On December 13th, the city commissioners in Avondale Estates slam-dunked Wal-Mart 4-0 when they voted down the retailer’s plans to annex land and build a supercenter on the site of a former mall. The reasoning was not hard to follow, even for Wal-Mart. “Wal-Mart doesn’t fit in our little city. We don’t want it, period,” Commissioner Sandra Varian was quoted as saying in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Such blunt criticism is usually ignored by Wal-Mart, but it pleased most of the 250 opponents of the store who packed the American Legion Hall. All Wal-Mart had to say was, “Obviously, we’re disappointed.” Here’s a report from Terry Giager, one of the leaders of a group organized to kill the supercenter plan: “Avondale Estates’ Mayor and Commissioners voted unanimously against annexation of 23 acres that Wal-Mart wanted them to build a Supercenter. 926 signatures on a petition against annexation swayed the Board. The Mayor of Avondale Estates had only received 602 votes in his election. The 926 signatures represented over 50% of the households in the City. Wal-Mart was trying to circumvent the county zoning and ordinances in going to Avondale Estates, a city of 2,200 citizens. Now Wal-Mart has to fight with the county officials who have zoned the property for mixed-use and have stated mixed-use is the best use for the community and the county. Wal-Mart owns the property and is building another Supercenter 4 miles down the road from this proposed Supercenter. Wal-Mart has stated they would consider downsizing and being an anchor store for a mixed-use development. The group that opposed the Supercenter has over 1,500 signatures from Avondale Estates and the surrounding communities that are communicating with the county officials to stay with their mixed-use plan.” Wal-Mart now has the option of asking the Dekalb County Commissioners to rezone the property, but how likely are county officials to cooperate with a company that tried first to pull an end-run and avoid county involvement altogether? The land that Wal-Mart wanted was a mall that closed down three years ago. The county rezoned the property hoping to create a mixed use development, but then Wal-Mart bought the 23 acre site.
This Avondale Estates defeat for Wal-Mart is roughly the 12th supercenter to be defeated by citizen’s groups since September. For more background on Avondale, search this Newsflash page by the name of the town for earlier stories.