BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — Oft-stalled plans for a Meijer store in Acme Township will move again, but there's little chance construction will begin this year.
Developers for the Village at Grand Traverse LLC want township officials to approve their third attempt at a site plan for a 220,000-square-foot store on M-72 and Lautner Road. The project languished for five years over lawsuits and an unsuccessful recall effort that involved illegal campaign activity by Meijer.
Developers revived the project in September 2009 but have yet to get beyond the township staff review stage.
"It's a complicated thing; you wouldn't think it would be, but it's a 200-acre site with a Meijer store and traffic issues," said Steve Schooler, project manager for project partner Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc. of Cincinnati. "We're trying to get everybody's support for it and it just takes some time."
The Village won't begin construction drawings until it obtains site plan approval, making a 2011 building start highly doubtful, Schooler said.
The new site plans are designed to make the Meijer store more attractive by using a combination brick and flagstone facade with architectural details to break up its boxy look. More landscaping was added and the revised plans address lighting and traffic concerns, including an option to install a traffic circle at the intersection of M-72 and Lautner Road.
A letter from project engineer Terry Boyd of Gourdie-Fraser Inc. also explained the developer's rationale for holding off on certain proposed changes, including sidewalk connections and biologically treating storm water. Those matters would be addressed in the next phases of the overall project.
Beyond the Meijer store, the Village's future development calls for an additional 775,000 square feet of retail space and up to 800 housing units and a hotel.
Schooler said project officials don't expect their plan will completely please everyone.
"Hopefully, we've gone from 10 things of dislike to one or two," Schooler said. "We can work through those."
The goal is to get the site plan on the township planning commission's June 27 agenda.
That could happen if township consultants determine the plans are complete, township manager Sharon Vreeland said.
"I hope it is complete so we can get it to the planning commission ... but I don't know how much discussion there would be," Vreeland said.
Planners could discuss areas of concern or set a July 25 site plan public hearing.
June 27 could be a busy night, since planners also will hold a public hearing to consider rezoning 48 acres on U.S. 31 across from the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa for a shopping center.
Vreeland attributes the renewed development interest in Acme to its open space along major transportation corridors into Traverse City.
"You see some redevelopment in town but people still seem to want to sprawl out on undeveloped land as their first choice," she said.