By Rosemary K. Otzman
A public hearing was held Dec. 10 before the Van Buren Township Planning Commission to hear plans for a new building to fill the old Big Boy restaurant site on Belleville Road, north of the I-94 North Service Drive.
The commission will hold a second public hearing in January since the mailing to property owners within 300 feet was sent out later than the 15 days required by law.
However, the public hearing announcement was published as required in the newspaper of record.
Architect Thomas H. Dumond, vice president of Boss Engineering of Howell, presented the plans proposed for Belleville Retail Center on 1.98 acres.
He said Belleview Development LLC purchased the site of the vacant Big Boy restaurant at 10705 Belleville Road. That was in May.
He said they are proposing to demolish the exiting building and parking lot in order to construct a new commercial development.
The new building will be about 10,000 square feet with restaurants at the north and south ends and a commercial development in the middle.
Included in the end cap at the north end of the building is a drive-through window which requires a special use permit from the township.
The development also includes two outdoor seating areas for patrons of the commercial center. One is located at the northwest corner of the building and the other is located at the southwest corner of the property.
Dumond said elements within this park will match the fixtures currently located along Belleville Road. A pedestrian connection is proposed from the urban park to the center to allow pedestrian users easy access to the building.
Dumond said the developer has agreed to maintain the two existing cross-access points on the property – one to CVS at the south and one to the strip mall at the north.
In addition, the project has proposed two access points onto Belleville Road. The southern access point is a full in/out drive approach lining up with the commercial center across the street.
The northern approach is for exiting the development only. This has been proposed to allow vehicles exiting the drive-through window easier access out of the center.
The developer would like to start construction this spring once all the approvals have been received.
Steve Alexander of Belleview Development told the planning commission that the coffee house on the north end of the building has a drive-through along the north end of the building that would exit onto Belleville Road at the second drive.
He said this will be a four-sided building with glass awnings, the township’s kind of bricks, and lots of windows on the front side.
He said six weeks ago they went to Wayne County and, “They said they are working with us and, informally, they are in support.” He said he knows he has to get that in writing.
Alexander said the second drive onto Belleville Road would be right-turn-only.
John Delaney from the audience said a second drive there is a public safety issue. “It’s suicidal to turn left from there,” he said, adding, “It’s a mad zone there.”
Commissioner Carl Johnson said what is planned is a nice addition and would really spruce up that area.
“My main concern is the turns,” said Commissioner Joan Franzoi.
Commissioner Bob McKenna said it would be the county’s decision on the second drive, but planning consultant Sally Hodges said the county only has control over the right of way.
She said driveways should be 500’ apart, which these aren’t, and even “right turn only” is a violation.
Dave Nummer of Wade Trim Engineers said their recommendation is to reduce the plan to one driveway access.
“The county will work with them, but we have to consider the safety,” Nummer said, pointing out that area is considered the sixth most dangerous area in Wayne County.
Commission chairwoman Carol Thompson said the cross access drives in the rear are not clearly marked and she thought there were ways to make that more user-friendly.
Delaney said maybe the VBT Downtown Development Authority could put in some signage so it’s not a full burden on the applicant.
Alexander emphasized they are looking at the right turn out only drive. He said the cross access is in the rear, behind where the drive-in goes through. Drivers would have to go all the way around the building to exit the site by cross access.
“Are you open to working for the best solution?” Thompson asked and Alexander said he was.
By Rosemary K. Otzman