Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 24, 2010

Meijer project in Acme is in limbo

Officials are waiting on developers

BY BILL O'BRIEN

ACME -- Acme Township representatives and The Village at Grand Traverse developers continue to sort through plans for a Meijer store along M-72, almost six months after the proposal was submitted.

Township officials await response from developers following their initial review. No public hearings on the project are scheduled and likely won't be at least through February, which could delay township Planning Commission review until spring.

"To me, a lot of it depends on the applicants and when they're ready to move," township manager Sharon Vreeland said. "We have no reason to delay it."

Developers submitted plans in early September for a Meijer store that would anchor The Village's development along M-72 east of Lautner Road. It followed years of lawsuits, an unsuccessful recall effort that involved illegal campaign activity by Meijer, and plenty of political acrimony over previous development plans for The Village property and another Meijer-owned site nearby.

The latest Meijer plan calls for a 207,364-square foot store, a 24,600-square foot garden center, and a 1,130-space parking area on nearly 22 acres. The Village's site encompasses 182 acres, with future development phases to include up to 775,000-square feet of retail space, up to 800 housing units, mixed-use space and a hotel.

Calls to The Village's representative Steve Schooler, of Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc. in Cincinnati, were not returned.

Acme officials last fall decided not to review the project in "piecemeal" fashion, and said they preferred that staff and consultant John Iacoangeli evaluate the proposal before it's turned over to the Planning Commission for formal review and hearings.

That initial review resulted in a 170-page report issued in December that outlined several shortcomings in the application.

"Our goal is to have as much information ready for the Planning Commission's review as possible," Vreeland said. "We want to have as much of that happening as we can at this level."

Officials and project consultants are trying to schedule a meeting to review the application and the township's initial comments, she said.

Aspects of the project don't meet some special-use permit requirements approved in 2004, according to the township's review. A township consultant said the proposal doesn't include architectural features like varying roof lines and recesses meant to de-emphasize the building's size. The township also wants traffic network study completed, as well as updated market information and more soil and groundwater data.

Iacoangeli remains skeptical about The Village's future development phases.

"A prominent question raised by consultants reviewing the application was whether this project will really ever turn out to be mixed-use," he wrote.

One member of The Village development team said he's anxious to move ahead, beyond litigation and hard feelings that surfaced in previous reviews.

"All of the partners are hoping we can work with the township to get through this," said Jim Goss, a partner in The Village project.

Calls to Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi and Mike Kinstle, the company's vice president of real estate, also were not returned.