State Representative Keith Heard has a message for the people who showed up at Tuesday night’s Commission meeting to register their opposition to a proposed Wal Mart on the edge of downtown: Stop these public displays. We want businesses to come to Athens, and this is a business, and protesting it says Athens is anti-business.
Heard was speaking to a crowded audience at today’s Pre-legislative Luncheon, sponsored by the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and the Athens Rotary Club.
“Why do we put up road blocks?” Heard asked, as a slight applause rippled through the crowd. “Don’t make it public. People who believe in it, we haven’t heard the other side of things. They need to speak up.”
So far, there has been no meeting involving the general public and officials from Selig Corporation, which has said it wants to create a mixed use development--including a bix box rumored to be Wal Mart---on the former Armstrong & Dobbs property. Last night’s meeting was the first time people had a chance to tell elected officials how they feel about the rumored Wal Mart.
Attorney Russell Edwards said each commissioner would receive a flash drive containing an anti-Wal Mart petition with 17,000 names on it.
Others said they think Athens can do better than Wal Mart..
They think downtown Athens is too special to have a Wal Mart on its edge.
One said she shudders at the idea of more traffic on over burdened Oconee Street.
Others believe Wal Mart will kill the vitality of downtown and wreck havoc on Athens’ locally owned businesses.
Wednesday, Heard said that an event like last night's commission meeting "sends the wrong signal. Why do we put up roadblocks to business?"
He said he wants people with concerns about Wal Mart “to go to Wal Mart and talk to them directly. My friends in Atlanta and across the country are saying, ‘Don’t y’all want jobs?’ These are jobs we’re talking about here.”