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

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on May 31, 2005 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

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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About Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.  She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.  Connect with her on twitter and catch her TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy. More

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