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Anti-Walmart Group Considering Legal Fight, Raising Money

Good Growth DeKalb, which is fighting the construction of a Walmart Supercenter in Suburban Plaza, has met with attorneys and is raising money to explore a legal fight against the international retailer and Selig Enterprises.

A group of local residents fighting the construction of a Walmart Supercenter inside North Decatur's Suburban Plaza is consulting attorneys about a possible legal fight against the international retailer and is raising money to pay for it.

About 20 residents showed up to a Tuesday evening meeting of the newly named Good Growth DeKalb at to discuss their continued fight against Walmart and Selig Enterprises, the local development company that owns the beleaguered shopping center where it will be built.

Over the holidays, members of the group met with two sets of attorneys to get an idea of what it would cost, first, to find out if there is a legal angle to prevent Walmart from building and, second, what it would cost to pay for an attorney to see the issue through.

The group now has a goal to raise $4,000 by Feb. 1 to hire an attorney to see if there is a legal way to fight Selig and Walmart. The attorneys they've consulted have expertise in land use and environmental law, particularly water runoff, said Ann Mauney, a group member.

"[The attorneys] said, 'You go down seven avenues and maybe you find one thing you can fight,'" she told the group. "We have got to commit ourselves if this is something that people want to do. ... It is now or never."

Good Growth DeKalb currently has a bank account with $675 in it, said Staci Dixon, a group member who ran the meeting.

Group members plan to canvas neighborhoods asking for donations to meet the initial exploratory fee. The actual legal fight, however, could cost between $10,000 and $15,000, members said. The group also plans to stage at least one protest this Friday in front of Suburban Plaza from 4:30pm - 5:30pm and also hopes to organize a larger town hall meeting that would include a hired attorney and speakers who have successfully fought other Walmart store developments.

Fliers and literature the group distributed to members (which will also be given to the public) focused on criticisms of the retailer that included traffic congestion in the Scott Boulevard/North Decatur Road area, the potential loss of local businesses and the local jobs that would go with them and the addition of mostly low-wage jobs that Walmart would provide instead.

"There are some very unlikely scenarios in this country where people have changed the picture with Walmart," Mauney said. "We’ve got to decide if we’re really going to make an effort."

The group will meet again next Tuesday at 7pm.

Good Growth DeKalb can be reached on Facebook here and through its Yahoo! group here.

Helen Lenkerd January 18, 2012 at 03:49 PM
I do NOT support the actions of this group. I live in the neighborhood, and am Eagerly Anticipating the arrival of a Walmart within walking distance of home. What is wrong with you people? You didn't allow Costco to come to North DeKalb, and now you're fighting Walmart. Our shopping centers are on their last legs, and you want to stop anything good from coming! Please pay attention! There are many older citizens who cannot drive, who need some kind of nearby shopping. Helen Lenkerd, 918 Schoel Dr., Decatur
Jonathan Cribbs January 18, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I've added a link to the group's Facebook page at the bottom of the story. I'll add more contact information shortly.
David D January 18, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Thank you, Helen. The press has focused on the opposition on this issue. The behavior of some of the Wal-Mart opponents at the variance meeting (including one of the zoning board members) was unprofessional. Now I'm wondering whether they have obsessed on the issue. Obviously, they think they know best for the community and are going to force their negativism on everyone. Business is dollars and cents. If businesses thought the demographics supported it, Suburban Plaza would be full of one-of-a-kind retailers or the opposition-favored big box stores like Whole Foods. This isn't about traffic, obviously.
Cheryl January 18, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Having a Wal Mart within walking distance does not mean that the landscape will be pedestrian friendly. In fact, more cars means more danger to pedestrians. Wal Mart typically sells in bulk packaging, designed to be hauled in cars/suv's, not by pedestrians on foot.
David D January 18, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Wal-Mart does not typically sell in bulk packaging, you are mistaken about that. You may be confusing Wal-Mart with its sister store Sams Club.
Jonathan Cribbs January 18, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I can't disagree with your point, David. The media has focused on the opposition because it's relatively organized and it's the most newsworthy element of the story (once you report the store is actually coming). That said, a story about the store's supporters is a legitimate angle. I've got Ms. Lenkerd above. If other readers in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff area are happy about Walmart's arrival and are willing to talk about it, they should email me at jonathan.cribbs@patch.com.
Cheryl January 18, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I think you'll find plenty of 12-pack paper towels, 60 ct boxes of diapers, large electronics and housewares at any Wal Mart. You get my drift.
Cheryl January 18, 2012 at 04:44 PM
It is very inconvenient to go to a big box store for a small bag of items that you would carry on your grocery caddy and walk down the street. Wal Mart is not designed for this type of purchasing. The Kroger in downtown Decatur is more the scale for pedestrian access.
David D January 18, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Cheryl, I do get your drift. I don't think that any store in Suburban Plaza is in a pedestrian friendly environment, regardless of the size of the store. That is a very inconvenient location and frankly, there is not enough population density in the surrounding blocks to make it a good 'walking' alternative to downtown Decatur or even the intersection at Clairmont/North Decatur Road. As long as the area continues to have the large lot commercial/medical/assisted living presence, Surburban Plaza primarily will be a vehicular destination.
Stephen Decatur January 18, 2012 at 05:33 PM
This reminds me of those Japanese soldiers on remote islands in the south Pacific who were still fighting WWII long after the war was over. DeKalb County has applied for a Livable Centers grant for the greater Suburban Plaza area which, if secured, will allow the community to develop a shared vision and then modify land use policy and zoning to enforce it. Anyone unhappy with the current form of development should put their energies towards collaboratively changing the system, not this kind of divisive nonsense over a dead issue.
David D January 18, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Well said.
Wally January 18, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Good luck trying to raise big dollars to fight a loosing battle. Just like a lot of things the fight should have started before the appeal. The cell towers ibattle at Medlock school did not raise a lot of money but the attorney did not charge his normal fee. Plus a few community members did a lot of the leg work. A cell tower is worse than Wal-mart. The fears of traffic and lost businesses are real but not a legal issue. If you substitute Wal-mart with any other big box like target you get the same problems. Some in the community are prejudice against Wal-mart and is not a good argument. The test would be would this argument be happening if it was another big box store.
Mack Hawkins January 19, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Bring the Walmart! Rebuild the whole plaza. Add a Walgreen's. Add's more job's.Save's you gas. Wake up.
Cheryl January 21, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Just because SP is now a vehicular destination does not mean that it must always be so. Why couldn't the site become a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development with a combination of housing/apartments and retail, including green space? We have seen this type of development in many other areas. Why is it a forgone conclusion that we MUST have a big box there?
Cheryl January 21, 2012 at 12:49 AM
@Stephen, it seems like there are many who are keeping the issue alive. The Livable Centers grant sounds great, but how long will that take? By the time such a grant is secured, it would probably be too late to change the current plan for SP. With all due respect, the fight isn't over just because you say it is.
Cheryl January 21, 2012 at 12:52 AM
NO to all big box stores. They suck the life out of the community. Desirable neighborhoods are not built around big box stores.
Cheryl January 21, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Perhaps the reason the press has focused on the opposition is because there are MORE PEOPLE OPPOSED to the development. At least that's what the "informal poll" here on the Patch says. Is it "negativism" to want more bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets, more thriving independent businesses, more clean & safe housing, more public green space, more diverse businesses? Big box development is the opposite of all that.
David D January 21, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Cheryl, you are certainly correct that SP could be more pedestrian friendly as a well-designed mixed use development. The issue is, though, that we don't own the property. I would rather see nice development on that eye-sore property behind Meltons and the pet store, too; but I don't own the land there, either. The problem with this so-called "good growth" group is that they don't own the land, but they think they have the right to attack the owner about his plans for development and have the right to drag it on and on and on. It is sad that they apparently believe their opposition is productive. If they could get past their obsession with Wal-Mart, they might focus on convincing other retail businesses to locate in the area. The irony is, however, that retailers considering this area now have to think twice about whether they can financially afford to defend their business plans if the 'good growth' folks go after them, too.
Cheryl January 21, 2012 at 03:01 AM
David, I understand what you're saying. It's true, we (the neighbors) do not own the land. However, it seems reasonable to require folks who DO own big chunks of land to consider the collective good. And, actually, even though we do not own the land, we are citizens of the county and state and country...and we DO have the right to question the owner's plans for development. It's called civic involvement. I agree that the "good growth" group's efforts may be clumsy; I am not the type to wave signs on the street corner. However, since the damage Wal Mart leaves in its wake is well-documented, you can understand why many folks would be concerned, even though they may not know exactly what to do, or how to go about it. I question whether we really need "more" and "better" stores. I can find whatever I need between SP, Kroger on Dekalb Industrial Way and the drug stores in between. We have a great Ace Hardware, and the plaza's only vacancy is the grocery store out in the parking lot. Yes, the whole thing looks a bit rag-tag; but a new facade & a little re-design of the parking lot could do wonders. The old grocery store could be sub-divided. We don't really *NEED* more shopping options, just a landlord that doesn't mind maintaining his property. Instead, we have a greedy land owner who wants his millions, with no regard for the neighborhood. One thing I don't understand: why anyone feels the need to defend Selig and Wal-Mart--both are in the business of plunder.
Staci January 21, 2012 at 07:28 PM
If you'd like to get more involved in the fight against Walmart, please e-mail us at goodgrowthdekalb@gmail.com. Thanks!
Jennifer C. January 25, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Back at ya, Helen. What is wrong with YOU? Do a little research about Walmart and see if you still support the crime, traffic, light pollution and reduced property values. I live in the neighborhood too and I'm sick and tired of all the stupid arguments focusing on that fact that people need to be able to buy their 10 packs of whatever from a store in spitting distance. If you are elderly and want to walk everywhere then move to a pedstrian friendly city.
David D January 25, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Jennifer, Your reply illustrates exactly the sort of incivility I've seen from some of the opponents of Wal-Mart. Take a deep breath and look at what you just wrote, it borders incoherent.
Jennifer C. January 25, 2012 at 06:53 PM
We don't own the land but we pay property taxes that fund our local governments that work with these developers, and the elected officials who could have opposed this have to answer to us. We absolutely have the right to have input on commercial development in our own backyard, so I completely disagree with your assertion and false premise. And there is nothing "sad" about our organized effort to protect the type of community that we want. Also, before you tongue lash us again with all your expertise on the issue, we know everything we are up against, in terms of naysyers like you and the legal angle. These are not a bunch of naive people that you are attacking.
Cheryl January 25, 2012 at 07:33 PM
I wonder if we have a few Wal Mart trolls commenting on these articles? Why would anybody be so passionately pro-Wal Mart otherwise?
Jennifer C. January 25, 2012 at 09:11 PM
David, There is nothing uncivil about what I wrote and it is perfectly coherent. I have no idea what you are talking about. If you want to talk about incivility, I've seen a number of your posts that are outright hostile, such as the one above. Do you want to get the moderator involved? I'm perfectly happy to defer to him.
Jennifer C. January 25, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Very good point, Cheryl.
Cheryl January 25, 2012 at 09:53 PM
I must add--now that I have been to a Good Growth Dekalb meeting, I can say that the opposition includes many smart, educated, realistic and committed folks who are not in any way uncivil. It is frustrating when the pro Wal Mart voices on the Patch are able to ignore every single well-reasoned statement anyone puts forth against the development. It does lead one to wonder about paid trolls in our midst. A gig as an undercover shill for Wal Mart is probably fairly lucrative.
Jennifer C. January 25, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Yes, I agree.
Deanne January 25, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Imagine the frustrations of the neighbors in favor of the redevelopment plans when well reasoned comments are met with name calling, speculations, being talked down to (and don't even get me started on the folks who rely on links to make a point!). Probably many of the Good Growth folks are cringing over it too. Those who are doing it must be getting some kind of satisfaction from it, but it sure is undermining their cause. (No reply needed.)
Cheryl January 26, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Deanne, the types of comments you describe have been coming from BOTH sides. Maybe I went over the top to suggest that there may be internet trolls involved--I apologize. Otherwise, I think my comments have been very courteous, while voicing opposition. I guess it is not possible to disagree without some taking offense. As the development will likely go through, time will tell whether it was a good thing or not. This is the type of thing that arises when there is a lack of leadership and vision on the part of our elected officials--those affected end up fighting among themselves, and nobody wins, least of all, our children. I promise this is my last comment on the whole issue, as I know my views are unwelcome and I don't want to be that despised neighbor.....but, I think we should all consider the early 20th Century, when so many of the beautiful, liveable parts of our city were built. The forefathers who built stately homes, sidewalks, linear parks, banks and train stations with lovely architectural details...what would they have done? Everything they built was beautiful, meant to last and constructed on a human scale. They did not give us crappy shopping centers--they gave us a beautiful town square. What are we going to give our children?

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