According to a headline in the January 5th issue of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Walmart has gotten stuck in the sand in Sandy Springs, Georgia.
“Sandy Springs halts big-box store downtown,” the headline reads. Apparently all it took was the rumor of a Walmart coming to town to spur the city council in Sandy Springs to vote to slap on a moratorium on large commercial buildings.
The action followed reports that Walmart wanted to build a store on Roswell Road in Sandy Springes, in what the Journal Constitution called the “showpiece district” of the city, an area zoned for residential and small business development.
The moratorium will last for 90 days, or roughly until early April. It applies to any commercial building over the sixe of 30,000 s.f. This will give city officials time to make sure the city’s zoning code and its comprehensive plan are in synch. The Comp Plan excludes large scale retail development in the town center district, but the zoning code needs to be updated to reflect that planning goal.
“The rumors helped expose an issue,” a spokeswoman for the city told the AJC. “Downtown development for the city is significant, and they want to get it right.”
The City Council held a special meeting to pass the moratorium, and local homeowner’s associations packed the meeting. Residents spoke about their concerns about traffic congestion, and the impact such a large store would have on the character of the neighborhood.
Walmart as usual denied that it had any plans for Sandy Springs. The way the company put it was that they had not contracts ‘in hand,” which allows them to conceal any activity that actually is going on. Walmart does not want its competitors to know where it is going in advance, and such a stealth approach also keeps local opponents off guard. City officials have received no proposal from Walmart yet, but the smoke often proceeds the fire.
Local residents did not close the door entirely to the idea of a Walmart in Sandy Springs, but they were emphatic that the town center was not appropriate. “We felt the town center should be, ‘Live, work, walk,’” the head of a neighborhood council told the AJC. “Big box is not conducive to that.” A spokesman for another condo association told the newspaper that a Walmart in town center “would destroy most if not all of the character of the area.”
The City of Sandy Springs announced also on January 5th that it had issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and a Request for Information (RFI) related to redevelopment in the City’s downtown area. “Development of the City’s downtown area is one of the most significant decisions the City will face for the next 20 years or more. This major planning effort will bring together the downtown property owners, the community, and the city leaders as we launch the redevelopment of our downtown,” said Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The city of Sandy Springs, Georgia had a population of roughly 94,000 people as of 2010. There currently 7 Walmart superstores within 10 miles of Sandy Springs, so the population is saturated with access to cheap Chinese goods—including a superstore in Atlanta on Ashford Duwoody Road. There is absolutely no market need for another Walmart store.
Readers are urged to email Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
“Dear Mayor Galambos, As an economist and specialist in urban finance, you won’t find it strange to hear that inviting Walmart to Sandy Springs is like inviting a cannibal to dinner. Your city is surrounded by Walmarts within a short distance, and another store is only about gaining more market share—not about jobs or economic development.
Your city is right to protect its town center. This is not a proper location for big store, and I hope you will use the moratorium period to close the door to big box stores. All your work on city revitalization and neighborhood beautification will be or naught if you let companies like Walmart control your economy."