By Rosemary K. Otzman
Members of the small audience applauded after the Van Buren Township Planning Commission voted Dec. 10 to give preliminary site plan approval to Menards to build its home-improvement store.
Menards has been seeking approval, since early this year, to build a 162,340-square-foot heated store area on the 24.08 acres it has contracted to buy on the west side of Belleville Road just north of Walmart.
Scott Nuttleman of Menards Real Estate said it takes a year to build a store and if all goes well they would like to commence grading on the property on April 1 and begin store construction on June 1, opening the new store in early February 2016. It is expected to bring 200 jobs to VBT.
Nuttleman said, “Summer is our Christmas,” referring to the home-improvement business.
There still are a few hurdles for the Menards project.
Nuttleman has to seek some variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals for its special use approval for outdoor sales and storage and if the BZA doesn’t approve one or more of the variances, Menard will have to change its plans or do something else, said Sally Hodges of McKenna Associates, the township’s planning consultants.
Besides the BZA, which had tabled Menard’s last request for variances and never went back to the request, there is a problem with Walgreen’s Drive owned by Walgreen’s.
“If it was up to us, we’d close it today,” Nuttleman said of the drive onto Belleville Road just north of Walgreen’s that would interfere with the Menards exit with the new traffic light.
“I don’t have a project if it’s conditioned on Walgreen’s,” Nuttleman said.
Dave Nummer of Wade Trim, the engineering consultants for the township, recommended Menards preliminary site plan approval with two stipulations: one was revising site plan documents to show improvements and the second, “The existing boulevard entrance drive be vacated.”
Nummer explained in a memo to the commission: “The primary issue with the site layout is the existing boulevard entrance onto Belleville Road. When Walgreen’s was constructed, this access was also built with the anticipation that this would be the primary entrance into the undeveloped site.
“With the construction on the new traffic signal the primary entrance has shifted, thus, the existing access is no longer needed. We understand that Walgreen’s has an access easement over the existing pavement that must be released before that access can be removed. The applicant has indicated that they are working with Walgreen’s to vacate that easement.”
As part of her recommendation, planning consultant Hodges also recommended that the Walgreen drive be closed
Nuttleman said so far Walgreen’s has been unwilling to close that drive.
The commission also recommended approval to the township board for the requested special land use for outdoor sales and storage, but is holding that approval in abeyance until the BZA finishes its work.
The BZA is expected to take up the Menards variances at its regular meeting on Jan. 13.
Nuttleman said there are fewer variances requested this time, so maybe the BZA won’t be so overwhelmed.
The planning commission had resolved some of Menards’ previous variance requests. Instead of seeking a variance for the 14’ fence surrounding most of the structure, since the ordinance limit is 6’, the planning consultants have decided that 14’ fence is a wall. No variance is needed.
And, the 14’ wrought iron fence at the garden center also is a wall. No variance needed.
The planning commissioners agreed that washed river rock instead of grass would be fine in the parking islands and the 421 parking spots, instead of the 684 spaces required by the ordinance, also would be fine.
Nuttleman had presented detailed documents on the parking question and the numbers for every store it owns, with most new stories providing between 400 and 450 spaces.
Previously, BZA members had criticized Menards’ plan to have lights on the inside fence pickup Entry and Exit signs, so the lights have been removed by Menards. Also, the signs for “Cart Corral” that were criticized have been removed. Menard also moved the lights from the top of the fence/wall, where they are in every other Menards store built, and put them down under the roof, so they won’t inadvertently disturb the nearby residential area.
Since the township had required a sidewalk through the buffer from the residential area to the north, the drainage pond in the rear is now visible to the neighbors and a decorative wrought iron fence must be erected around the pond.
“They’ve been very cooperative,” said engineer Nummer. “We’ve been very happy with what they’ve given us.”
He said the Downtown Development Authority has been working on a regional pond and if it comes along in time, Menards won’t need to dig its ponds.
In other business at the 2½ hour meeting on Dec. 10, the commission:
• Approved the request of Harmon Sign, Inc. to construct an on-site directional sign that exceeds the height and area permitted in the zoning ordinance. The site in on a berm at Grace Lake Corporate Center on the east side of I-275, south of Ecorse Road and north of Tyler Road. John Venglarcik of Harmon Sign said people are coming from around the world to this facility and are having trouble finding the right turnoff; and
• Gave preliminary site plan approval to Contractors Steel Company to construct an 80,608-square-foot addition to the east side of its existing building at 48649 Schooner Drive. They have five bays and this would be the sixth bay out of seven planned, if needed, said architect Jeremy Irvin. Nummer said there is a sanitary pump station problem on Schooner Drive allowing storm water to get into the sanitary sewer. He said the sanitary sewer is leaking under the driveway, which was found with a smoke test. Contractor Steel said it will inspect the situation, televise it if necessary and take care of it along with the construction of the building.
By Rosemary K. Otzman