By Robert Blondeau
You recently published an article on Michelle Hiskey's Saporta Report profile of Intown Ace Hardware and its approach to the potential challenges faced by the proposed Walmart Supercenter in Suburban Plaza. Thanks for your continuing coverage of this important community issue.
Included in Ms. Hiskey’s article was a clarifying note from Walmart's Director of Community & Media Relations, William C. "Bill" Wertz.
Here's the note from Michelle Hiskey:
After this story was published, Wal-Mart's Director of Community & Media Relations, William C. "Bill" Wertz, notified me of this correction: "There will be a garden center in our new store. It was overlooked in some preliminary discussions with the community, but we corrected that back in October of 2011. The GC [garden center] is in our official application and has been discussed at multiple public meetings and approved by the [DeKalb] county board of zoning appeals."
Mr. Wertz’s comment greatly concerns me because it directly contradicts information coming from Walmart in November. Senior Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations, Glen Wilkins, expressly stated during the November 2 Clairmont Heights community meeting and the November 30 Decatur Heights community meeting that there would not be a garden center in the proposed Walmart Supercenter.
The Atlanta Business Chronicle’s November 11 story, “Selig to Add Walmart, Rework Decatur Center,” confirmed this as follows: “The new Walmart will sell general merchandise and groceries, but will not have a tire center nor a garden center, said Glenn Wilkins, senior manager of public affairs and government relations for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. ‘We just don’t have the room to do it.’”
The public meetings and the Atlanta Business Chronicle article occurred after the date when Mr. Wertz claimed that Walmart had corrected the so-called oversight regarding the inclusion of a garden center at the proposed Suburban Plaza Walmart Supercenter. As a resident of a neighborhood that would be directly impacted by a Walmart in Suburban Plaza, I find Mr. Wertz’s misstatement problematic.
If the proposed Walmart Supercenter is built, is this the type of relationship we should expect going forward, one in which Walmart makes conciliatory statements about its plans and then blithely changes its mind?
Also, Mr. Wertz mentions an “official application” and an approval of the garden center by the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals. I am not at all clear what Mr. Wertz is talking about. Area community groups and DeKalb County’s Interim Director of Planning and Sustainability, Gary Cornell, only know of one application that has been submitted and approved: the parking exception that allows for reduced parking. If there is an “official application” that DeKalb County’s planning director does not know about, would Mr. Wertz be willing to share that information?
Thanks again for your excellent coverage of local issues.
(Robert Blondeau lives in the Medlock Park neighborhood, close to the site of the proposed Walmart.)
Here are some other Decatur Patch stories about the proposed Walmart at Suburban Plaza.