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Duluth puts halt to large buildings for six months
Proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter may have to wait

DULUTH - Anyone who wants to construct a building of more than 75,000 square feet in Duluth - which includes a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter - may have to wait six months.

The Duluth City Council imposed a moratorium Monday night on large buildings, so staff and outside experts could study design and environmental questions, according to Mayor Shirley Lasseter. The moratorium was set until Jan. 31, but it could be vacated once the issues are decided.

"With so much going on, it seems like there are a lot of questions," Councilman Doug Mundrick said, speaking about neighborhood protests over the proposed Wal-Mart. "I thought we should take a breath and find out what is best."

Mundrick, an engineer, said design questions have surrounded the Wal-Mart issue, especially since city codes require all buildings to have a pitched roof.

"It doesn't work well with construction that is that large," Lasseter said of the requirement, which requires a pitch of 4 inches for every foot of roof. "You would be able to see that Wal-Mart store probably from Stone Mountain."

The proposed 176,000-square-foot Wal-Mart at the corner of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Chattahoochee Drive is one of three developments that could face delay by the measure, the mayor said. The others are a proposed senior living facility and a planned hotel on North Berkeley Lake Road.

But Lasseter said developers would be allowed to continue the permitting process, including a scheduled August hearing for variances to allow the Wal-Mart, which neighbors are protesting. The permits, however, would not be issued until the moratorium is rescinded.

The study, which will also include questions about car and camper sales, hours of operation and environmental impacts, is expected to cost about $50,000.

Mundrick said he hopes a "community conversation" begins between homeowners, developers and city staff to determine the city's future.