District 7 Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook made an introduction during the Aug. 9 Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting concerning a proposed Walmart near the Lindbergh MARTA station.
Constituents, he said, meet political reality; political reality, meet constituents.
There’s strong neighborhood sentiment against the project, but Shook said that alone won’t convince the Atlanta City Council to vote against it.
The constituents told him they think they can drum up enough opposition to make widespread sentiment against the development the new political reality.
That would mean finding sympathizers beyond Buckhead. Shook said that might not be easy to do.
“There are going to be some (council members), the more aware they are of Buckhead’s displeasure with the project the more enticement it’s going to be to vote for it,” Shook said.
Fuqua Development wants to transform the 21 acre parcel from high density residential into mixed use retail, with Walmart as the anchor tenant. Less than half of the development would be retail, Shook said.
The application has passed Atlanta’s Zoning Review Board after Buckhead’s Neighborhood Planning Unit B recommended against approval. It is headed toward the City Council zoning committee on Aug. 20, and Shook has asked the council to hold the application there while he gathers more information.
The council would also need to approve a land use change, he said.
Shook said he faces two pitfalls in opposing the developer’s plans. The zoning application, under the current law, appears to be valid. He may also be among the few council members who would vote against it, meaning the council will approve the project anyway.
He asked whether the audience would prefer to be on the losing side of an argument or if they’d like to use the process to extract concessions from the developer before the project wins council approval.
Walmart wants a bigger presence in the Atlanta market, Shook said. He said along with that comes well-connected developers and attorneys who will be supporting the retail chain’s aggressive strategy.
“I do not have a monopoly on the outcome of this,” Shook told the BCN.
He also asked the audience to give him solid facts about why the application isn’t in line with the zoning law.
“I’m in listening mode,” he said.
Opponents have started a Savelindbergh.org website to rally the opposition. Abbie Shepherd, an NPU-B member who helped start the site, said organizers will work to give Shook more detailed information to help him make the case to vote against the application.
“It’s common sense,” she said. “Walmart doesn’t belong here.”