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Historic Georgia Community Fights Wal-Mart

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 1, 2003 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

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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About Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.  She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.  Connect with her on twitter and catch her TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy. More

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