Store Size Cap – Charlevoix, MI

Grassroots groups that form to fight big-box development proposals often dissolve after winning or losing on that particular project, but not This is Our Town, a citizens group that formed to fight plans for a Wal-Mart supercenter in Charlevoix, a community of 9,000 people in northern Michigan.

Thegroup succeeded in pressuring Wal-Mart to drop plans for a supercenter and one year later, in May 2005, celebrated the passage of new zoning ordinances in both the city and surrounding township that will limit future big-box development.

The city enacted a measure that caps 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.

Meanwhile,the adjacent township of Charlevoix 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.

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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.