Who is Good Growth DeKalb?

An organizer with the group fighting the construction of a Walmart in North Decatur writes to Patch to explain their positions.

Welcome to Good Growth DeKalb! We are an organization of residents from many Decatur-area neighborhoods concerned about a Walmart Supercenter at Suburban Plaza. We feel Walmart is not a potential good neighbor. We do not consider Walmart in Decatur to be a done deal. Walmarts are defeated regularly by communities all over the country. They often choose not to come when there is sufficient opposition even when they win on the legal front.

Why are we opposed to Walmart here? We’re concerned about a significant increase in traffic at this already-challenged intersection; cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods threatening pedestrians, cyclists, walkers, runners, dogs and kids; greater difficulty for ambulances getting through; lowered property values; increased crime; loss of local businesses (In a Chicago study of a new Walmart, 82 of 306 small businesses went under in 18 months.); and the burden on our infrastructure. We question whether our roads, water mains, etc., can sustain such construction and maintenance and what kind of burden this would put on taxpayers in the long run.

We see other ways in which Walmart is not a good neighbor: They provide only two jobs for every three they eliminate; their pay keeps a family of four below poverty level; low-paid workers are forced to seek taxpayer-funded benefits. We also have many nearby Walmarts. The Avondale Supercenter is less than 4 miles away! Walmarts this close together will ultimately lead to a great decrease in choice for the consumer.

What would we like to see at Suburban Plaza instead? We call on Selig, its owner, to be responsive to the community's needs and wishes. Selig has done nothing to make Suburban Plaza inviting to potential businesses or customers. We support local and small-to-mid-sized businesses that are community-oriented. Many ideas have come forward – new restaurants, a coffee shop, a landscaped area, a roller skating rink, an old-fashioned carousel – that would make Suburban Plaza an attractive place for neighbors to gather, which in turn would make it commercially viable for many businesses. We would like to hear from you. What is your vision? Come to our Community Forum on Thursday at 7pm at North Decatur Presbyterian Church, 611 Medlock Rd., and express your views or write us at GoodGrowthDekalb@gmail.com.

What have we done so far? In the past two months we have held four rallies, generating excellent news coverage. We've distributed flyers and yard signs throughout surrounding neighborhoods. We've had an overall positive response everywhere – from folks driving by our rallies to neighbors we’ve talked to and businesses we've canvassed. We reached our initial fundraising goal of $4,000 in only two weeks and have hired attorneys to conduct an initial investigation of possible legal challenges to Walmart at Suburban Plaza.

Our attorneys will speak at the Community Forum on their findings so far. Russell Edwards, from People For A Better Athens (a group opposing Walmart/Selig in downtown Athens) will also speak. Please come! On Saturday, March 10 at 10am, we will hold an Outreach March from Suburban Plaza to downtown Decatur. We will carry signs and banners along the sidewalk and distribute flyers to passersby. Please join us!

Make a donation or mail check to Good Growth DeKalb, P.O. Box 33721, Decatur, GA 30033. Sign our petition and follow us on Facebook.

Louise Runyon

Concerned DeKalb Citizen February 24, 2012 at 03:53 AM
I'm not the greatest fan of Wal-Mart, however, the Memorial Drive Wal-Mart, has never had a rat population. That was a false rumor put out by those in Avondale Estates objecting to it when it was initially built. Secondly, show me and factually evidence that crime increased in that area. In addition, the housing was never Wal-Mart's plan, obviously the economy changed that. Wal-Mart to their credit produced every thing they promised as I went to many of the meeting they held with the community.
Victoria Webb February 24, 2012 at 03:40 PM
One thread suggested that Russell Edwards' architectural renderings may be a mere 5' off. And he corrected the one mistake he made on the drawings. Big deal. Selig also wants to demolish 3 buildings in their Athens project - 'originally listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and consisting of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century warehouses.' With a background in historic preservation, I can understand why the People for a Better Athens is concerned. I'm curious - why didn't the neighborhood groups here ask for binding concessions? Smart Growth Forsyth got concessions in writing from Walmart and still defeated their plans to build. Why was Selig allowed to initiate their own traffic report and isn't it important to have this be independent? These are questions that GGD has asked without trying to alienate anyone. Even one of the members of the county zoning board suggested on Dec. 14th that more time was needed to review traffic concerns. Whether or not Dekalb county allows developers to fund their own reports is not the point. We need more common sense regulations and ordinances that benefit the community, not the developers. We're not suggesting that the oversight you made was intentional. We're just trying to do better by the community. We had a great turn-out last night for our community forum. It appears that many, many people are concerned about a development that could potentially leave the neighborhood worse off in the long run.
Deanne February 24, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Victoria, Since Russell Edwards didn't end up participating last night, we should probably switch to discussing Melissa Link and why folks should check out any info she imparts (the petiton and nary a mention of its major issues; her interpretation of the ACC Meeting). We all have our own standard of "no big deal." You and I seem to see it differently, but perhaps you missed this article and will end up agreeing: http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2012-01-24/misleading-downtown-athens-walmart-images-circulate-online Again, GGD's lawyer can explain the pros and cons of binding vs. nonbinding agreements. Having him work on your other questions would be an excellent use of GGD's legal fund. All neighbors could benefit from a better understanding of what's broken in how the County currently does things and how we can all best work to fix it. (Not blaming our County Folks-- imagine their frustrations at being hamstrung by outdated rules! ) A good turnout for issues affecting our neighborhoods is always welcome news. It means that folks care and want to learn more. With future commercial development and MARTA expansion on the horizon, all area neighbors will want to stay informed from here on out.
Victoria Webb February 24, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Deanne, thanks for that info. I hope you'll attend our meetings and that we can work together on this issue. Link was very good last night, in case you missed her. I'm in support of what Athens is doing. And in light of the many concessions that Walmart and their developers have failed to promise to hundreds of communities over the past 20 years, I think a 5 foot discrepancy in a photo from one grass roots group - is small potatoes. We all need to press for better ordinances. Our county officials are only as good as we help them to be!
~ HHS ~ March 12, 2012 at 02:01 AM
I have experience watching this entire area quickly decline. I have seen groups like "Good Growth Dekalb" fight new development over the last 20 years--only to see the developers decide to go elsewhere. Whomever Selig wants to sell to that rebuilds that shopping center--I am all for it. As for "offers" Selig has possibly or possibly NOT received is a choice that property owners have a right to accept or decline if it is within the current zoning. As for their zoning, it was zoned MANY years ago. The property owners can choose to rent to whomever they want that meet that zoning criteria. Just as you have a right to sell/rent to whomever you want. There are some far WORSE people Selig could choose to rent to -- hmm.. small business that might be interested in Suburban Plaza -- Pink Pony -- Inserection -- Pawn Shops -- The list goes on... I have watched Cheshire Bridge, Buford Hwy go down hill with their aging shopping centers... I have seen Sydney Marcus and Brookhaven/Peachtree Industrial rebuilt with Wal-Mart & Home Depots--then the nicer small businesses approached. Trying to keep Decatur as this small home town "All-American" community ideal isn't going to work because everyone is moving to "NEWER" areas. The only ones with the $$$ for such an expensive overhaul is someone like Wal-Mart. To my knowledge, Selig is renting-right? As a property owner myself, I would only pick the best possible tenants that would HELP my property increase in value--not decrease it.


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