Wal-Mart decision could be delayed another month

LAWRENCEVILLE - A decision on Wal-Mart's possible entry into the city of Duluth could be delayed another month.

In a posting to the city's Web site updated Tuesday, planning staff recommended that the board that will hear Wal-Mart's requests to change required landscaping and the roof pitch on the store table their hearing until August.

Chris Collins, the city's senior planner, was not available late Tuesday afternoon and no one else from the city could comment on the recommendation.

Collins said previously that he had received more than 200 comments about the store.

Phyllis West, a Duluth resident who spearheaded a petition to keep the retailer out of the city that had garnered 1,587 signatures Tuesday night, said residents hoped to use the extra time to fundraise between $60,000 and $70,000 for an attorney.

"Hopefully, the end result will be that Wal-Mart realizes that it's not in the best interest of Duluth and Suwanee," she said. "The delay will give us a better opportunity to ready a little bit better, more time to go over all the documents. There are a lot of documents to go over."

Glen Wilkins, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the company has no problem with the decision to table the changes in front of the city's Zoning Board of Appeals from the scheduled July 25 hearing.

Wilkins said he could not say whether the company would amend their requests to build a flat roof instead of a pitched one or move a required landscaping closer to the store as a result of the delay. The 176,000-square-foot building would be smaller than others in the area and would not have a tire and lube express nor a gas station, unlike other Supercenters.

The land where Wal-Mart wants to build, at the corner of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Chattahoochee Drive, is zoned for businesses, and Wilkins said that has been the case for more than a decade.

Residents are aware of the property's zoning, West said, but contend big-box retail is not the right use for their neighborhood. She said other shops would be more appropriate for Duluth's small-town feel.

"They thought we were misinformed, but we're not misinformed," West said. "It's too large of a project. It's not the thing to put in the middle of a residential area."

Last week, residents met with Wilkins and other Wal-Mart representatives to discuss what would be the county's 13th store, slated to open in 2009 if all goes as planned.

The Red Clay Theatre was full for the meeting, and Wilkins said it did not seem as if residents were open to compromise about the building.

West and others sited fears the store's construction would mean lower property values, higher crime and longer commute times because of traffic.