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1999-06-08
Fenton, MI. Residents sue City over Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has had its ups and downs in Fenton, MI. In 1997, the city's Planning Commission gave thumbs down to a proposed superstore on Owen Road, right next to the Silver Ridge Subdivision, a single-family residential development. At the time, Wal-Mart was represented by a developer from Alabama. At one point, in the spring of 1998, many area residents assumed that Wal-Mart had abandoned its hopes of locating a store on Owen Road. But by December of 1998, Wal-Mart had found another developer, Lowe & Associates of Marietta,GA, and they came back for a second bite of the apple. In March of 1999, the Fenton Planning Commission reversed its earlier position and voted 8-1 to approve a special land use and site plan for the project. Area residents appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals, and on April 27, 1999, the ZBA narrowly voted 4-3 to uphold the Planning Commission vote for Wal-Mart. On May 12, the Silver Ridge Homeowner's Association sued the City of Fenton, charging, among other things, that the approval for a superstore in their backyards amounted to "a taking of the value of residential property, and an arbitrary and unreasonable restriction on the use of the residential properties abutting the Wal-Mart site, without just compensation. The lawsuit says that City officials failed to take into account the character of adjoining property and traffic problems. The residents are asking the court to issue a restraining order to prevent the developer from obtaining a building permit. The homeowners complain that Wal-Mart has proposed creating an 8 foot deep detention pond within 3 feet of the first aquifer on the site, and that chemicals from the parking lot runoff will enter that aquifer, and that pollution will also threaten the deeper aquifer the city uses for its water source. Residents also complain that the exit from the site will be rated an "F" traffic level of service -- the lowest possible grade for traffic flow. "We have concluded that this particular site plan is incompatible with the character of the adjacent properties and in violation of numerous city ordinances." Wal-Mart has offered to build a buffer wall to "hide" their superstore from the neighboring homes, and to monitor the 90 private wells near the site. One consultant to the city told residents back in May of 1998: "I'm willing to bet Wal-Mart has given up on Fenton."

What you can do: The lesson here is that until you change your zoning ordinance to prevent big box sprawl, you can assume that Wal-Mart will come back a second time if they don't succeed at first. The offers Wal-Mart is making to the homeowners are minor cosmetic changes that will not alter the fact that these development homes will have a huge superstore as a neighbor, with all the property value impacts that homeowners have bad dreams about. A wall has never been built that can hide a Wal-Mart supercenter. Seven homeowners and their Association have filed suit against Fenton.










 
 
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