By Rosemary K. Otzman
The “swoosh” will be gone from under the MENARDS’ sign, the corporate slogan won’t be on the building, and the store will look slightly different than others in the chain – but the Menards building project is definitely moving forward in Van Buren Township.
At the Jan. 15 meeting of the VBT Board of Zoning Appeals, the board unanimously approved four variances, with slight changes, allowing the project to go forward.
After the meeting, Scott Nuttleman of Menards Real Estate, who has been working with VBT officials on the project, said he believes the Menards officials who make the final decisions will go along with the changes.
He said it will take just a couple of more meetings before they can break ground. He referred to special-use approval by the township board for outdoor sales and storage and final site plan approval by the planning commission.
At a planning commission meeting on Dec. 10, Nuttleman 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 or before.
The store is expected to bring 200 new jobs to the community.
Menards has been seeking approval, since early last 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.
At its September meeting, the BZA tabled requests for six variances and took no action on those requests from Menards.
During the Jan. 15 meeting, BZA members were discussing how it would be fair to make Menards’ reduce the size of its main sign to make it the same as Walmart’s sign.
This was what Sally Hodges, the township’s planning consultant from McKenna Associates, had recommended.
Nuttleman said the signs are identical on all the Menards stores, although in some places they take off some signs.
Nuttleman pointed out that Walmart had three signs and they were only talking about the main sign and ignoring Walmart’s other signs in their figures.
He said Walmart has not only about a 200 square foot main sign but two others that are about 100 square feet each. He said by just looking, he believes Meijer complies with the sign ordinance.
Trustee Jeff Jahr, who sits on the BZA, said he thought both Meijer and Walmart were in compliance.
“Your staff counted only the main sign for Walmart,” Nuttleman pointed out.
Jahr apologized, explaining the BZA is limited to what information the staff provides to it.
Patrick Sloane, of McKenna who works part time for VBT’s building and planning department, said when they calculated the sign at Walmart it was in the records at 186.48 square feet.
“How the other signs were approved, we don’t know,” Sloane said.
Planning consultant Hodges, also of McKenna, said she didn’t have information on there being two more signs at Walmart. It wasn’t in the paperwork, she said.
Jahr said two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because they didn’t notice that Walmart had two more signs than they thought, they shouldn’t hold Menards to a higher standard than Walmart.
Jahr made a motion to modify the variance to permit 317.7 square feet on the main building, 117.7 more than the maximum of 200 allowed.
“Limiting to 200 would be unnecessarily burdensome,” said Jahr, noting the store is 500 feet back from Belleville Road.
This signage was in addition to the 90 square foot pedestal sign at the front that complied with the ordinance.
There were four variances granted, all unanimously.
The BZA met with a bare quorum, with both its chairperson (Terissa Wardwell) and vice chairman (Tom DiPietro) absent and the member selected to chair the meeting (Amos Grissett) just being reappointed by the township board about 24 hours earlier. Bob McKenna, the planning commission’s BZA representative, sat in the audience because his appointment had lapsed and the planning commission didn’t ask for his reappointment until the day after the BZA meeting. Also absent was Joseph Barnabei, an alternate.
Present at the table were Grissett, Trustee Jahr, Lianne Clair, Edward Miller and alternate Medina Atchinson.
By Rosemary K. Otzman