The email message that came into Sprawl-Busters this week was very clear:
“This letter is to let you know that we won!! Quartz Hill Cares—you did a couple of stories starting in October of 2006—WON!! We beat Walmart and the City of Lancaster!! I am so ecstatic! This is a good, good day and I wanted you to know. You were instrumental in helping me (us) get this grass roots thing started and you are not forgotten."
For residents in Quartz Hill, California, this was a sweet moment after nearly five and a half years of battle. Quartz Hill is a rural, unicorporated town in Los Angeles County, situated in the Mojave Desert between the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale,
On February 1, 2009, Sprawl-Busters reported that 30 parents and students had rallied near the Quartz Hill, California High School to demonstrate their opposition to plans to build a Walmart supercenter across the street from the school. The residents held signs and handed out fliers for two hours in the early morning. “It's an informational rally to get the information out to the public about what they can do to stop the rezoning of these areas,“ Loretta Berry told the Antelope Valley News. Berry is a member of the group Quartz Hill Cares, which was founded in December 2006 to oppose the proposed developments. “It's a grass-roots effort at its finest, just citizens from all walks of life coming together,“ Berry said. Developers have super-sized plans for the intersection: a Walmart Supercenter on the northwest corner of the intersection, plus a Super Target and a Home Depot on the southeast corner.
The land slated for the Walmart is zoned residential and must be rezoned as commercial before the shopping centers can be constructed. “If this were already zoned commercial, yeah, you know, we could fight it and we might have a voice, but the fact that they have to rezone it to commercial—we have a chance. We can stop the rezoning,“ Berry explained. She told the Valley News that the Walmart/Target/Home Depot plan was “just madness—the wonderful community of Quartz Hill will get all the crime, the trash, the pollution - all the garbage that goes with supercenters.“
On December 22, 2006, residents contacted Sprawl-Busters about their superstore battles. There are already two Walmart discount stores in Lancaster, California. The superstore in Palmdale is roughly 6 miles away. Quartz Hill residents, whose town borders Lancaster, wrote: “Our rural community in Southern California has just found out the Lancaster is planning on building super centers right on our boundary lines. For years Lancaster and Palmdale have been encroaching upon us and annexing as much of our rural land as possible. It has been left undeveloped for quite some time with the exception of many housing tracts. The hubs of Lancaster and Palmdale are 8-10 miles away from Quartz Hill, a community of 10,000 residents. The only thing currently bordering the planned site is Quartz Hill High School. This whole plan is ludicrous, will destroy Quartz Hill, and we need help.“
Within a 10 mile radius of the proposed site are a Costco, 2 Lowe's Home Improvement Centers, 2 Home Depots, a K-mart, 2 Target stores, and dozens of shopping centers. Downtown Quartz Hill is the home to over 70 small mom-and-pop businesses, including a florist, a hardware store, salons, garages/ tire centers, liquor stores, restaurants, etc. The residents of Quartz Hill found out about the City of Lancaster's plans to build 2 supercenters in December of 2006.
The desert land that they want to build on was zoned for urban residential, with one lot small office zoned. The opposition quickly formed a grassroots organization, Quartz Hill Cares, and began spreading the word and seeking help in putting a stop to these supercenters. In 2008, R. Rex Parris, the new mayor, immediately dismissed the entire Planning Commission (most of whom opposed the supercenters) and appointed his own commission—3 of which are and/or have ties to local developers. The plans to build went full steam ahead. The Draft Environmental impact Reports were released on January 9, 2009, giving the public until February 23rd to respond to them.
The city of Lancaster in 2009 approved the Walmart rezoning, but Quartz Hill Cares sued the city, arguing that the city had violated Planning and Zoning laws and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). On June 29, 2010, the Los Angeles County Superior Court determined that allegations made by Quartz Hill Cares against the City of Lancaster were unfounded. City officials issued a press release boasting “City of Lancaster Prevails In Westside Shopping Center Court Case.” The city boasted that “after reviewing all case-related evidence, the court ruled in favor of the City.” The city’s attorney said: “The court’s agreement with the City’s approval of the project enables the developers to move forward with this development. This court ruling demonstrates that the City was both accurate and thorough in meeting the procedural, technical, and substantive requirements of the Planning laws and the California Environmental Quality Act.”
But that was not the end of the story. On March 16th, 2012, the Second District State Court of Appeal issued a 32 page decision overturning the 2010 decision of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, which had upheld the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared for the shopping center, to be located at 60th Street West and Avenue L in the City of Lancaster.
Quartz Hill Cares argued in its appeal that the City failed to consider the alternative of a commercial development without the big box store. The Appellate Court agreed with Quartz Hill Cares that the Final Environmental Impact Review in this case was “insufficient as an information document because its findings that the Reduced Commercial Density Alternative was not economically viable lacks the required evidentiary support. Because its conclusion is unsupported by substantial evidence, therefore, the City prejudicially abused its discretion by failing to proceed in a manner required by the California Environmental Quality Act.”
The City argued that “the lack of a big box anchor would effectively preclude development of its commercial center, since the secondary commercial uses remaining in the proposed project are not likely to develop without the customer draw created by the anchor tenant.” But the court found that “the evidence of economic infeasibility was not specific an concrete as would justify the…conclusion to reject the alternative as ‘not economically viable.’” The court ruled that the ”the document lacks any comparative data and analysis between the project—with the big box retailer—on the one hand, and the scaled-down version…on the other hand. There is no evidence of profitability or feasibility of the Reduced Commercial Density Alternative from which to make any comparison to determine whether the alternative would be less profitable or infeasible. Nor is there any factual justification for the bare conclusion that ‘secondary commercial uses…are not likely to develop without the customer draw created by the anchor tenant.”
The court said that the City had “cited us nothing in the entire administrative record to indicate any substantiality for the finding that the Reduced Commercial Density Alternative would not be feasible.” The court ruled that the city was ‘obligated to include substantial evidence, somewhere in the record, supporting its subsequent conclusion that the alternative was not economically viable.”
Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris responded to the Court’s ruling: “Along with the developer and Walmart, we are of course disappointed that the Court of Appeal would reverse the decision reached by the Superior Court on the basis of one aspect of a comprehensive and voluminous EIR. However, in shopping center developments such as this, it is unfortunately not uncommon to have to work through multiple legal challenges. The City Council, along with Walmart, will now consider options to supplement the record in support of the EIR, which is compliant in all other aspects.”WHAT YOU CAN DO
What you can do: This court decision is a major setback to the city, and a major victory for the citizen’s group. To learn more about Quart Hill Care, go to www.quartzhillcares.info
or call Loretta Berry at 661-943-7650 or 661-816-5069.
Readers are encouraged to send an email to Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris at: email@example.com
with the following message: “Dear Mayor Parris,
I am sure that neither you, nor Walmart, ever imagined that the Court of Appeal would rule against you.
When the lower court ruled in your favor, the city’s lawyer said the city's review had been ‘accurate and thorough.’ It turns out the environmental report was neither.
Now you have a chance to seriously review a reduced scale project—deleting the big box—and making the project fit the site, not the site fit the project. Remember that this was urban residential land before you rushed to rezone it and change your General Plan.
You have the chance now to give people in your city and Quartz Hill what they want: a smaller, more compatible project that fits into the character of the community.
A group of citizens has beaten the world’s largest retailer. It’s time for you to show some leadership and represent their interests for once.”
On November 21, 2011, Sprawl-Buster's received a short, succinct email about a battle brewing over a big box store in Athens, Georgia. "A Walmart anchor store was proposed last week 1 block from downtown Athens," the email said. "There are dozens of small businesses there, most of which will not survive a 100,000 sq ft. Walmart a block away."
A second email came in later that day: "I live in Athens, Georgia, where there are 2 Walmarts now. They are proposing building a third anchor store 1 BLOCK from downtown Athens, which would destroy ALL of the local businesses there. These little stores are what make Athens a great town. Our Mayor is all for it; she was quoted on Saturday as saying, "Some might call Walmart’s foreign suppliers sweatshops, but they’re putting food on the table for Third World workers - Mayor Nancy Denson " Our community is on it's own for the time being."
Before Christmas arrived, a full-blown group had been formed: People For A Better Athens, and petitions and local events were happening to raise awareness of the Walmart threat to Athens. The group launched a People For A Better Athens website, where they explained the project and their mission: "Downtown Athens, Georgia is renowned for its rich cultural history, creative artistic community, local businesses and world famous music scene. Athens has earned its nickname the 'Classic City.' Today, a massive downtown development proposal threatens to alter Athens irrevocably. Athens’ citizens have discovered in an 11th hour revelation that Selig Enterprises plans to build a 100,000 sq. foot Walmart in downtown Athens. The construction of a big box store in downtown Athens will devastate the existing local business community and threatens to turn a vibrant downtown area into a ghost town of shuttered stores and empty buildings. We encourage the citizens of Athens to 'Raise Your Voice' so your elected officials know that we can do better than plop a 100,000 sq. ft. Walmart in downtown Athens. We want to see our elected officials execute an Athens-based vision for downtown development that will better benefit the local citizens and enhance the long term viability of Athens.
Sprawl-Busters posted a story about the Athens battle on January 15, 2012. People for a Better Athens had presented the city council with more than 17,000 signatures from Athens residents petitioning against a proposed downtown Walmart. Athens attorney Russell Edwards has been a point person for the opposition. Edwards has been urging local officials to consider the economic downside of constructing a third Walmart in this city. “We can see places that will be affected most, places like Faulkner’s hardware, that would be right up the street from Walmart, would immediately go out of business.”
Athens Mayor Nancy Denson has stated publicly that her hands are tied. “That’s what’s sad to me is that the people that are coming there are asking us to stop something that there’s not a legal mechanism by which to stop it," Mayor said. “And I wouldn’t like to stop it if we could. The private investors have a right to enjoy the value of their property when they get ready to sell it. I think it’s wrong to block them to reduce the value of their property by holding it up.”
The anti-Walmart battle attracted the interest of an Occupy Athens group, which since March 3rd had been peacefully encamped in front of City Hall. The group sent the following statement to Sprawl-Busters today:
"At 3:30am on March 7, 2012 at least 17 Athenas-Clarke County police officers, including the chief of police, arrived suddenly and without warning, to threaten us with violence and arrest if we did not vacate 'City Athena.' Occupy Athens established the City Athena encampment on the grounds of city hall on the afternoon of Saturday, March 3. We have lived there peacefully and without incident; that is until the police created around us an intimidating circus of force in the wee hours of the morning, away from media and prying public eyes.
This cowardly suppression of our First Amendment rights illustrates how little the State, and in this instance the Athens-Clarke County government, thinks of the public’s voice or will. We were loud, assertive, and inconvenient for the city. Last we looked, none of those traits are crimes. Despite Mayor Denson’s on-record endorsement of our encampment, and the implied support of ACCPD’s own Lt. Nick Soriano, we were evicted without any firm justification or warning.
'Y’all have a public forum out there in front of city hall for as long as you want to have it,' Mayor Denson said on camera to Athens Occupiers on Monday, March 5. 'I will protect your rights as diligently as I protect theirs.'
We were told we were blocking access to a public building—this is a lie. We were told we were blocking a public walkway—this is a lie. We were accused of doing damage to city property with no explanation of what was done, when or where—this is a lie.
When we attempted to meet their demands to avoid the violence they obviously intended to visit upon us should we not have complied, we were again told that moving to the sidewalk would be illegal. This is a lie.
Occupy Athens camped on a sidewalk less than half the width of that outside city hall for over one month. The ACCPD fully acknowledged our rights within applicable laws and the Constitution. Yet today, in circumstances more favorable to us, we were told that attempting to exercise our constitutional rights would result in police-on-protester violence.
All of this came within hours of our participation in the monthly county commissioner’s meeting at which we again demanded the city hold four town hall meetings and the mayor apologize for her part in fostering an illegal meeting with the EDF on September 27, 2011.
This eviction is a direct response to the pressure we exert on the ACC government. We have made city officials nervous that the people of this town are no longer willing to swallow their half-truths and hurried explanations for illegal meetings and backroom dealings with Walmart cronies.
As previously announced, Occupy Athens will livestream a press conference on the steps of city hall (Washington St. side) at 1:00 pm, today, March 7. All other events on our published schedule are postponed until further notice with the exception of General Assemblies, which will be held every night at 8:00 pm outside city hall. All persons, including city officials and press, are welcome to attend all General Assemblies.
Power to the people! Occupy Athens."WHAT YOU CAN DO
Anyone who wishes to support the efforts of Occupy Athens in their efforts to force city government to hold open, public hearings on the Walmart plan, should email the group at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Readers are also urged to email Athens Mayor Nancy Denson at email@example.com
with the following message:
"Dear Mayor Denson,
Before you rush to drop a third Walmart on your community, honor the request of Occupy Athens, and hold a series of public hearings on the project. Give your own residents the same rights that you are apparently willing to give a corporation, which cannot vote—yet has more influence on city government than your own constituents.
Welcome Occupy Athens back to City Athena—the cradle of democracy in your city.
A change in Walmart’s corporate tax status in Massachusetts has triggered a volley of angry reactions from local officials across the state. The town reaction was brought to light recently in several media stories in Pittsfield, Oxford, and other municipalities.
Walmart currently has 49 stores in Massachusetts, including 12 superstores, 35 discount stores, and two Sam’s clubs. Some of these stores had been classified as “Limited Partnerships.” The entity of record in a number of cities and towns was “Walmart Stores East, LP.”
But in 2009, a new state law went into effect which included two provisions to close corporate loopholes. One provision, called “combined reporting,” is an accounting system that treats a company with many subsidiaries across many states as just one company, and taxes that company based on the percentage of its business that is in the state, as measured by where its property, payroll and sales are made.
As Sprawl-Busters explained in a story on April 24, 2008, Walmart hired three lobbying firms to fight combined reporting. The retailer paid $208,678 in 2007 to protect its lucrative tax loophole---five times what the company had spent the previous year on lobbying. In states which have only “separate reporting,” Walmart pays rent to itself through a maze of corporate subsidiaries created in November of 1996, including Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). The rent appears as an expense on state tax forms, and is deducted from its taxable revenues. Walmart pays 2.5% of its gross sales monthly as rent to its own REIT, which then wires the money quarterly to a Walmart Property Company in the form of a dividend, which is then paid to Walmart Stores as a tax-exempt “dividends received.”
All of these transactions are handled through a “cash management agreement” between the parties. Neither the REIT nor the Property Company ever had any employees. The REITs don’t pay taxes, as long as they pay 90% of their income out in dividends to shareholders. In Walmart’s case, the REITs are owned by Walmart subsidiaries, which are registered in Delaware, a state that has no corporate income tax. Walmart gets the benefit of the rent expense, but also gets the benefit of the non-taxed dividend, on the same monies. The dividends escape taxation, and the original rent that created the dividends is deducted from taxable income in the states where the “expense” is incurred.This complex game makes it almost impossible for tax regulators to follow the money.
The second provision of the 2008 Massachusetts law, called “check the box,” requires that businesses must declare themselves as the same classification at the state level as the claim at the federal level. Because Walmart is classified as a corporation at the federal level, it had to reclassify all its Massachusetts stores as corporations also, not as Partnerships. Sprawl-Buster estimated that in 2006, Walmart used these tax dodges to avoid $5.4 million in state taxes. A Walmart spokesman told the Boston Globe, “Anytime there’s a lawful way to reduce our expenses and save money for our customers, we’re aware of it.”
It is not clear how many of Walmart’s stores in Massachusetts were still listed as Limited Partnerships, but Pittsfield, Oxford, Leicester and Ware all have complained to the media that their local revenues had been raided. A Walmart spokesman told the Worcester Telegram-Gazette that the loss of local revenue was the state’s fault: “Walmart is based in Arkansas, is incorporated in Delaware and files taxes as a corporation in Massachusetts. That’s been the case for years. A recently enacted state law adopted federal income tax rules that classify how Walmart and other companies are taxed. As a result, the law treats Walmart as a Massachusetts company for tax purposes.”
A spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue countered that as of January, 2009, Walmart had to declare its stores as either Limited Partnerships or Corporations. By choosing corporations, Walmart lowered its personal property taxes at many stores, because the state excise tax on corporate personal property is much lower than the local personal property tax levied by cities and towns.
DOR told Sprawl-Busters that the municipal personal property tax rate ranges from $12 to $30 per $1,000 valuation, compared to the state excise tax on personal property at only $2.60 per $1,000 valuation in state excise taxes. In Oxford, Leicester and Ware, Walmart paid a total of $277,548 in personal property taxes last year. Most of that sum is no longer taxable.
When the city council in Pittsfield, Massachusetts learned recently that the city was losing $187,000 in personal property taxes due to Walmart’s corporate status change, one city councilor stated: "I think that big box stores, and the benefit for Pittsfield, is negligible," Krol said.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Walmart claims on its website that it pays $35.5 million in state and local taxes in Massachusetts. There is no way to independently verify this figure, because the amount that Walmart pays to the state as a corporation is private information. There is no way to compare the impact of the combined reporting law on Walmart's total tax bill—but it is clear that the shift from Partnership stores to Corporations will cost local communities hundreds of thousands of dollars in losr tax revenues.
This frustration drove local officials in the tiny town of Oxford, Massachusetts to vote unanimously this month to ask their state legislators to consider changing the tax code so that towns could benefit from personal property taxes. Such a change is not likely to happen, given the corporate lobby that would oppose it.
For the forseeable future, Walmart stores in many Massachusetts communities have become much less attractive financially than some local officials had hoped.
Readers are urged to cut and paste this article and email it to your local and city and town officials.
In early November, Sprawl-Busters received this call for help from a resident in Georgia:
“I live in Athens, Geoergia, where there are 2 Walmarts now. They are proposing building a third anchor store 1 block from downtown Athens, which would destroy all of the local businesses there. These little stores are what make Athens a great town. Our Mayor Nancy Denson is all for it; she was quoted recently as saying, "Some might call Walmart's foreign suppliers sweatshops—but they’re putting food on the table for Third World workers."
By early December, residents were actively organizing to keep this proposed Walmart from happening. A second resident sent Sprawl-Busters this message:
“An Atlanta-based development company by the name of Selig Enterprises has a contract on a parcel of land in our downtown area is planning an $80 million project which will include 200,000 sq ft of "higher end" retail and restaurant space, office space, 220 "high end" apartments, 1100 underground parking spaces in 2 partially underground parking decks and a pedestrian plaza, all anchored by and including what else but a 100,000 sq ft Walmart!
They are saying they have vested rights due to the fact that they have spent $250-500K. Our local government is saying that they have the appropriate zoning and couldn't stop it if they wanted to. I have reason to believe that our mayor Nancy Denson doesn't want to, and I've been told that she has even signed a confidentiality agreement months ago. She then squashed a proposal from our Economic Development Foundation to have a city owned River District on the same parcel of land as well as adjoining land in our downtown area leading up to the already suffering Oconee River. We also keep hearing over and over that this is a ‘done deal’ which of course we realize is what the people that are for this development want us to hear. I am horrified by a Walmart going into our downtown—especially since we can currently drive 3 miles in one direction and 5 miles in another to the 2 already existing Walmarts in our town. Our town is known world wide for the music that comes out of here and we have many tourists coming to our town each year because of its music scene.”
On January 9th, an independent student newspaper at the University of Georgia, Red & Black, carried a story indicating that People for a Better Athens had presented the city council with more than 17,000 signatures from Athens residents petitioning against a proposed downtown Walmart. Selig Enterprises is seeking to build the store on land owned by a closed building supply company.
Athens attorney Russell Edwards has been a point person for the opposition. Edwards has been urging local officials to consider the economic downside of constructing a third Walmart in this city. “We can see places that will be affected most, places like Faulkner’s hardware, that would be right up the street from Walmart, would immediately go out of business.”
At the Jan. 3 city council meeting, one resident noted: “Even if it wasn’t a Walmart, the layout of the design is pretty ridiculous, the way they have it positioned on the waterfront is a total waste of really beautiful land.” The tract of land in question stretches from the downtown area to the North Oconee River. Opponents have indicated that they want this valuable parcel put under “interim control,” a mechanism that allows the city council to put a moratorium on new development on a given area until the more appropriate zoning plan could be put into place.
But a spokesperson for the developer told city officials that there is no building size cap in Athens, only “stylization requirements” for developments. But opponents remain firm that a smaller development is what they will fight for.“What we want,” Attorney Edwards said, “is for the private retailer to scale down the size of their development,” he said. “The only way to ensure that would happen is to make a legal framework to ensure that the developer would scale down that development.”
The Walmart planned for the new site is less than half the size of the 200,000 s.f. existing Walmart superstores in Athens. But the Selig proposal would also be a Walmart superstore, with a full-line grocery department. Selig tried to argue that their proposed retailer would not be a direct competitor to downtown merchants. But any grocery stores or general retailers will clearly lose market share if this store opens. The developer states that it does not have a firm tenant to lease the space—but admitted: “It will likely be a Walmart. But we don’t have a lease with them so I can’t confirm that yet.”
The Selig Walmart is currently in limbo, because two county commissioners imposed a three month hold on demolition of the closed building supply store, due to a law that allows them to re-evaluate plans which will demolish historic buildings. Selig has tried to mollify the loss of this historic property by asserting that it will re-use some of the existing building materials—but the proposed Walmart would certainly not be one of them. Walmarts have been described by architects as a form of ‘low commitment landscape,’ a building that has a lifespan of not much more than two decades.
Athens Mayor Nancy Denson is saying publicly that her hands are tied. She told Red & Black, “That’s what’s sad to me is that the people that are coming there are asking us to stop something that there’s not a legal mechanism by which to stop it.” But the Mayor notes that she wants the project to happen anyway: “And I wouldn’t like to stop it if we could. The private investors have a right to enjoy the value of their property when they get ready to sell it. I think it’s wrong to block them to reduce the value of their property by holding it up.”
The Mayor views the project as a private land deal that does not involve local government at all. “I think it would be wrong, even if we could find a legal loophole to do it,” the Mayor told the newspaper. “To go in and change the rules on those people after the fact and basically you’d be taking value away from the property.” The Mayor says the property would be devalued if it were rezoned to disallow large buildings. “The zoning where that property is, there’s no size restriction on what they’re allowed to build. That property is not a historic district, which a lot of people I think are mistakenly assuming that it is.”
For the time being, Selig hopes to have its proposal ready to present to the city over the next several months. Nothing has happened yet regarding the demolition of the existing building, but with the Mayor pushing hard for the project, its clear the developer does not have to worry about city government trying to throw up roadblocks. WHAT YOU CAN DO
Athens, Georgia, which was chartered in 1806, was named after the Greek city of learning, and likes to present itself as the cultural heart of Georgia. Clarke County has a population of roughly 117,000 people, of which nearly 34,000 a University of Georgia students.
Athens-Clarke County has a unified government that is run by a Mayor and ten commissioners. In 2009, Athens was designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of a “Dozen Distinctive Destinations,” and in 2003, Rolling Stone magazine rated Athens as the #1 College Music Scene that Rocks.” In 1975, the city created by statute a Downtown Athens Development Authority for the purpose of the redevelopment of the downtown. So the protection of the downtown as a classic district, and a draw for tourism has been in place for more than three decades.
According to the zoning ordinance in Athens, the purpose of land use control is for “improving Athens-Clarke County's appearance; lessening congestion in the streets; furthering traffic safety… preventing the overcrowding of land; avoiding both undue concentration of population and urban sprawl.”
It’s hard to fathom how a plan of this magnitude at this local serves to lessen traffic congestion and avoid urban sprawl. A big box store in a downtown district is, by definition, an incompatible oxymoron. The zoning code has design standards that require commercial buildings to face the street, have parking to the rear of the building, and other design issues meant to discourage large buildings with unbroken facades.
Readers are urged to email Athens Mayor Nancy Denson at firstname.lastname@example.org
with the following message:
“Dear Mayor Denson,
One of the fundamental purposes of zoning in Athens is to avoid urban sprawl. A retail store that is the size of one and half football fields makes no sense in a classic downtown area. Inviting Walmart to the city is like inviting a cannibal to dinner. It will not result in new jobs or tax revenues, because most of what Walmart sells will come from the sales of existing merchants in town.
You have already received petitions from over 10% of the population in Athens opposed to a big box store. You can use your existing zoning ordinance to mitigate the traffic impacts of this store by reducing its scale. You need to have an indendent traffic study conducted for the Selig proposal, and then seek to reduce scale to reduce the traffic-related adverse impact.
So far, you have a taken a very hands off approach to urban sprawl in your community. If you want to promote the city’s attractions to tourists, I doubt you will put high on your list the fact that Athens would have three Walmart superstores within a few miles of each other.
Do not let Athens become saturated with urban sprawl while you look the other way. You have the power to ask Selig for a downtown plan that have no anchor larger than 30,000 s.f. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”