The front page of Saturday's Grand Rapids Press let me know that there is a Walmart expansion coming my way. The good folks in Alpine Township are up in arms, and rightly so. Traffic and noise in their suburb is projected to triple. Ain't it great folks that your once sleepy suburban refuge is about to turn into a 18-wheeler nightmare? Fortunately the township planning commission decided last month to table the vote on the super-mega-crap-shack's request to change the zoning from agricultural to retail until they got more input from residents. The land is an orchard. (Yes, destroying a local orchard so that you can buy produce from Mexico and South America; it's pure evil genious.)
So, I know I'm preaching to the converted, but let me throw out a few ideas that may (or may not) work.
1. In order to stop another super-mega-crap-shack(SMCS)from destroying your town, you'll need to pass a zoning ordinance that limits the size and shape of parking lots. That ordinance would require anyone who exceeded the limit to pay additional monthly fees to the city in order to operate that lot. For example, if your limit was 250 parking spots (and the average SMCS parking lot is far larger than that) you could charge maybe $100 to $1000 for each spot that broke the limit, which would easily earn your community needed revenue. This could add up to tens of thousands each month for each big box store.
Many communities already do this. Check out Eugene, Oregon. They have what is referred to as a runoff tax. Businesses pay extra monthly or annually for large roofs and large lots that produce more runoff and increase flow to the city's sewer system. This is totally doable, Alpine Township, you should think about it.
2. Another thought, require the SMCS to build vertical lots rather than spread across the landscape. A vertical lot costs millions, and would discourage the SMCS from locating in your town in the first place. Unfortunately, it's too late for Alpine.
3. Actually following federal wetlands law and requiring super-crap-shacks to mitigate wetland loss would also be a good step. For every acre of wetland they destroy with a store and parking lot, they have to preserve another acre somewhere else. 1 for 1. That's the law. It's called the Clean Water Act.
The best thing for you to do is to STOP SHOPPING AT SUPER-MEGA-CRAP-SHACKS. There is absolutely nothing inside that big box store that you need to live. You will survive just fine if you never go there, ever. It is not necessary for you to even look in the direction of a WalMart.
OK, you can't resist the advertising. There you are, smack-dab in the middle of your local super-mega-crap-shack, surrounded by that magic phase that is stamped on everything, "Made in China." So, does it benefit you or your neighbor to buy something from China? Does it help out the factory across town whose workers are about to be laid off? Does it support local unions? Nope, it doesn't. Put it back on the shelf and walk away. It's that easy.
If you have any advice to the folks in Alpine, feel free to write the Grand Rapids Press.