TRAVERSE CITY — A Panera Bread franchise likely will rise in Garfield Township despite what some planning officials consider a stale project design.
Kentucky-based Anchor Properties Inc. submitted a special use request to the township to redevelop the corner of U.S. 31 South and Franke Road. Anchor would demolish the existing Hertz rental and car sales lot to erect an 80-seat Panera Bread franchise and an adjacent undisclosed commercial use.
Township planning commissioners objected to the drive-through restaurant’s location in the middle of the lot with parking in front.
“This is the same thing we’ve seen on every other thing; everything is being driven by the damn drive-up window,” said Garfield planning commissioner Terry Clark. “I think the plan is ridiculous. You have all this paving and 90 percent of it is for the drive-up window.”
Planning commission Chairman John Racine asked if developers could move the 8,500-square-foot building closer to U.S. 31 with access and parking from around the back of the building.
Michael Ricke, an executive vice president with Anchor Properties, said his client requires cars to be able to circulate around all sides of the building.
Township Trustee Kit Wilson didn’t share her fellow planning commissioners’ concerns at a recent meeting.
“Drive-throughs are a reality of the world we live in,” Wilson said. “I don’t see a huge change on this site that concerns me.”
Brian VanDenBrand, deputy township planner, said under the township’s zoning the planning commission had little ability to require changes to the site plan. The purpose of the special use permit had more to do with the potential impact of the site on neighboring properties.
The one neighbor Anchor Properties will have to address is Kids Creek. The initial proposal would have diverted storm water from the parking lot into a storm sewer that drains into the creek. The township prefers developments near creeks to keep most of the rainwater on-site through rain gardens and other forms of infiltration.
Rickey told planners they are cognizant of the township’s concerns about the storm water and would work with to staff to resolve the issue.
The township set the special use request for a June 12 public hearing.