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.