Local citizens in Grand Haven, Michigan are getting a full dose of the Wal-Mart hustle, as township officials and the retailer gang up to push through a supercenter project. Sprawl-Busters received the following report from citizens on the front lines: “Our township has an overlay district that allows for the development of only one big box development, and the property that has been slated for this type of development will be rezoned to accommodate it. Currently Wal-Mart is looking to develop this property for a Supercenter and has met all qualifications for the rezoning, the MDEQ, and Planning Commission. The Township Board will still have to approve or not approve the planned development and there has been mixed reaction from the citizens of our community to allow Wal-Mart to be the big box store that is developed on this property. It would be located directly across the street from a Meijer store and we have a quaint downtown.” The local newspaper, the Muskegon Chronicle, said there was a large turnout at the first public hearing on this project, “but few people willing to voice their opinions. But the audience loudly applauded the four people who said they opposed the retail giant’s
plans to build along U.S. 31.” One resident testified, “My concern is with the economic impact of our city. I traveled all over U.S and saw a lot of cities the size of (Grand Haven) boarded up. I started to question why …and the answer was always I could find a Wal-Mart store within about six miles. We’ve had countless grocery stores and bakeries in our cities and they’re all gone.”
It sounds like Wal-Mart has found safe haven in Grand Haven. If only 4 people spoke up at the hearing, if the citizens have not formed a group, if they have not retained a lawyer, if they have not retained a traffic engineer, if they are not prepared to challenge the rezoning in court — then Wal-Mart is going to bulldoze them right off the map — quaint downtown and all. This is an example of what happens when citizens are not prepared to go toe to toe with a developer. From the sound of this report and news story, the people of Grand Haven have made one grand mistake.