roundabout at that intersection.

            1. Thanks for that blast from the past – one of my high school favorites. Haven’t heard it in over 30 years!!

  10. Aren’t they tearing down homes and replacing them with commercial just across the street? If they want to fight commercial development, that would be a more appropriate situation, are they fighting that? Trying to get a mad about commercial development going in a place that has previously hosted commercial development doesn’t make any sense. Walmart will be big. Suburban plaza is big. Next…

    1. The meeting about that development are private — off limits to all but residents and who the developer wants in. I’m sure the residents can stand up for themselves — and have. Plus, how do you know what GGD has or hasn’t done? Do you live there? Are you considering selling your house? That goes for YDFM too. If you aren’t at the meetings regularly, or a part of the working groups, or meetings with elected and appointed officials, then you’re making assumptions about what the group does and doesn’t do. And you know what they say about assume…

      1. If GGD wants some credibility, maybe it should make a public statement or devote some of its website to the development across the street from Suburban Plaza, YDFM or other developments that it either supports or opposes based on its vision of “good growth”. But, as far as I can tell, GGD’s sole mission is to stop Wal-Mart from opening so close to Decatur based on blind, irrational hatred of the company. How in the hell can it oppose big box stores while advocating for a Trader Joe’s or REI, and at the same time expect to be taken seriously?

        I am sure some well intentioned people helped found GGD, but they need to step aside and allow some people who bring more than good intentions to the table to implement their plans.

        1. Another for instance is that GGD was silent on the proposed Race-Trac across for the QT, and in that case, since a rezoning was required, they might have been able to have some influence. They also have been silent on the proposed quadrupling for YDFM. They are a one-trick-pony and haven’t even learned that that one trick.

          1. Steve, that is just a flat out lie. GGD was involved with Racetrack on the invitation of the neighborhood who saw the value in involving GGD.. Where are you getting your info?? It’s just not true. At all.

            So what I’ll repeat is that people make a lot of assumptions about a group without ever talking to group or participanting in it.

            I wish I were a sociologist so I could dig into the dynamics of this posting.

              1. Deanne-

                Clearly from your posts you are closely connected to this project. I think your posts are not very CoD-like and come close to offensive (perhaps belong on Patch). Just becasue someone else has a viewpoint different than yours doesn’t mean you have to say they are “drunk posting.”
                I encourage you to post facts and comments that contrast your opposition, not ‘just wait till you get the flyer’ kind of commentary. It will make people like me actually consider your viewpoint instead of dismssing it immedaitely.

                  1. No, no, no… I was agreeing with Deanne’s comment about iheart’s comment, not DM’s comment about Deanne’s comment. But at this point, it should probably all be shut down due to excessive convolution!

            1. I directly asked GGD on the Patch blog why they weren’t participating in that discussion and I was answered that they didn’t have time for it – they were concentrating on WM.

                1. Silly me, I assumed that someone who responded to a direct question on a public blog was speaking for the organization, especially since there was no followup on that blog to the contrary.

          2. Steve, that’s not true. GGD was involved. Please don’t spread rumors and lies. Of all the things listed here, the only thing I don’t think GGD has participated in publically is the YDFM expansion.

            1. And why not? It has much more potential for traffic and infrastructure disruption. Could it be that GGD folks shop at YDFM, which I don’t, BTW, because I disagree with their labor and business policies (where have I heard that before?).

              1. Me either as you read in my previous post.

                I’m not saying the group is disinterested in YDFM but with everything going on, there’s been no time to study the issue.

                It sounds like you and many others oppose it. If you organize, I’ll support you and you’re always welcome to come lead GGD in that direction (I know — never would happen but the offer stands).

      2. “The meeting about that development are private — off limits to all but residents and who the developer wants in. I’m sure the residents can stand up for themselves — and have. “. WAIT, WHAT?? GGD is not interested in that development because those residents can stand up for themselves yet GGD feels obligated to speak for the entire Community in regard to Suburban Plaza, where the developer has held public meetings and continues to meet with a designated multi-neighborhood committee put together by MANA??? Why the difference in attitude GGD?

        1. I don’t understand your reply. You may have zinged me as I’m sure i didnt express myself well but I don’t even understand the zinger. 🙁

          Yes, there were public meetings, amd people could hear from Walmart and Selig. Following the meetings, many chose to come together to oppose the development. Only two neighborhood associations chose to support it. Or not oppose it, and make suggestions for improvement.

          GGD doesn’t speak for all, clearly, but it does have broad, multi-neighborhood participation and support.

          1. “Only two neighborhood associations chose to support it. Or not oppose it, and make suggestions for improvement.”

            You might want to take another crack at this too.

            1. Deanne, tell us — or better show us — the agreement. Only signed by MANA. If there are other neighborhoods represented in your group, aside from the two I mentioned, please share.

              1. MANA signed on behalf of all of the surrounding neighborhoods and HOAs that participated in negotiations. Info about the neighborhoods’ efforts (that began Day1 and not a leisurely 2 months after the parking variance was approved) and the committee seeing the agreements through is also available online.

    1. Gotta be honest, didn’t think it would take this long for someone to roll out the “you must work for Walmart” card. Props for getting a “bro” in there, though.

      1. Then why the constant consistent defense of WM’s plans and the belittling of WM opponents across several platforms? The mark of a paid shill. My comment stands.

        1. “The mark of a paid shill.”

          Do you really believe that? I mean, honestly? He’s been on this website longer than I have and seems to have a base of knowledge surrounding all things city related. But I seriously doubt he’s employed by Walmart or Selig. Anything is possible, but I highly doubt it. I can’t speak for him, but if he’s anything like me, he gets a kick out of poking sticks at ridiculous bears. Everyone can plainly see what a total waste of time and energy this case is, when there are many other battles in the immediate area that actually have some merit, and don’t even get me started on the double standards.

          Just be honest about the real issue here, slap a big “I fcking hate Walmart” sticker on your car and do something more productive with your resources. I’m not excited about Walmart, but the circus around Suburban just doesn’t make any sense. There’s a senior center right in walking distance, but sure let’s drop a “whole paycheck” at their doorstep where they can buy all the granola and organic meat their monthly social security check provides, that should feed them for what? A good week and a half? Does this sound like a group of people actually concerned with the neighbors and demographics of the immediate area? Give me a break.

          Since I’m sort of coming to Steve’s defense, I guess I need to give you the disclaimer that Steve is not my husband, lover, baby daddy, or anything of that nature, never met the guy.

          1. “Everyone can plainly see what a total waste of time and energy this case is,”
            Exactly my point. I’m not defending WM, just continuing to call out the wasted time and energy being spent on this issue when there are other projects that potentially could have much more impact on traffic, etc., and on which the community could have much more influence.
            And, I resent, as I have previously, being accused of having any interest in WM or Selig. I don’t even own WM stock and I shop there once in 10 blue moons because I prefer to keep my business local.

        2. By that logic, AMB, how much is GGD paying you?

          Nothing, I suppose. I would think that your position is informed by considerations other than your pocketbook. Too bad you won’t grant the same presumption of good faith to those who disagree with you, even after they’ve politely denied your accusation.

          1. Oh boo hoo. I asked if someone was a paid shill. Surely you are all not so naive, so Internet clueless that you haven’t heard about paid good reviews, paid positive comments, paid positive PR. If Steve is putting all this time and attention to denigrating GGD and isn’t getting paid, perhaps he should consider a new career path.
            That being said, I will let the issue drop as it seems a little controversy gets Decaturites panties in huge wads.

  11. Wow. I didn’t think any issue could inspire more acrimony than the 2004-5 CSD reconfiguration but this seems to be getting close. Now that “Free Westchester” is hopefully about to become a defunct slogan, and my grandchildren will be able to attend the school even if my kids couldn’t, maybe it’s time for a new slogan, “Free Walmart!” anyone?

  12. Let’s dial it back and stop focusing on individuals please. Otherwise the thread will be closed.

    I’ve kept it open until now to let everyone have their say, but it’s not getting better.

    1. I’d vote to close it. It saddens me to see how this conversation has lacked any general purpose other than nastiness. We clearly are divided on this topic and will be until the dang thing is built or stopped. Why is everyone being so ugly to each other on this is something I cannot wrap my head around.

      We are all better than this.

      1. It wasn’t “nasty” until someone took personal umbrage at the critical comments about GGD and started calling people out individually instead of taking a reasoned position about it. Anybody who’s read this forum for very long ought to realize that is a tactic that never accomplishes anything. I think this thread turned out to be a nice demonstration of the DM community’s general tendency toward self-policing. We had Junder agreeing with Dawg, for crying out loud!

        1. True, there was a lot of self-policing, but the initial laughing at GGD’s position was an invitation for being called out individually. All the old-timers around here know that.

          “Ha, ha, your position is stupid” isn’t an invitation for reasoned dialogue.

          1. GGD puts itself in the public eye and, IMO, the exact same rules shouldn’t apply relating to individual name-calling (similar to one’s right to parody a public official). If they are speaking for the “community”, the community should be able to speak back. And STG is right – the nastiness is flowing from GGD members/apologists. Besides, I think most of the discussion constitutes constructive criticism as their position on big box stores is laughable and has zero credibility. Some here want GGD to succeed, but don’t agree with thier strategy or tactics.

            1. I agree, that’s why I don’t take those comments down. But I still cringe to see them because I know it’s a “gateway comment” to personal attacks, especially when you’re addressing those who don’t post here regularly.

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