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2002-12-07
Portage, MI. Residents Try to Throw Cold Water on Wal-Mart Supercenter

Residents in Portage, Michigan have found that city officials can present as much of a WAL as Wal-Mart itself. Here's a report from sprawl-busters in Portage: "We are in the midst of a major fight to keep a Wal-Mart Supercenter development out of a sensitive area of our city, and off the banks of a cold-water trout stream for which our city has been named.  We are in the midst of the rezoning process that is necessary to allow this 204,000+ square foot development to proceed.  We have had two public hearings before our city's planning commission, on issues related to increased traffic, environmental concerns and flood plain issues, the true nature of the 500 jobs that have been promised, quality of life issues, impacts on the residential area that immediately adjoins this property, and the need to balance our already over-retailed local economy with other industries.   In spite of 22 residents who spoke out against this development (while only 1 spoke in favor of it), 6 out of 8 planning commissioners voted in favor of the necessary rezoning change.  One of the major reasons cited by more than one planning commissioner was that this was what they understood that the city council wanted them to do.  Why then, I ask, would you hold a public hearing when you plan to totally disregard what the public has to say?  The answer of course is that they had to go through that formality due to statutory requirements.  To add insult to injury, the developer, who is suppose to bear the burden of proving a need for the rezoning, stood by and said little more in support of his application than that this was a wonderful opportunity for this community (more realistically, his pockets).  Our next big event is a city council meeting on the rezoning request that is scheduled for the evening of December 17. We are recruiting support from many areas of the city, as this has now been deemed simply a neighborhood issue by our opposition, and also from some prominent state-level political figures who have local roots.  We have launched an informal grass roots informational campaign, as well as a letter writing campaign directed to the council members.  We are trying to meet with the city council members in advance of December 17, but many have declined, and one even said that he was not allowed to -- totally stonewalling the usual legislative process.  We have run into roadblocks at almost every turn whenever we find it necessary to deal with the city administration.   At this point, we plan to continue as we have, including presenting all of our research and arguments again at the upcoming city council hearing."

What you can do: For local contacts in Portage, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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