Plans for Buckhead Wal-Mart near Lindbergh Center fall short in City Council

A proposal to change Atlanta’s long-term plans by allowing a Wal-Mart and mixed-use development to be built on more than 21 acres of land in the Lindbergh area of south Buckhead fell short Monday by one vote in the City Council.

Supporters of the plan — a $90 million project that could include 200,000 square feet of retail space and more than 200 apartments — backed the change in land use with seven votes to six nays. But it wasn’t enough because the city’s legislative rules require eight votes for passage.

A variety of revisions to the original plan, including the addition of a 3-acre park and 100 affordable apartments geared toward seniors — couldn’t get the proposal over the top.

“I think it says a lot that they couldn’t get eight votes after two years,” said City Councilman Howard Shook, who voted against the land use changes. “If they had done a more urban design, this might have passed a while ago and I might have supported it.”

The vote leaves development plans for the area in doubt. The city’s comprehensive development plan calls for the site — near an existing Target, Best Buy and a massive furniture store called The Dump — to be used for high-density residential properties. But developers wanted to change the land-use designation to “high density mixed use” and “very high density residential.”

Opponents of the Wal-Mart project said the city should not set aside its original plan for the site, which is a few blocks away from the Lindbergh Center MARTA stop.

In any case, no major project — except the Wal-Mart proposal — is in the pipeline for the site, according to city officials. Weed-covered lots and a half-finished building framed in concrete stand nearby.

Michael Isaacs, who lives in Garden Hills, said he and several neighbors were initially intrigued by the idea of a new grocery store at the site. But the fact that it would be part of a Wal-Mart supercenter changed things.

“We’re not anti-Wal-Mart,” Isaacs said. “Make that very clear. We are anti-big-box development. There is plenty of demand for residential real estate.”

Mayor Kasim Reed took a hands-off approach in public as the controversy swirled, although he had been an outspoken supporter of another Wal-Mart project in Vine City.

The proposed Wal-Mart was approved in July by the city’s Zoning Review Board. But the plan attracted a phalanx of opposition in surrounding neighborhoods. The critics picked up key allies on the City Council, including the chairman of the zoning committee.

The rezoning and changed land use would have been only one step that developers needed. The project would still have needed design work and permitting.

With the project stalled, it’s not clear whether it can be restarted. Developer Jeff Fuqua vowed to press on, although he said he wasn’t sure was the exact way he could get the legislation back on track.

“Just another day in the life of a developer,” he said. “We continue on. There’s a method for this.”