Good Growth DeKalb Loses Challenge to Block Walmart

The development is now clear to proceed unless the organization decides to continue its legal fight.

The DeKalb Zoning Board of Appeals has rejected an appeal by a local organization fighting the construction of a Walmart Supercenter in Suburban Plaza.

The board rejected the challenge by Good Growth DeKalb, the local organization fighting the project, during its Wednesday afternoon meeting.

The project is now cleared to move forward, unless Good Growth DeKalb decides to file additional lawsuits to block the project.

The group filed the appeal Jan. 9, which they said was a "necessary precursor to filing a lawsuit," according to a note from the group sent out to residents who signed an online petition over the summer protesting the Walmart.

Bill Wertz, spokesman for Walmart, said, “We are delighted to be partners with Selig Enterprises in this retail redevelopment, which we believe will be very positive for the community. Walmart is looking forward to adding 300 new jobs and millions of dollars in new tax revenue to the county by being part of this project. We are also excited about offering the community another option for fresh, affordable food and other merchandise.”

Stay with Patch for updates to this story.

MrMatt February 13, 2013 at 11:20 PM
I'm sure you'll update the story with more details when you can, but I'd be interested to know if the board specifically refuted the point-by-point challenges GGD had, or if it was just a flat dismissal. I happen to believe GGD is motivated by a dislike for WM specifically and are simply using zoning issues as a proxy for their fight. However, my trust in Dekalb county is somewhere approaching 'zero', so I'd like to know that they had a legitimate rebuttal to GGD's challenges - even if those challenges come from a misguided place.
Bryan Gregory February 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM
The Board voted unanimously to deny GGD's appeal, acknowledging that their allegations were without merit.
Steve February 14, 2013 at 01:53 AM
What a surprise ! I hope the attorneys were paid in advance.
Katie February 14, 2013 at 05:17 AM
The main speaker of the Dekalb board stated that he believe GGD et al, had legitimate grievances and would be sitting on their side if he were not part of the board. They dismissed on the grounds that even though they agreed in some of the zoning issues, that it was a place for the Land disturbance permit and not the building permit. GGD's attorney argued that the board did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal as Dekalb County code specifically states that this should be heard by the Dekalb County Technical Board. The meeting went on record that Dekalb County does not have an official technical board (as required by Dekalb code) thus they heard the case even though they did not have jurisdiction. (Personally I find this quite alarming.) The additional party to the appeal went into detail on how the truck zoning would have a serious and legitimate impact on them as well as additional items.
Sally February 14, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Todd G February 14, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Did anyone really think GGD was going to be victorious?
Joan February 14, 2013 at 01:30 PM
It is alarming -- the county's incompetence and belief it can do whatever it wants never ceases to amaze me. I don't trust this development -- or much of what's going on in the county -- is compliant.
jonathan s February 14, 2013 at 02:09 PM
It is a lose-lose situation: I could have a rundown shopping center across the street from my house OR I could have a busy retail store across the street with added traffic and presumably more trash thrown in my yard.
Bryan Gregory February 14, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Despite Katie's assertions, the ZBA DID NOT agree that any of GGD's allegations were legitimate. As for the matter of jurisdiction, the Technical Board of Appeals only has the authority to hear matters related to Technical Codes, as defined in Chapter 7, Article 1, Section 7-2. The allegations brought forth by GGD did not fall under the codes included in this definition. Their allegations were related to zoning, which the ZBA does have authority to rule upon, hence their unanimous 5-0 decision to deny the appeal because the allegations were factually false and had no merit.
Louise Runyon February 14, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Speaking as Co-Chair of Good Growth DeKalb, we were neither surprised nor disheartened at the ZBA’s denial of our appeal – we had no expectation the county would admit it violated its own ordinances. We were in fact heartened: over 100 GGD folks came out to sit through a 4.5-hour week-day, daytime meeting (we were conveniently scheduled last); we united with over 100 Druid Hills residents to oppose unwanted development; we had great media coverage; and we covered the necessary base of administrative appeal, from which we are well prepared to move forward. That the county stands thoroughly with developers was crystal clear earlier in the hearing: Druid Hills appealed a permit issued for new homes and re-configuration of streets in a historic preservation district. Their appeal was also denied, despite the County’s own staff recommending approval, and it being brought by Commissioners Rader and Gannon. We expected nothing from the ZBA. These battles are not won or lost on county boards or in courtrooms. 100’s of communities across the country have turned away Walmarts, including seven locally, with or without legal grounds. The appeal and legal process is simply a tool – with or without a victory there, it is a means to publicize and expose unwanted development, and to bring the community together. This happened at the public hearing yesterday, and this is what makes Walmart decide that perhaps the Decaturs of the country are not where they want to be, after all.
John Seymour February 14, 2013 at 03:33 PM
I can't wait for this wal-mart to finally go in. I'm so excited it's really happening!!
Stephen February 14, 2013 at 04:47 PM
It would be nice if GGD would spend it's energy on some of the issues they can have an effect on in Dekalb County such as the cityhood and annexation issues or the school and BOE problems
Brett February 14, 2013 at 06:24 PM
John Seymour - way to reach for the stars!
rc February 14, 2013 at 10:10 PM
who's wrong katie or bryan?
bertis downs February 15, 2013 at 11:56 AM
A friend here in Athens used to say "until they open their doors I am going to fight this thing." Think of all the years, and twists and turns it took to keep that freeway from blasting through Ponce de Leon and the Olmsted parks--
Sally February 15, 2013 at 12:49 PM
That would presume that GGD is concerned about Dekalb County. They aren't. They are only concerned with Walmart.
Bryan Gregory February 15, 2013 at 04:18 PM
And I know a guy in Athens who managed a band that sold millions of dollars of records at Walmart. The Walmart at Suburban Plaza will not be the end of the world as we know it.
MrMatt February 15, 2013 at 06:56 PM
That would be nice wouldn't it...but Sally nailed the real point...GGD only cares about keeping Wal-Mart out. In the many months of this 'battle' I have yet to hear anything from them about what 'good growth' would really look like, or how they intend to help 'dekalb' at large. They don't like WM, and that's it.
Katie February 16, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Dekalb County records all of it's sessions. The one member said "if I were not a member of this board I would be right down there with you guys". Walmart/Selig went on record by stating there was no TBA (something the board WOULD NOT admit to), that all of their witnesses were there, and that they preferred it be heard now. You can here a transcript of what exactly was said when they release it. I personally have one as I recorded the session myself.
Bryan Gregory February 16, 2013 at 04:31 PM
And the recording will verify Katie is wrong. The Board member she keeps referring to never said any of their claims were legitimate. In fact, he was the first make the motion that their appeal be denied. Further, the Board never addressed whether the TBA existed or not. They heard the appeal because GGD's allegations were in regard to Chapter 14, which the ZBA absolutely has authority to rule upon.
Brett February 16, 2013 at 10:05 PM
That's true Bryan. It will only be one more thing making this area just a bit crappier! A crap store from which to procure crap on a grand scale! All we need now is more fast food places and we'll be in slob utopia!
Carl Roberts February 17, 2013 at 02:20 AM
Terrific! A Walmart in my community will be convenient and I will enjoy the savings! Walmart is also a well respected employer and many of our employees are minorities and handicapped.
Clark P. February 18, 2013 at 12:24 PM
Come On. I was born and raised in DeKalb County.Graduated from Druid Hills. Does anybody remember when Suburban Plaza had a Belk? I usually don't like Wal-Mart but I believe that it will make Suburban Plaza alot nicer. BTW, My parents still live on Harrington.
Sally February 18, 2013 at 01:12 PM
I remember when there was a Belk there. I never went there but I remember it being there. Of course WalMart is going to make Surburban Plaza a nicer place.
Count De Monet March 10, 2013 at 05:27 PM
Somebody tell GGD that WalMart is ruining the Dekalb School system. Put the misguided fervor to good use...
bulldogger March 11, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Hey Brett, let's try this A moat would be a great start as their guns would get wet if they tried to swim across. It could be stocked with fish and become a primary food source for those taxed into oblivion. Public hangings in front of the court house would help to calm things down a bit as well.
Brett March 11, 2013 at 01:25 AM
Hey Bulldogger, I like the way you think but let's keep the Walmart outside of the moat!
bulldogger March 11, 2013 at 12:56 PM
I'm so old that I remember "when there was not a Suburban Plaza" - I can remember when N. Decatur Road was DIRT. - I can remember when DeKalb Industrial Blvd. was part of my playground as a kid. I don't like seeing WM being there anymore than anyone else; however, if there's one thing we need in this country right now "it's jobs" and there's this other thing, but I'll save it for another topic.


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