Atlanta councilman remains opposed to Buckhead Walmart as vote approaches

A proposal to rezone 22 acres in the Lindbergh area of Buckhead for a mixed-use development anchored by a Walmart store became even more of a political hot potato Friday.

Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents the area, reiterated his opposition to the plan despite numerous changes such as the proposed inclusion of at least 100 affordable apartments for seniors.

“Despite recent design improvements, the plan remains opposed by the vast majority of the residents who have contacted me,” Shook said. “When I first ran for public office, I promised to support neighbors, not developers or city planners, when determining what their neighborhoods should look like. I have upheld every neighborhood recommendation since and will do so again.”

A subcommittee forwarded the plan to the full City Council Wednesday but took an arms-length approach, not recommending a vote for or against. The council is expected to vote on it Monday.

This is at least the second time the council has been asked to consider a land-use change that would allow the $80 million project to go forward.

The area, near an existing Target, Best Buy and a massive furniture store called the Dump, is zoned for high-density residential properties.

The proposal to change that designation to allow mixed-use development, including 200,000 square feet of retail and more than 200 apartments, has stirred a contentious two-year debate. The neighborhood planning unit opposed the plan, while the city’s Zoning Review Board approved it.

Some opponents said building a substantial development would worsen traffic in an already congested area. Others argued that the area’s highest and best use is residential, not commercial. And some critics are opposed to Walmart under any circumstances, Shook said.

“There’s no question, once you bring the name ‘Walmart’ in, it can be a very polarizing retailer,” said Alex Wan, who chairs the City Council’s zoning committee.

“I couldn’t care less if it was an Acme department store,” Wan said. “For me, the underlying question is the land use.”

Wan said Atlanta-based Fuqua Development has not made a convincing argument that the city’s long-term land-use designations should be revised.

“This area could use development; it could use a transformative project,” Wan said. “But, so far, a compelling case has not been made.”