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2008-01-02
White Lake, MI. Wal-Mart Needs Town Land to Expand

The Wal-Mart discount store on Highland Road in White Lake, Michigan is roughly 127,000 s.f. The store, which has a pharmacy, photo center, portrait studio, tire and lube center, garden center, and vision center, is twice the size of a football field. But it doesn't have a full grocery department, so Wal-Mart wants to expand it into a supercenter. To do that, the retailer has to make a land deal with officials in White Lake, because the property they want is owned by the township. The White Lake, which calls itself 'your four seasons playground,' passed a new Master Plan for land use in 2006. In the section on Shopping and Services, the township says it wants to "consider amending the zoning ordinance to encourage parking in the rear and to the side of stores in order to create more pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically appealing retail developments." White Lake officials say they want to maintain the township's "natural features and rural character," while encouraging the "thoughtful placement of a moderate amount of convenience commercial uses within reasonable proximity to neighborhoods." The so-called Fisk Farm site, which is dominated by a large red barn and smaller outbuildings, is now up for sale, and the Planning Department of White Lake is reviewing Wal-Mart's expansion plans. The retailer has proposed buying up roughly 2 acres of land currently used for the Fisk Farm parking lot. Township Supervisor Mike Kowall told the Spinal Column Newsweekly, "They have made a preliminary offer (to buy) the property." Wal-Mart has offered $600,000 for the land, which would allow them to add roughly 50,000 s.f. to their building. Wal-Mart told township officials that the project would "create" 150 jobs, which the Spinal Column printed without challenge. Most of the "new" jobs would be grocery jobs transferred from existing grocers that go out of business. The township has not accepted Wal-Mart's offer yet, but they are having the property appraised. Although the expansion project will have to go through Planning Commission review and township board review, Supervisor Kowall said construction at the site could happen this spring. The township bought the 2 acre parcel several years ago for a fire station. But when it was determined that the site was not appropriate for a fire station, the township got into the real estate business with Wal-Mart. "There's a potential there we could lose Wal-Mart," Kowall told the newspaper. "And we would loose about 300 jobs. I don't think with the economy as such, that we can afford to lose anything."

What you can do: White Lake also can't afford to gain nothing -- which is what Wal-Mart expansion will give them. There are seven Wal-Mart stores within 20 miles of White Lake, including a supercenter 11 miles away in Commerce, and 13 miles away in New Hudson. Adding a grocery store to the Wal-Mart already in White Lake will only cannibalize existing grocery stores, and the Supervisor's fear of losing "about 300 jobs" is based on the existing Wal-Mart shutting down, and the supercenter going elsewhere. But there already are Wal-Mart's on every side of White Lake. Readers are urged to contact Supervisor Mike Kowall by emailing him at: dpotter@whitelaketwp.com, or calling 248-698-3300 x 123, with this message: "White Lake only has 30,160 people. One Wal-Mart in town is one more than enough. Adding a grocery store to the Wal-Mart will not create jobs -- but a store the size of three football fields will adds cars and crime to your four seasons playground. Don't sell any part of Fisk Farm to Wal-Mart. A typical big box store, with its huge parking lot out front, is not in keeping with the goals of your Master Plan. It's time for White Lake to think outside of the box -- and truly protect your rural character. Keep commerical growth moderate and small, if you plan to keep it near residential property. This Wal-Mart expansion is just a terrible fit for White Lake."










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

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