Ash and Water Street

Signs designate properties subject to rezoning in a petition from GMX Real Estate Group, LLC, on the southwest corner of U.S. Business 51 and West Ash Avenue.

JIM BOWLING, HERALD & REVIEW

For the second time in two years, the Decatur City Plan Commission and the Decatur City Council are being asked to consider the rezoning of land at the intersection of Ash Avenue and U.S. Business 51 for commercial development.

And, for the second time, residents of the area are clear in their opposition to the plan.

Two years ago it was Aldi. The company was seeking a rezoning of 1.88 acres that would allow the construction of a new 18,000 square foot store to replace its store on Pershing Road. The council voted 4-3 to reject the request.

Fast-forward two years and the suitor this time is GMX Real Estate Group, which is seeking to rezone 1.6 acres for a 10,400 square foot shopping center, the tenants of which haven’t been announced.

We don’t envy the position the plan commission and council find themselves in.

On the one hand, they have to weigh the concerns of residents who wonder what the development would do to their neighborhood, their property values and the safety of all who live and travel near the busy intersection.

On the other, they have a developer wanting to make an investment in the community that will help it grow and prosper. Not to be overlooked is the much-needed tax dollars the project, and any that might follow, could bring. Let’s not forget the city council is prepared to approve a budget that includes a $3.2 million deficit.

What makes this location so special? That’s one thing everyone can agree on.

It’s a busy, high-profile intersection, anchored on the east side of U.S. Business 51 by Walmart and Sam’s Club. Surrounding these retail juggernauts are host of other businesses who chose to locate there to benefit from their regional attraction. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that other businesses are looking for that same advantage, even if it means going across the highway.

Like the residents in the area, we too wonder about other potential sites – some very close by – that are already zoned and primed for such developments and why they are being overlooked. And people will undoubtedly point to the fact that Aldi, after having its rezoning request rejected, did announce plans to build at the intersection of Pershing and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

While a good topic for general discussion, the availability of other sites and what Aldi did isn’t the question being put to the plan commission and the council.

The question for them is whether the proposed development on this site in the best interest of the immediate area and the city as a whole. In this case, we will stick with our opinion of two years ago that the development should be approved.

But we want to take our recommendation a step further. Whatever it decides, the council needs to take a hard look at the area in question and be prepared for overtures from developers in the future so there can be a controlled development of the area that takes into consideration the neighborhood and traffic challenges that exist.

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