Avondale Wal-Mart decision postponed

Avondale Estates residents, divided over whether a Wal-Mart Supercenter would be a positive addition to the quaint community, will have to wait a little longer to learn whether city officials will allow the development.

On Dec. 2, Avondale Estates city commissioners decided to postpone until Dec. 13 a vote that would let the nation’s largest retailer erect a 200,000-square-foot store on the 23-acre property at Memorial Drive and Columbia Avenue. The property has been a blighted eyesore since Avondale Mall closed in 2001.

The vote’s delay comes on the heels of the Avondale city planning and zoning board’s surprising recommendation that the city annex the property — a move that circumvents DeKalb County zoning regulations and would pave the way for the store. If city commissioners heed the board’s recommendation, DeKalb County’s vision for a mixed-use development at the site will be obsolete.

The planning and zoning board recommended the annexation with 40 conditions — including one that would prohibit the store from staying open 24 hours. All Wal-Mart Supercenter stores are open 24 hours, and the company is fighting that condition.

About 400 citizens attended the hearing. Proponents of Wal-Mart stressed that if the behemoth was going to be built in the area, citizens might as well have their say.

“If Wal-Mart is going to come, I’d rather have it come on our terms,” says Jim Girard, an Avondale resident. “We can allow the construction with certain conditions.”

But opponents, who donned “Stop Wal-Mart” stickers, claim the store will erode the small-town feel of the community and increase traffic and crime. A neighborhood petition opposing the annexation that would allow the Wal-Mart currently has about 900 signatures.

“We can do better than this,” says Richard Steiner, who lives less than a mile from the site. “We should wait for a business that fits our community.”

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