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Higher Standards: Why I Will Not Shop MeijerPrint

Thriving Communities | March 20, 2007 | By Jim Lively

One of Meijer’s stores that markets itself as a “higher standard.”

I want to like Meijer. They are a Michigan-based company. They treat their employees better than Wal-Mart treats theirs. They even sell fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers.

But they flat-out refuse to respect Acme Township’s right to manage growth and maintain small-town character. And in the Traverse City area, where growth threatens to overwhelm us, that’s just too important to ignore.

So my family has agreed: We’ll no longer shop at Meijer.

Acme Township is trying hard to do the right thing in the face of the coming onslaught of commercial and residential development. Ten years ago, residents spent thousands of hours planning, approving, and formally adopting a Smart Growth design for their township that would concentrate growth into a small “town center” and help protect their lovely countryside from unwise development.

Meijer Inc. has owned land in Acme Township for more than 15 years, and its officials are very familiar with Acme’s master plan. They knew that Acme was looking for something special. But despite flowery language in a letter to Acme residents claiming to be a good neighbor, Meijer, a $13 billion-a-year company, maintains that it will somehow lose money by cooperating with residents’ plainly stated wishes and needs.

When Acme officials approved a new Meijer store, but placed modest conditions on its design, how did the company respond? It got personal in a very bullying way, suing not only the township, but also the township’s trustees as individual, private citizens. It then helped promote a recall election for all the trustees, who were—and still are—following both the letter and spirit of the law.

All of this after trustees voted to invest 50,000 township tax dollars in a world-class design team that could help make Meijer’s design a better fit with the community master plan. Meijer flatly refused to participate.

The good news is that Meijer’s bullying tactics are failing. The company has lost every one of its lawsuits against the township and saw 60 percent of township voters reject the recall proposal.

But that hasn’t stopped these so-called “good neighbors.” Rather than following the advice of Circuit Court Judge Phillip Rogers to stop fighting the township and work with them, Meijer officials continue to run up big legal bills for township taxpayers and introduce more havoc into the personal and civic lives of the trustees: The company is stubbornly appealing its most recent failed lawsuit against the township and its personal suits against the township officials.

So that’s it for us. We’re not shopping at Meijer any more. For all their rhetoric about “higher standards,” they are only interested in making a buck at the expense of our region’s beauty. If you think that we should fight for our right to make sure that new development preserves community character, you might consider not shopping there, too.