Sunday, November 6, 2011

Where are we on the Suburban Plaza redevelopment plan?

Many people are ambivalent about elements of the current Suburban Plaza redevelopment plan. Having been invited to participate in the discussion, MANA volunteers are trying to gather information to negotiate in our neighborhood’s best interest.

Timeline

- Rumors about a Walmart coming to Suburban Plaza started circulating last summer and resurfaced recently.  For examples, see posts to Atlanta-area and Decatur blogs on June 13 (here and here), June 24, June 25, July 11, and October 14 (here and  here). The MANA website reflected most of these reports.

- A survey team was spotted at Suburban Plaza on June 27.  MANA placed calls to Selig Enterprises (owners of Suburban Plaza) but as you may recall, our volunteers' attention was elsewhere fighting the cell tower proposed for Medlock Elementary.

- Selig contacted MANA less than 4 weeks ago (early October) to notify us that they'd be filing for a parking variance, that they already had a contingent contract with Walmart and had shown their plans to the Commissioners.

- MANA quickly formed a committee to meet with Selig; this was just over 2 weeks ago. Planning for a special community meeting began immediately. Information, as was available at the time, was shared at the Oct. 24 MANA community meeting, during which we announced a special “Suburban Plaza / Walmart” meeting on November 2. This information was not yet available when the MANA newsletter went to press. Announcements about the Nov. 2 meeting were sent through MANA's email list and posted around the neighborhood and surrounding areas. Meeting notes, a schematic provided by Selig, and the Nov. 2 special meeting announcement were posted on the MANA website on Oct. 25 and picked up by several local blogs.

- The special November 2 community meeting was live-blogged by the North Druid Hills PatchCHCA has links to other meeting summaries. MANA posted concept photos from the meeting on November 3. Notes from that meeting are now available (pdf reader software available here).

Understanding Selig Enterprise's Variance Request to DeKalb County

(1) Suburban Plaza is already zoned for a “big box” development. Selig is only asking for County approval on a variance (change) to existing parking requirements.

(2) Selig’s parking variance requests permission to develop fewer parking spots than the County currently allows. Parking spot allocation is proportional to shopping area square footage.

Number of parking spots per 1,000 square feet of floor space
DeKalb County Requirement
Suburban Plaza, 
Current
Suburban Plaza, Proposed
5.5
3.9
3.91

(3) Opposing the variance does not equal eliminating Walmart from the proposal. Selig did not discuss a “Plan B” should the variance request fail. We can, however, speculate that without the variance, Selig could simply choose to abide the 5.5 parking spot/1000 sq. ft. requirement. Meeting the county’s requirement could lead to less green space, more paving, and/or decked above-ground parking.

(4) Because the proposed project is in compliance with Suburban Plaza’s C-2 zoning ("A district for general business and limited manufacturing activities, including retail sales and personal services"), Selig is not required to solicit or incorporate community feedback. MANA appreciates the opportunity to be part of the discussion and has been helping identify other stakeholders.

Next steps

(1) MANA volunteers have been collecting and summarizing feedback. This document includes a transcript of questions and comments left by attendees at the end of the Nov. 2 meeting. We have also received a number of emails (from MANA residents and others).

Concerns about Suburban Plaza redevelopment cluster around:

- traffic impact (congestion around Suburban Plaza; cut-through traffic through MANA and nearby residential areas; pedestrian safety and accessibility at Medlock/Scott/North Decatur Road intersection)
- safety / crime prevention (at current and redeveloped Suburban Plaza)
- aesthetics (desire for cohesiveness of proposed Walmart store fa├žade with Selig remodeling concept)
- merchandising (what would / would not be sold at Walmart; reserving space for smaller/local shops)
- noise & store operation hours (impact on nearby residents)

(2) When the Selig traffic study (mentioned in Oct. 24 meeting summary) is made available, MANA will relay it to the community through this website.

This is an ongoing process. Please send feedback to medlockassoc@gmail.com and your DeKalb County officials. Your continued patience and participation in this process is greatly appreciated.