Did Walmart Mislead Us On Garden Center Plans?

"If the proposed Walmart Supercenter is built, is this the type of relationship we should expect going forward, one in which Walmart makes conciliatory statements about its plans and then blithely changes its mind?"

You recently published and its approach to potential challenges faced by the proposed Walmart Supercenter in Suburban Plaza. Thanks for your continuing coverage of this important community issue.

Included in Hiskey's article was a clarifying note from Walmart's director of community and media relations, William C. "Bill" Wertz.  

Here's the note from Hiskey:

After this story was published, Wal-Mart's Director of Community & Media Relations, William C. "Bill" Wertz, notified me of this correction: "There will be a garden center in our new store. It was overlooked in some preliminary discussions with the community, but we corrected that back in October of 2011. The GC [garden center] is in our official application and has been discussed at multiple public meetings and approved by the [DeKalb] county board of zoning appeals."

Wertz's comment greatly concerns me because it directly contradicts information coming from Walmart in November. Senior Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations Glen Wilkins said during the Nov. 2 Clairmont Heights community meeting and the Nov. 30 Decatur Heights community meeting that there would not be a garden center in the proposed Walmart Supercenter.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle's Nov. 11 story, "Selig to Add Walmart, Rework Decatur Center," confirmed this as follows: "The new Walmart will sell general merchandise and groceries, but will not have a tire center nor a garden center, said Glenn Wilkins, senior manager of public affairs and government relations for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 'We just don’t have the room to do it.'"

The public meetings and the Chronicle article appeared after the date when Wertz claimed Walmart had corrected the so-called oversight regarding the inclusion of a garden center at the proposed Suburban Plaza Walmart Supercenter. As a resident of a neighborhood that would be directly impacted by a Walmart in Suburban Plaza, I find Wertz's misstatement problematic.

If the proposed Walmart Supercenter is built, is this the type of relationship we should expect going forward, one in which Walmart makes conciliatory statements about its plans and then blithely changes its mind?

Also, Wertz mentions an "official application" and an approval of the garden center by the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals. I am not at all clear what Wertz is talking about. Area community groups and DeKalb County's interim Director of Planning and Sustainability Gary Cornell only know of one application that has been submitted and approved: the parking exception that allows for reduced parking. If there is an "official application" the county's planning director does not know about, would Wertz be willing to share that information?

Robert Blondeau

Joanne April 30, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I don't accept that as verification. I also heard FIRST HAND from the Selig folks, including Bill Stogner, Steve Selig and Scott Selig, that they will not build an outdoor garden center.
Deanne April 30, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Joanne- Then you should definitely go with demanding to see their contract.
Robert May 02, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Mark: There obviously is disagreement about a "contract" that might or might not have been signed by Selig and Walmart. However, we have confirmed directly with DeKalb County, via Gary Cornell, Director of Planning & Sustainability, that no county permits have been applied for or approved in connection to this proposed redevelopment. The only confirmed legal document in existence is the parking exception from December 2011.
Jasper May 02, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Deanne, you've been served one too many kool-aids by Walmart! Walmart and Selig are not reducing parking to add greenspace. (Do you honestly believe that?) They are moving the parking underground in order to fit a 150,000 sq. ft. Supercenter in a space that really shouldn't have a store that large. Just because it's legal that don't make it right or appropriate. In terms of the "greenspace" that Walmart "promised" to local community groups, I'll eat my hat if they do anything other than add a handful of trees and shrubbery. Even the mock-ups contain a minuscule amount of green space. If that's all you need to be happy, that's pretty lame. Paradise was paved a long time ago -- a Walmart in Suburban is just a whole other mess to deal with.
Deanne May 02, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Hey, how come GGD hasn't suggested a kool-aid stand? It'd fit in great with y'all's rollerskating rink and carousel dreams! :0)


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