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Wal-Mart to hold night meeting on store plans

DACULA - Those who couldn't catch a peek at Wal-Mart's Dacula plans the first time have another shot.

While Monday's open house at City Hall was during the day, the retail behemoth has decided to hold another one at night so more people can attend.

This one will be Tuesday at City Hall, about one mile up the road from where Wal-Mart wants to put a 24-hour Supercenter.

The heavily wooded site is on Harbins Road just south of Ga. Highway 316, between Drowning Creek Road and Courtney Renea Drive.

"We want to make sure that the residents have an opportunity to see the plans, and we understand that not everyone could make it during the day," said Wal-Mart spokesman Glen Wilkins.

Both Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks and County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, whose district includes Dacula, had told Wal-Mart representatives they wanted a night meeting so residents who work during the day can attend.

Wilkins said Wal-Mart is holding the meetings because it wants to be more proactive in answering questions and addressing concerns residents might have.

When residents on the west side of Lawrenceville opposed a new Wal-Mart Supercenter there and pressured city leaders to reject it, Wal-Mart held a community meeting only after opposition had galvanized.

That annexation and rezoning barely passed the Lawrenceville City Council in 2004, and the new Supercenter opened in January at Lawrenceville Highway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.

It is unknown if organized opposition is forming against the Dacula Wal-Mart, which will be built if the City Council rezones the 48 acres eyeballed by the discount retailer.

The land that held cotton fields several decades ago is already zoned for industrial and commercial activity, but Wal-Mart needs it rezoned for a different type of commercial use.

It is clear, though, that some people are against having Gwinnett's 13th Wal-Mart store in their neck of the woods.

Karen Edling, who lives in the Barimore subdivision off Harbins Road, said she moved to Dacula from the Lawrenceville area three years ago in search of quieter environs.

She did so knowing she would have to drive 15 to 20 minutes to buy groceries.

Now she worries that the Wal-Mart Supercenter will make it harder for her to reach Ga. 316 and open the door for more commercial development along Harbins Road.

"The road is already a traffic nightmare," Edling said. "All the way into Dacula is horrible and that's the last thing that road needs."

She said a turn lane Wal-Mart pledges to install is "ludicrous" and will not offset traffic problems.

While some oppose it, others embrace it. Several people at Monday's open house said they look forward to having a Wal-Mart to buy groceries at.

The mayor said city officials are meeting with state and county transportation officials to discuss the need for road improvements in the city.

The city Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on the rezoning on May 30. The City Council is slated to hold another public hearing and take a final vote June 1.