By Rosemary K. Otzman
The chance to have a Starbucks coffee shop on the former Big Boy property appears to have vanished.
A representative of Belleview Development, LLC, said Starbucks required a driveway from its drive-through window straight to Belleville Road and would not bend.
Neither would the Van Buren Township Planning Commission bend and at its Jan. 14 meeting, it voted unanimously to recommend the requested special drive-through window use and to approve the preliminary site plan — but not allow an additional curb cut on Belleville Road.
The plan had been to keep the boulevard entrance to the site, moving it slightly north, plus the Starbucks drive, giving the site two drives onto Belleville Road.
The proposed project would have had the Starbucks drive-through at the north end of the building, one or two retail stores in the middle, and another restaurant at the south end of the building.
VBT Director of Planning and Economic Development Jack Knowles identified the restaurant proposed for the south side of the building as Qdoba Mexican Grill. He said Qdoba often goes with Starbucks.
Steve Alexander of Jupiter Development Company and Tom Dumond of Voss Engineers took turns out in the hall with a cell phone while the commission considered the proposal. They obviously were talking to Starbucks.
“I may lose one of my tenants … because of what’s going on,” Alexander said to the commission.
“I understand your problem,” said Commission chairwoman Carol Thompson. “The traffic there is difficult. I would hate to see you lose your tenant. Also, several hundred BHS staff members have told me they want another coffee shop.”
She explained many school employees drive Belleville Road on their way to work in the morning and another coffee shop was requested.
“I appreciate that,” Alexander said. “These two clients are linked in a rather absurd way and I may lose the second one and have to find others.”
He said he expected the township to be kind enough to work with them after they find new tenants.
“I know this causes difficulties,” Thompson said and Alexander said, “We have some scrambling to do.”
As Alexander and Dumond were leaving, the Independent asked if they could confirm that the coffee shop leaving was Starbucks, since its name had never been mentioned during the proceedings.
“I can’t tell you what you’re losing,” Alexander said.
That it was Starbucks was confirmed after the meeting.
A public hearing was held a second time on the project that night since the previous hearing notice did not go out to neighbors in the time span required. No member of the public spoke at the hearing.
While the developers were aware commissioners were unlikely to grant a second access to the site because of the heavy traffic on Belleville Road, Alexander gave his pitch for the second drive anyway.
He said, “It simply is to relieve a little bit of traffic for us… between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. Relief for the people going north… We don’t think it would impose a hazard.”
That Starbucks drive was to be labeled right turn only, with drivers having to turn north.
Sally Hodges of McKenna Associates planning consultants pointed out the problem with another access drive to Belleville Road just north of the busy, and dangerous, North I-94 Service Drive and Belleville Road intersection, as well as the nearby freeway ramps.
Dave Nummer of Wade Trim engineers said this is the sixth-most-dangerous span of roadway in Wayne County. He said they have been working to reduce the number of curb cuts on Belleville Road and Auto Zone, the most recent project, has no direct access.
He said in recent years the township has been diligent in its efforts to manage access to Belleville Road and frontage roads have been implemented through the Walmart site serving Tim Horton’s, Applebee’s, Taco Bell and the 5/3 Bank, none of which have direct access to Belleville Road.
Nummer said with the seventh traffic light recently being installed on Belleville Road, “I’m anticipating we’ll no longer be the sixth-most dangerous.”
He said there had been multiple left-turn problems at Meijer’s south drive resulting in head-on crashes. “I’d hate to see us replicate this problem to the south.”
Nummer said as far as telling drivers to turn right only, that doesn’t work. He said his experience is that they turn left anyway.
Thompson asked where the next drive to the north would be, compared to the coffee shop’s proposed drive, and Nummer said it was 20 feet.
The cross-accesses in the back to CVS and the shopping mall next door were expected to be used, as well.
On Jan. 14 a public hearing was held on the requested rezoning of about 1.99 acres of property at the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Denton Road from C (local business) to C-1 (general business). No members of the audience spoke on the rezoning.
The rezoning will be considered at an upcoming commission meeting and then the commission’s recommendation taken to the township board for final action.
The corner property is made up of five parcels and is designated 49230 Michigan Avenue and 5826 Denton Road and located just south of the Canton Township line.
They wish to build a fueling station, convenience store, drive-through restaurant on the site. Denton Partners, LLC, purchased the old Willow Creek Market and it will be demolished.
The Denton Partners’ engineer said it will be a major improvement to the intersection.
Victoria Park Architecture
The commission approved architecture for revised home plans and façade elevations for residential dwellings within the Victoria Park site condominium development at the northeast corner of Morton Taylor and Ecorse roads.
Victoria Park is subject to a consent judgment (February 2014) between the township and the new land owner. Among the conditions is planning commission approval of any proposed architectural plans that differ from the original PRD to make sure the homes look different than their neighbors. The commission sent the designs back to the drawing board in November and asked Allen Edwin Homes to come back with eight different elevations with obvious differences.
Jeff Gibbs presented the proposal for Allen Edwin Homes.
The planning department will review plans for each house as permits are being requested to make sure they are different from their neighbors.
Hodges of McKenna Associates said it has come to the planners’ attention that none of the township’s commercial districts expressly permit outdoor dining. In fact, she said, the C district specifically states that all activities must be conducted within a building.
She prepared an ordinance subsection setting rules for outdoor dining. After discussion, Hodges said she would take it back for revisions and bring it back to an upcoming meeting.
The commission added to its agenda and then passed its recommendation to the township board to re-appoint Commissioner Robert McKenna as the commission’s representative to the VBT Board of Zoning Appeals.
McKenna sat in the audience the night before this meeting as the BZA considered variances for Menards home improvement project.
By Rosemary K. Otzman