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McLendon Community Fights RaceTrac Station on Lawrenceville Highway

Roughly 100 residents showed up to McLendon Elementary School on Wednesday to confront the gas station and market company, which wants to rezone land between Orion and Hollywood drives.

A new RaceTrac gas station and market along Lawrenceville Highway near would only create traffic and pollution and harm the property values of nearby homes, community residents said Wednesday night.

Rougly 100 people who live around in the community filled its cafeteria to confront two representatives with the Atlanta corporation about its plans to build a 24-hour, 18-pump gas station and market on the highway between Orion and Hollywood drives.

"No offense," said Elizabeth Roberts, 49, a community member. "[You're] not welcome. I was hoping RaceTrac as an Atlanta company would understand community cohesion."

Over the course of the one-hour meeting, residents said they were concerned the station would create dangerous traffic along their streets and runoff pollution that might harm horses in neighboring Little Creek Farm, which supports equine activities. Others said they feared a popular station would lure crime while many others said they believed the presence of a gas station so close to their homes would harm property values.

"What you are going to do is drop those values even more," one resident said. "There's not one person here who won't be affected."

RaceTrac's representatives spent most of the hour trying to defend a construction project no one in the cafeteria said they wanted. The company – a QuikTrip competitor – hopes to apply to the county to rezone several acres on the highway from residential to commercial.

Chad Baker, a RaceTrac senior project manager, and Den Webb, an attorney with Smith, Gambrill & Russell LLP, said they didn't have answers for many residents' questions but were there to get a sense of the community's concerns. The county requires anyone seeking rezoning to notify nearby property owners and hold a community meeting. Both said the company is still exploring the viability of the project and has yet to apply for anything or perform necessary environmental testing and so forth.

Trying to appease residents, Baker and Webb said repeatedly that what's bad for the community is bad RaceTrac. For instance, crime that hurts the community also hurts their business, they said. They also said measures could be taken to mitigate things that could harm property values, including leaving vegetation on site, among other options.

"As property owners, we have the same interests you do," Baker said.

The crowd responded with snorts.

"You are really funny," a woman said.

The audience applauded a suggestion that RaceTrac move its planned station farther south on Lawrenceville Highway to the blighted area near DeKalb Industrial Way where many vacant car dealerships are located. Development there would be welcomed by the community, one woman said.

But RaceTrac hopes to position its station between Orion and Hollywood drives because it's in a commercial corridor, and they'll be within viewing distance of their top competition – the popular station across the highway, Baker said.

"The reason RaceTrac wants this site is that the traffic's already there," Webb said.

Some residents took issue with the . The notice said RaceTrac wants to rezone from RM-HD (or Multifamily Resident District) to Office-Institutional, which allows for lower intensity offices, institutions and health service activities where buildings are limited to two stories.

But Baker and Webb said that was a mistake and that they are seeking a commercial zoning. The two also agreed to have another meeting with the community before moving forward with anything.

"These are good questions," Baker said. "I don't know what we are going to do yet."

Dean Hix, 76, who said he moved to the community in 1962, said RaceTrac needs to understand that there probably isn't anything they can do to get the community on board. didn't exist when he moved here, he said.

"Everything that has changed in those 50 years has degraded why I moved out here," Hix said. "As a homeowner, you would fight [this station] too. You're here for your company. We're here for our homes."

Steve May 10, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Where was GGD? Since this is a rezoning, they might be able to do something about it.
David S May 10, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Steve: You must have mis-read the article. This is RACETRACK not WALMART (sarc). GGD is not actually interested in “good growth” in “DeKalb,” they were formed solely to oppose Walmart.
Mary Hamilton May 10, 2012 at 10:30 PM
We are opposed to RaceTrack at this proposed location. So many other properties along this corridor are vacant and would provide better location away from neighborhood residences and animal farm. We cannot support a decision for RaceTrack at this location and will fight it all the way! Frank & Mary Hamilton Storybook Estates Neighborhood Watch.
Becky May 10, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Just to add: the main neighborhoods potentially affected by this are Sargent Hills, Evergreen Forest and Storybook Estates. And of course Little Creek Horse Farm is right across the street from the proposed site.
David S May 11, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Frank & Mary and Becky: I couldn’t agree with you more. This is a proposal that should be opposed because of it’s likely effects on the adjacent neighborhoods, not because of someone’s opinion of the proposed tenant. It would dump a good bit of additional traffic onto both Hollywood and Orion. The old restaurant (Shoney’s?) site at the top of the hill would be a good alternative. It wouldn’t have to be re-zoned, (zoned M), it’s apparently owned by a bank, and it’s vacant. But it’s probably not big enough for what RaceTrac wants to do. I can’t see DeKalb approving a rezoning, but if they are leaning that way, maybe the mayor of Decatur could annex the property.
Steve May 11, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Unlike Suburban Plaza, that property is not adjacent to, or anywhere near, the City of Decatur.
Staci May 16, 2012 at 10:23 PM
David, Could you give Good Growth DeKalb a break? The group officially came together in mid-January -- that was just four months ago. It's comprised mostly of people who live and work around Suburban Plaza, where any 149,000-square-foot big box store is a terrible fit for the center and the surrounding neighborhoods. But there are not many people who would disagree that Walmart seems to be a particularly egregious choice, as shown in the latest scandal: bribery for rapid expansion. Even Selig seemed apologietic at one of their meetings, saying Walmart was their only choice after approaching every other retailer out there. Believe that or not (I don't). Good Growth DeKalb will share whatever knowledge we have about zoning & the county, but we must stay focused on Suburban Plaza for now. As we grow our ranks and learn more about the county, zoning and more, we hope to be of greater service. I (not as a GGD rep) hope the neighbors can convince Racetrac to move for the reasons expressed. Thanks.
Steve May 16, 2012 at 11:28 PM
GGD, if they are truly interested in GG, should expend their energy on something they really could have some influence over, like a Racetrac's rezoning request or the YDFM master plan, not something that's already decided.
Staci May 17, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Steve, You sound like someone who cares a lot about good development in the county. We'd welcome you into the group to help us expand our scope when we have the ability to do so -- or maybe you could be that catayst. Find out how you can get involved at www.goodgrowthdekalb.org.
Steve May 17, 2012 at 09:31 PM
As long as you're "No Walmart DeKalb" I do not wish to be associated with you.
David S May 18, 2012 at 03:29 PM
The proposed RaceTrac development, in my opinion, should be stopped because of the potential detrimental effects it would have on the adjacent residential neighborhoods. A rational, logical (and likely successful) argument could be presented to the Zoning Board for denying this change by a group that is truly interested in “good growth” in DeKalb County. From what I’ve seen and read, this doesn’t describe GGD. Your website is anti-Walmart, you’ve aligned yourself with an anti-Walmart group from Athens, your fund-raising has been anti-Walmart, and all of your protest signs have been anti-Walmart. And your comment in this thread seems to indicate that you’re too busy being anti-Walmart to help out promoting “good growth” right down the street from Suburban Plaza.
Staci May 19, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Saw this post and thought about the Racetrac issue: http://consumerist.com/2012/05/arkansas-protestors-not-about-to-let-walmart-sneak-into-zoned-residential-community.html
Staci May 19, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Walmart is proposed for the site so, of course, that's the main focus. You are assuming the group would not be opposed to another business that isn't a good fit for our neighborhood. I am sure if Selig wanted to open a cigarette factory on the site, the group would be focused on that poor choice. But Walmart is the plan, and people don't want a Walmart there. And no one is putting their heads in the sand about the nefarious dealings of Walmart either. Walmart touts themselves as a leader but it leads in bad practices, bad employee treatment, bad community relations, lawbreaking, etc. On Thursday, Walmart reported that the Dept of Justice, the SEC, Congress and multiple Mexican gov't orgs now are involved in the widening bribery probe. Walmart also reversed course, finally admitting this scandal and Walmart's cover-up of it could hurt the company's profits in the coming quarters. If enough people shop their ethics, we could change the course of business in America (and abroad) for the good of all. If Walmart really truly wanted to be seen as a respected leader, it could do the right thing for itself and the people who work and shop at its stores. But you have to earn respect, and Walmart once did. However, today, in its 50th year, the company has sunk to a new low. We call on Selig Enterprises to do better for itself, for the plaza that Steve Selig personally owns, and for the community who has supported his business for decades.
Deanne May 19, 2012 at 08:35 PM
"We call on Selig Enterprises..." Well no, Staci, Good Growth Dekalb's actually never called on Selig Enterprises to do anything. I asked, and Scott Selig and Bill Stogner said that y'all never once bothered to contact either of them by phone or email to request a meeting to discuss y'all's concerns. What y'all did instead (after staging protests) is have GGD's attorney put out a feeler to Selig's attorney. And as y'all now well know (although the folks donating to GGD's "cause" may not), Selig Enterprises will NOT be meeting with Good Growth Dekalb. As Scott Selig put it, "Once someone's taken an adversarial stance, we won't do that." (Scott Selig is their VP of Acquisitions & Mergers, and he's the Selig in charge of this project.)
Deanne May 19, 2012 at 08:53 PM
On RaceTrac: I agree with Davd S that RaceTrac should buy the old Shoney's site. For the right price, RaceTrac can buy the adjoining property-- should be easy enough for A-Z Wholesale to relocate. Dekalb DEFINITELY shouldn't be rezoning when there's plenty of vacant sites in the vicinity. RaceTrac's hardly going to suffer if they're not immediately across the road. Tons of traffic. Become known for having the cheapest gas, then sit back and count the $$$.
Deanne May 19, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Make that: Scott Selig, Vice President, Acquisitions & Development (correction went to wrong place in thread).
Staci May 20, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Deanne, What you said is not true. Since you are neither a part of our group nor an employee of Selig Enterprises, it seems like the best course of action for you is to butt out and stop spreading rumors. I'm not responding to your contrived folksy-talk postings anymore.
Deanne May 20, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Staci, I'm fine with ignoring your everything but the kitchen sink ramblings as well; however, when you start puffing about what Good Growth Dekalb's doing when so far it's not been anything that's actually going to affect this redevelopment project, then I'm going to speak up. And to do that, I don't need to work for Selig-- I simply need to able to get my questions answered by them.
Victoria Webb May 20, 2012 at 01:22 PM
There is growing community support against the Suburban Plaza Walmart, one has only to drive by hundreds of signs in neighborhoods surrounding the mall. And that's exactly what is needed to prevent vendors that a community opposes, like RaceTrac. Don't listen to the naysayers - most of whom have probably never served on any county or city board - and keep up the good fight!
Todd G October 15, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Why is McLendon Elementary being brought into the mix? The school is at the other end of McLendon by E Ponce and nowhere near L'Ville Hwy. It's a good 3 miles away.
Shane Little November 23, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Todd, you obviously know nothing about the area. McLendon Elementary is less than a mile and a half from proposed site. I know. I went there and lived in same area for 20+ years. The proposed site is on a road that leads directly to the school. all the side streets in the area are already way overused by cars taking short cuts. So that is why McLendon is being brought into the mix.

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