TRAVERSE CITY -- New players and a new process will usher in a new-look site plan review for Meijer Inc.'s long-delayed store in Acme Township.
The township planning commission this week voted to resume consideration of plans for a 232,000-square-foot Meijer store in the proposed Village at Grand Traverse on M-72 and Lautner Road.
It's the identical plan the Village at Grand Traverse LLC submitted five years ago, but this time will be presented by a project team that does not include Meijer representatives.
Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc., a Cincinnati-based retail development firm that was previously a silent partner in the Village-Meijer project, now leads it.
"We were developing other things at the time and we were too busy to get involved in this project," said Steve Schooler, Anderson's director of construction. "We've done about 10 major developments like this and we'll use that experience to the benefit of the township and ourselves."
Acme Township will also change the way it reviews the project, said township Manager Sharon Vreeland.
The planning commission "will no longer indulge applicants' desire" to review large projects piece-by-piece while attempting to negotiate ordinance standards or review conditions, Vreeland said.
That's not the process the township follows for smaller developments, and history shows it hasn't worked for larger projects, either. Piecemeal review has been more costly and time-consuming for both the township and the developers, she said, citing the Village, Meijer's abandoned Lautner Commons development and an unrelated commercial mall known as Bates Crossing that's now stalled.
"It just turns into endless debate and when something changes you have to go back and change everything else," she said.
This time township staff will review the Village application as a complete package for compliance with applicable standards before it goes before the planning commission in November.
Denny Rohn, president of the group Concerned Citizens of Acme Township, said she was disappointed the Village resubmitted the same "horrible" retail mall design her group sued to stop five years ago.
CCAT's suit sparked a series of additional lawsuits, court decisions and appeals, prompted Meijer to violate state campaign finance laws in attempts to manipulate two township elections, and cost the retailer millions to settle lawsuits with Acme officials.
CCAT would like to see a smaller Meijer store and the overall project redesigned, she said.
"The design is outdated and it's never going to function as a village. It's going to function as a mall," Rohn said.
Schooler said there are concerns and issues with every project and experience has taught his company to be flexible.
"We've always been able to work out any issues we've had, whether it's concerns about safety or the color of the bricks," Schooler said.