TRAVERSE CITY -- Meijer Inc.'s travails in Acme Township dominated headlines and court activity over the past year-plus, but lawsuit testimony shows the retailer's partner, the Village at Grand Traverse LLC, and its investors had more to lose and played a major role in the long Acme development saga.
Four men who comprise the Village partnership put up $2 million and borrowed another $5 million to purchase 180 acres on M-72 and Lautner Road, where they planned to develop 2.4 million-square feet of commercial space anchored by a Meijer store and rimmed by a housing project.
Steve Smith, the Village's managing partner, in sworn testimony recently said the project cost the group more than $3 million in interest and almost as much in consulting, legal and design fees.
Smith either owns or is a partner in a golf course, several bowling alleys and a chain of movie theaters, Neighborhood Cinema Group. He said he has about 500 employees in his varying business interests, but he doesn't keep an office and listed just three employees by name, according to his testimony in a lawsuit filed against the Village by former Acme Treasurer Bill Boltres.
Smith owns 40 percent of the Village, as does Jeff Anderson, who is owner and founder of Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate, Inc., a Cincinnati-based company that specializes in retail center leasing, development, construction and management.
Minority partners Jim Goss, of Acme Township, and Mike Spaniolo, of Lansing, each own 10 percent of the Village.
Spaniolo was president and Goss vice president of a Lansing-based beer and wine wholesaler they owned and eventually sold.
The Village joined Meijer in 2005 to individually sue eight Acme Township officials for financial damages in a dispute over the project's zoning. Smith testified in a deposition for Boltres' suit that he didn't know that 2005 lawsuit threatened the Acme officials' personal finances.