Citizens in Charlevoix, Michigan, Block Wal-Mart, Win Size Limits

Date: 31 May 2005 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Grassroots groups that form to fight big-box development proposals often dissolve after winning or losing on that particular project. But a citizens group in Charlevoix, Michigan, called This is Our Town kept on working.

Now, one year after successfully pressuring Wal-Mart to drop plans for a supercenter, the group is celebrating new zoning rules that will limit future big-box development.

In late May, both the city and surrounding township of Charelvoix enacted their own size caps on retail development. The city capped stores at 45,000 square feet, which is about 20 percent smaller than a football field and about one-quarter the size of a typical Wal-Mart supercenter (see How Big is Too Big?).

The township of Charlevoix meanwhile adopted an ordinance limiting stores to no more than 90,000 square feet and requiring proposals for stores over 20,000 square feet to obtain a special-use permit. Those over 50,000 square feet are additionally required to undergo market feasibility and traffic impact studies, and include a plan for reusing the building should the retailer vacate the space.

Charlevoix is a community of 9,000 people in northern Michigan.

This is Our Town formed to fight plans by Wal-Mart to build a supercenter in the township just south of the city of Charlevoix. The group hosted educational events, posted signs and bumper stickers, wrote letters to the editor, and gathered more 2,000 petition signatures opposed to the store. In May 2004, Wal-Mart abruptly pulled out, offering no explanation.


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Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its Independent Business Initiative, which produces research and designs policy to counter concentrated corporate power and strengthen local economies.