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2005-07-24
Fabius, MI. Residents Force Aug 2 Vote On Wal-Mart Rezoning

Local officials in Fabius, Michigan think Wal-Mart is the solution to their revenue woes, but other local residents say Wal-Mart brings the woes only. Citizens have put the rezoning of a Wal-Mart on the ballot in Fabius. They know that they are fighting conventional wisdom and Wal-Mart's money, but the vote will take place on August 2nd. In contention is the rezoning of 35 acres of farmland which is zoned residential. All the people who live around that land knew it was being farmed, and zoned for houses. But when Wal-Mart showed an interest in the area, local township officials began jumping through hoops to change their plans to meet the developer's needs. The township rewrote its future land use plan to make this area the site of future commercial growth. In October 2004, the township sent out a survey to residents, which they say indicated residents favored rezoning by a 3 to 1 margin, but that was before Wal-Mart was specifically mentioned as a possible tenant. The survey also said the township should remain as quiet and rural as possible, with growth limited to the major highway corridors. In other words, residents did not have visions of a store 4 times the size of a football field when they filled out the survey. Rebecca Shank, president of the Fabius Township Citizen's Coalition, believes many residents disagree with local officials' plans. She gathered sufficient signatures to put the rezoning on the August 2nd ballot. Shank told the South Bend Tribune that the development will not benefit the township because the township doesn't have adequate large commercial development ordinances in place to deal with a powerful retailer like Wal-Mart. She says the township will not financially benefit from the store, because they currently do not levy a use tax. Wal-Mart will not pay fees for using township services like police, fire and ambulance. Shank claims developer Meyer C. Weiner, of Kalamazoo, is looking beyond the initial 35 acres for Wal-Mart and would develop the entire 100-acre parcel in the future. Her group claims this will result in unrestrained urban commercial sprawl. The Coalition also charges that downtown small businesses will suffer, police coverage is inadequate, and watershed areas would be endangered by the development.

What you can do: Wal-Mart traditionally spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on such local referendums, and with township officials lobbying for the rezoning, the Coalition has an uphill fight to protect their open space and farmland from commercial sprawl. From Wal-Mart's perspective, the side with the most money should win. It's called corporate democracy, and it's alive and well in Fabius.










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

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