October 28, 2004

Select Pittsfield Township Residents vs. WM

WM wants to expand greatly in Michigan, and some residents are using national connections to help them in their fight against it:

Almost half of the 60 or more residents in attendance addressed the Board, all echoing the same theme: stop the Wal-Mart. The majority of residents refused to believe that township officials had exhausted all avenues of obstruction to the project...

The store�s initial site plan was rejected about a year ago, but the Pittsfield Township Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit early last month that would allow Wal-Mart to build a drive-through pharmacy, a tire and lube facility, and an outdoor garden center. Developers would like to open the store next fall, according to Nick Miller, the project manager at Atwell-Hicks.

As residents learned of the plans, opposition to Wal-Mart swelled and the issue took on political overtones that could effect the Township Board election next week...

Nonetheless, Pittsfield Township Clerk Christina Lirones, who chairs the Planning Commission, said that because the parcel has been zoned commercial since 1977, it would be difficult to keep Wal-Mart out.

"We are working within the framework of the law," said Lirones. "I have tried to be honest and forthright about what we can do and what we cannot do." She added: "The things we can change, we are changing. What we can do, we are doing."

But Robert Hoffman heard the same argument from his planning commission before he organized a 30-member citizen group called This is Our Town to fight the construction of a Wal-Mart in Charlevoix Township.

"They told us it was a done deal," said Hoffman. "That Wal-Mart would outspend and outlast us."

But Hoffman�s group drew statewide attention as it collected 5,000 signatures opposing the proposed Wal-Mart, and in May the store announced in a three-sentence e-mail to Charlevoix� planning commission that it was withdrawing its plans, which had included a supermarket, general merchandise, a garden center, and a tire and lube station.

"They didn�t expect any opposition to it," said Hoffman. "They characterized us as a small interest group. We�re not sure of the impact we had, but we know we got their attention. We got public sentiment turned around."

Hoffman enlisted the help of Al Norman, who wrote a 1999 book entitled "Slam-Dunking Wal-Mart," which recounts his successful effort to keep Wal-Mart out of Greenfield, Mass., in 1993. Norman, Hoffman said, was invaluable....

At the end of the public comment period, the township supervisor said he agreed with much of what he had heard....

Posted by Kevin on October, 28 2004 at 12:46 PM