Historic Georgia Community Fights Wal-Mart

Date: 1 Feb 2003 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Two churches and a long-time resident of the historic Sandfly community near Savannah, Georgia, have sued city and county officials to block a proposed Wal-Mart supercenter. The lawsuit claims the officials violated planning and zoning laws in approving the development.

Settled by slaves in the 1700s, Sandfly is one of the nation’s oldest African-American communities. Until recently, most homes is this tight-knit village were built by residents themselves with everyone in the community pitching in to help. “Sandfly is a way of life,” said James Miller. “It’s basically family and I don’t mean individual family, I mean community.”

Wal-Mart wants to build a 204,000-square-foot supercenter on a 52-acre site that was once a drive-in movie theater and more recently a ball field for a nearby church.

Residents organized as Save Our Sandfly (“SOS”) have used lawn signs, letters to the media, and turn-out at public meetings to fight the development. SOS has enlisted the support of several state and national organizations, including the Georgia Conservancy, the NAACP, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Two years ago, a similar effort led Target to drop plans for a store at the same location.

Sandfly falls under the jurisdiction of the Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission. Despite opposition from the county commissioner representing Sandfly, in October the MPC voted to approve the Wal-Mart. Opponents say the decision-making process clearly violated zoning laws. The issue is now before a state court.

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Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which partners with a wide range of allies to implement policies that counter concentrated power and strengthen local economies.