By Ralph Ellis
The DeKalb County Board of Zoning Appeals voted Wednesday afternoon to approve a parking variance for Suburban Plaza, removing the final hurdle for construction of a Walmart at the shopping center just outside the Decatur City Limits.
Opposition to the project was strong, and the meeting in the Maloof Building was heated. According to Patch coverage, some people waited in line to speak but didn't get a chance, and a woman said people one the other side of the issue weren't Christian.
If you want a blow-by-blow of what happened at the meeting, check out the live coverage in another Patch article.
Neighborhood groups had complained a Walmart will increase traffic and cause problems such as delayed response time for emergency vehicles and decreased property values.
Selig Enterprises of Atlanta, the developer and owner of Suburban Plaza, wants to build a Walmart as part of the renovation of the aging shopping center at Scott Boulevard, North Decatur Road and Church Street.
County regulations call for 5.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet. Selig asked for and got a variance that would allow 3.91 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet. The center at present has about 3.8 spaces per 1,000 square feet, developers say.
The center would have 1,269 spaces, with 500 underground.
According to a Development of Regional Impact statement filed by DeKalb County, the project calls for the "Demolition of approximately 144,000 sf of existing commercial space and the addition of 149,000 sf for a new total shopping center square footage of 324,614 sf."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said some opponents say they'll appeal the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The newspaper said,
"The mission of this board is to accomplish the highest quality of life for the citizens of DeKalb by developing neighborhood-driven plans for future development," said Decatur resident Ann Mauney. "Their actions have contradicted that mission statement."
One side effect is that the cohesion of neighborhood groups may have been damaged.
Some neighborhood group leaders engaged in private talks with developers in the days before the meeting, angering the rank and file when they found out.