Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

State and Michigan Ave. to be Assimilated?

8. May 2005 • Scott Trudeau
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Local protestors say ‘No way, no how,’ while the Pittsfield planning commission sez ‘Lordy, our hands are tied. Let’s jus’ make it pretty!’

As the grey and blue giant wants to roll into another exurban sprawl (median income $20-30,000), some locals are fighting back. While the usual litany of complaints seem to have been cited, the planning commission holds that there is no legal reason to deny the Wal-Mart, because apparently public sentiment isn’t a legal justification. Ah, property rights.

The citizens fighting the development are Pittsfield Community First, who had a “sleep-over” for Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott in January (claiming that the proposed Wal-Mart development was keeping parents up at night). Scott did not attend.
More on the group can be found here in a Detroit News article about their founding. (Another DetNews article here, about the Michigan anti-Big-Box movement.)

Wal-Mart had previously had their plans rejected for refusing to build a brick façade on their store (in 2002). They seem ammenable to it now, though.

> Ann Arbor News: Planners ponder Wal*Mart

More on Al Norman, who is credited with starting the anti-Wal-Mart movement, in this 2001 PBS interview. He helped Charlevoix defeat Wal-Mart’s bid there, and is consulting with the Pittsfield Township folks. His website is Sprawl-Busters.



  1. Arg. Fuxxored the apostrophes in preview.
       —js    May. 10 '05 - 09:25AM    #
  2. Another link here (to The Nation, regarding religious protests of Wal-Martâ„¢)
       —js    May. 10 '05 - 10:21AM    #
  3. Public sentiment can’t be a legal justification, because it is fickle and arbitrary. That’s the one thing planning can’t (or at least shouldn’t!) be – arbitrary. Everything must be planned and accounted for in order to withstand legal challenges. That’s why planning concepts that appear in the master plan(s) really need to be codified in ordinances. So if Pittsfield township doens’t have ordinances against big-box retail, well, they’ll get big-box retail.

    I wonder, if it was a Lowe’s or Crate & Barrel, would people have as much of a difficulty? is it Wal-Mart as the store, or is it big-box retail altogether?
       —KGS    May. 10 '05 - 12:37PM    #
  4. I’ve seen several court decisions that have allowed “public sentiment” to be a reason for disallowing a development. But it can’t be the only reason. And as noted, if the Township ordinances allow such a development then they can’t be shocked if such a development is proposed. Sounds like if the Township doesn’t want another Wal-Mart, they should be working on their ordinances NOW to prevent that from happening now. But this horse is out of the barn from all that I’ve read.
       —John Q    May. 10 '05 - 12:43PM    #
  5. I think it’s funny they’re so worried about the particular aesthetics of the building. Like “some curvature” is going to make any real difference in the real impact of the store. It definitely show the townships don’t get it; as if the real problem with box stores is that they’re just so ugly…

    ‘A rendering of a traditional Wal-Mart store, with two shades of brick and blue trim, was on display as a comparison to better show the enhancements of the other designs, said Ethan Hardwick of PBA Architects, the firm designing the store.

    Commissioner Dennis Ward said he likes a design that includes decorative metal arches and many types of stone because it stands out from other stores. He said he had asked Hardwick to consider that design.

    “I just wanted to see some curvature,” Ward said. Christina Lirones, chairman of the commission, said she preferred a different design, which could allow the building’s brick to match nearby Harvest Elementary. That design seems to fit with other buildings in the area, she said.’
       —Scott    May. 10 '05 - 12:47PM    #
  6. That’s one interpretation. The other is that since there’s very little leeway that the PC has if the store meets the ordinance requirements, they are trying to get W-M to give a little on things like facade, colors, etc. where W-M might be willing to make “concessions” to look like a good developer. Sometimes you have to hold your nose and vote for projects you don’t like but meet the ordinance requirements. That’s the difference from being a PC and just being a concerned citizen.
       —John Q    May. 10 '05 - 03:12PM    #
  7. I think John Q’s probably close to the truth. Given that there’s not a whole lot that can be done to stop WalMart, if it fits the existing zoning and master plans (note: complain about zoning and plans before objectionable developments are proposed, not after.), the only thing left to do is to mitigate it: How much can be demanded out of WM before WM decides to just sue the Township?
       —Murph    May. 10 '05 - 03:36PM    #
  8. I thought I would revive this article because the recall campaign against the Pittsfield Township incumbent officials has turned ugly.

    The lead story in this morning’s AA News reports claims that one of the incumbents (Lirones) has been following recall petitioners around, and even got on someone’s porch while a discussion with a petitioner was going on. Plus, it is alleged that Lirones’ husband was harassing petitioners with his truck. To top things off, the News says that the State Police are investigating a variety of claims, including an allegation that the township officials’ supporters have been using township resources illegally.

    Does anyone here live in Pittsfield Township and have a clue about what is really going on?


       —David Cahill    Feb. 19 '06 - 04:36PM    #
  9. Just saw that story, too, Dave. Interesting stuff.


       —Dale    Feb. 19 '06 - 05:30PM    #
  10. Opening up this discussion again –
    One of the things about the Google Ann Arbor jobs announcement is that Google is apparently looking not only at downtown Ann Arbor but also at surrounding areas. If the Pittsfield township government is in disarray with recall efforts, is that going to get in the way of them responding to the opportunity to put jobs somewhere like Avis Farms?


       —Edward Vielmetti    Jul. 16 '06 - 03:54AM    #
  11. Depends on who at the Township handles economic development issues. Is it the elected officials or is there a staff person who can at least talk to Google?


       —John Q.    Jul. 17 '06 - 01:56PM    #