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Wal-Mart Supercenter coming to Lovejoy

By Tamara Boatwright

A Wal-Mart Supercenter is coming to Lovejoy and Betty McKay doesn't want any part of it.

McKay, whose family lives on Lovejoy Road, will have the 202,091 square-foot grocery/department store practically in her front yard.

"When we moved here there was nothing here," McKay said. "There were the Dorsey's and some of the old homes in Lovejoy but there was no school, no Publix, nothing."

The store will open in early 2005, just after the holiday season, according to Daphne Moore, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, and will bring with it about 450 jobs.

The store is part of the steady growth south along U.S. Highway 19/41 in what is known as the "panhandle" of Clayton County. Recently a McDonalds, Eckerd's and Kentucky Fried Chicken opened on the west side of the highway, adjacent to the Wal-Mart property, while a gas station/convenience store opened on the east side of the highway. Apartments and several housing developments have also been built recently and others are under construction. The Wal-Mart development allows for the construction of at least two other smaller buildings on the property.

Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy says the project is "three years in the making" and while there have been some negative comments most of what he has heard while on the city council and since becoming mayor in March concerns about the impact to the tiny community.

Murphy says Wal-Mart is helping to pay for traffic signals that will be installed in the area, and about half the cost of road improvements in the area, namely the realignment of Lovejoy Road and U.S. 19/41.

Lovejoy is home to 2,400 residents n a number that Murphy says has probably doubled since the last Census count ? but according to the Georgia Department of Transportation, 27,334 vehicles travel U.S. 19/41, also known as Ga. Highway 3, between McDonough Road and the Henry County line every day.

The Lovejoy supercenter is being built only about 15 miles from a similar-size Wal-Mart in Henry County but Moore says that is a plus for shoppers.

"We carry merchandise a family needs on a regular basis," Moore said. "Shoppers don't want to drive 15 miles to shop and Lovejoy retains the sales tax dollars."

Actually, Lovejoy is benefiting from the construction fees, according to Marie Straughn, secretary at Lovejoy City Hall. The sales tax dollars will go to the county.

But all of that means nothing to McKay who has protested the development of the Wal-Mart from the beginning.

"When we'd go to Florida years and years ago we'd drive right by the white house that was torn down to build the Wal-Mart," McKay said. "It was so pretty and I'd always tell myself that I'd live there some day. We finally move here and I was right across the road from that house. Now there's going to be a Wal-Mart there instead and Wal-Mart's aren't pretty."