Guys, I think I feel another rant coming on...
So, Aldi, a German-based discount grocer with two other locations in the urban area, proposed a store near the Meridian Mall back in December. Meridian Township got around to approving it and a neighboring 21-unit apartment building on a 4-2 to vote
MERIDIAN TWP. — An Aldi grocery store and a 21-unit apartment building on a busy portion of Marsh Road north of Meridian Mall are a step closer to construction.
German grocer Aldi Group, which has a distribution center in Webberville and stores in Lansing and Delta Township, will build a 25,000-square-foot store on a 5.4-acre parcel at 5155 Marsh Road next to the township hall complex. Eyde Co. will build the apartment building on the property.
Initial plans last December called for two apartment buildings, but Eyde dropped one building amid resident and staff concerns.
The first problem is that they had to drop an apartment building because of fears of the site being "too dense." Second, just to get this project through the Eydes needed a rather unique zoning classification and then had to get a "special permit for buildings over 25,000 square feet." And, then, we get these kind of comments typical of Meridian Township officials:
Treasurer Julie Brixie and trustee Milton Scales cited traffic congestion on Marsh Road as part of their reason for opposing the project. Trustee Angela Wilson was absent.
Eyde Chief Counsel Mark Clouse said plans for a traffic signal are progressing, but that wasn’t enough to change Scales’s position.
“It’s extremely impossible to exit Tihart and turn south on Marsh,” he said. “This project adds more density and more traffic in that area, and for that reason I am opposed to this project until I hear something better from the (county) road department.”
Brixie’s main concerns appeared to be density and traffic.
“Strike a few more apartment units and modify the parking lot a little bit, and we’d get to a point where I would be able to think this is a really great project. We’re not at that point yet,” she said.
“I don’t think that having apartments above the grocery store is a great idea either. It can be very smelly and you have a lot of traffic,” supervisor Elizabeth LeGoff countered.
Now, I'm just thankful that this passed with only two votes in opposition. But, I was surprised with this new board (I believe Democrats swept every office in Meridian Township in 2012) that we get the same old talking points from the opposition. Meridian Township has been very anti-growth, or at least very pro-slow-growth, since for as long as I can remember. What I find odd is how there is still a chunk of the community so adamant against building up the area around the mall. You have to increase density around the mall if you want to keep sprawl out of the fringes of the township which Meridian Township tries so hard to do. Barring densifying the "downtown" around the mall, though, you're essentially saying no to ALL growth.
These folks act like Okemos is some kind of exclusive small town. This is a township of probably over 40,000 people, now, and sure it's nice...by suburban Michigan standards, yet they seem to think it's some kind of heaven. It's time to get serious. I mean, complaining even after they cut the second apartment building and now you've only got 21-apartments? Honestly, with suburbs all across the country building, or already having built, legitimate town centers around their malls, if Meridian Township keeps this up, Lansing and East Lansing are going to each their lunch. I'm only ranting about this because it confirms what I heard years ago that Meridian Township tries through its zoning to keep buildings and properties as short and sprawly as possible. I hear that getting something simple as having apartments above storefronts along Grand River is like trying to pull teeth. This makes zero sense to me.
If I'm wrong about Meridian Township, I don't mind being corrected, but is it true that you have to get special permits for "apartment-shop" (apartments above ground floor retail/commercial) development? I guess what confuses me is that Meridian Township is in its mind very tough on sprawl, but is then also very tough on urbanizationn around its center. When you try it both ways what you get is what we have, today. Sure, Okemos looks better than Delta Township, but it's not by nearly as much as they think they do, and functionally, Okemos is no more pleasant a place to try to navigate by foot.