Walmart moves forward with third Forsyth store

Smart Growth, Laurel Springs HOA withdraw appeal, reach consensus

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A Walmart Supercenter on Peachtree Parkway has now gotten community backing.

Walmart, Smart Growth Forsyth County and the Laurel Springs Homeowners’ Association have reached an agreement. When combined with Forsyth County Planning Board action May 7, the agreement will allow Walmart to move forward with construction of a Supercenter at 2395 Peachtree Parkway in Cumming.

This will mark the third location in Forsyth County. Other stores are located on Market Place Boulevard in Cumming and Atlanta Highway in Alpharetta.

Since 2003, Walmart has wanted to bring a Supercenter to the Peachtree Parkway area of Forsyth County, but has succumbed to pressure.

In December, Walmart obtained a new building permit to begin construction of the proposed 177,771-square-foot store on Peachtree Parkway.

The decision was appealed by Smart Growth Forsyth County, which argued the county improperly issued this permit as the proposed development did not satisfy parking lot requirements for development in the Peachtree Parkway Overlay District. Laurel Springs Homeowners’ Association joined the Smart Growth appeal.

As part of these discussions, Walmart agreed to remove 41 parking spaces from proposed development and replace those spaces with additional green space. Last week, the parties reached a consensus and the appeal will be dismissed.

Walmart also agreed to withdraw a pending land disturbance permit application for an alternative site at Peachtree Parkway and Bagley Road.

Smart Growth is a group created five years ago and was originally called, “Stop Walmart.” The volunteer group later changed their name and became monitors of rapid growth in the area.

The Peachtree Parkway corridor serves as the border of Forsyth County and Johns Creek, and the county has strict building guidelines set forth for the area, known as the Peachtree Overlay District.

Walmart, in its submitted plan, met or exceeded all of the overlay development standards with the exception of the parking distribution requirement, which Walmart maintained that it could not achieve without sacrificing safety, aesthetics and buffers among other considerations.

The Planning Department contends that, in light of the vesting event and pre-existing storm water facility on the property, the planning director had discretion to issue a permit that meets the spirit and intent of the county’s zoning code, including the overlay, but that also recognized the legal rights of the property owner.

Forsyth County, Walmart, Smart Growth and the Laurel Springs homeowners worked to address these concerns. Alternatives discussed were to turn the store so that it faced Mathis Airport Parkway, rather than Peachtree Parkway, resulting in a parking configuration that Smart Growth and homeowners felt would comply with the requirements of the overlay.

While the parties could not agree on this design alternative, both agreed that it could result in the unintended consequence of a less attractive presentation of the side of the store, and potentially an unscreened view of the rear of the store and attendant loading areas from Peachtree Parkway.

The parties agreed this matter presented a unique set of circumstances and would not constitute a precedent, and that the spirit of the overlay would best be supported by allowing the Walmart development to proceed as permitted.