Home > Announcement, Cultural Movement, Economics, Representing > Tonight: Planning Commission to Review CVS Development

Tonight: Planning Commission to Review CVS Development

UPDATE: Tonight’s meeting is at 7:00 P.M. in the Commission Chambers at the Governmental Center, 2nd Floor

Announcement

Tonight’s planning commission meeting will address the request by CVS for conditional zoning at the property at the NE corner of Front and Division St.  The plans submitted by CVS Pharmacy are for a store footprint of 13,225-square-feet drug store and a 56 space parking lot. In addition, the company is looking for a variance to accommodate a drive-thru window. They will also need an allowance for the larger footprint than is now allowed.

Click for larger view

The City has no strong zoning to restrict parking lot size in this area, however, a trade-off for a reduced parking lot footprint to allow a drive-thru wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’d recommend that the City really demand some proof that a 56-space lot is necessary for more than marketing schemes. CVS, and other large box-store pharmacies, prefer large empty parking lots in part because it gives the impression that people can quickly stop into the store and complete their errands; they aren’t meant to fill up. Large parking lots are, however, a deterrent to walkability.

Tonight is the introduction to the planning commission, followed by a public hearing on the conditional rezoning requested on or around January 3rd. Sometime after that, the City Commission will review the planning’s decision.

If you are interested, and want to better understand this project and voice your perspective, it is important that you attend as many of these meetings as you can and/or communicate with the commissioners on planning who are reviewing this project. Communities do have choices and may influence developments; it is not anti-development to do so. The negotiation with the community begins with the planning commission.

Traverse City isn’t tied to the corporate model…what would you prefer?

Above: Different CVS models in Ann Arbor, Detroit and, at the bottom, Spring Hill. The latter is by no means perfect, but the residents of Spring Hill, MI were successful in gaining compromises in the design (AI.com) by being engaged from the beginning of the project. The Detroit CVS parking lot is, obviously, something that we want to avoid at all costs.

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A description of tonight’s discussion begins on page 38 of the Planning Commission’s packet (PDF)

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  1. james b
    December 6, 2011 at 11:37 am

    The Spring Hill story is great.

    It’s going to take neighbors and strong leadership to make sure this project is done right. A CVS developer will usually incorporate the least possible amount of neighborhood design requirements.

    Maybe we should ask Grand Rapids city planner, Suzanne Shultz, to come pay a visit to offer advice.
    When Dollar General wanted to put a store in GR, she made sure it was done the right way.

    Here’s the article: http://bit.ly/sirlg0

    Here’s the street view of the store: http://bit.ly/um8riW

    It’s not a perfect design. But it’s a lot better than what DG originally proposed. It even includes 6 apartments.

    I’d be more interested in seeing if CVS they can include housing into the final design.

    JB

  2. December 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

    We need smart ideas like that voicing them at the meetings, James. And, likely, we needed that discussion to lead to action 10 years ago, so best start now for the next 10 years.

    I was thinking about the parking lot on my walk, and another idea to make it more palatable is to make it more valuable to the community than simply a CVS parking lot. Could public parking be included that fed existing and new development on West Front St.? Thinking more like a park and walk scenario…just brainstorming.

  3. james b
    December 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    It’s interesting to note that Peteryl Drug Store, which is just down the road, has one parking space that is Petertyl-only.

  4. Greg
    December 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Traverse City has someone willing to buy and develop a piece of property that has been empty for years and we want to complain that a parking lot is not walkable or too large? People get a grip. Even the term walkable deserves a laugh, what is walkable to some is not to others, to each their own. I have never needed a government body or alphabet soup to say this area is walkable and this area is not. To think a non-profit club (MLUI) knows how to do it right as stated above is far-reaching and I have no idea why they would even have a say in the process. It’s like the Watershed club having a say in what is done with the weeds on the beach at the end of Elmwood, what authority do they have and who put them in charge? Ugh!

  5. Richard Miller
    December 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    We all have a stake in the shaping of our community (and the world), not just owners of property. Thank you, Gary, for calling our attention to this opportunity…and so many others.

  6. December 7, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I think the proposal certainly has merit, in terms of we’d sure like to see a viable business on that corner instead of the blighted service station. And a pharmacy is a good business that can serve both neighborhood residents as well as others. I’m not sure what was outlined at the PC meeting but procedurally, this being a conditional re-zoning, the PC is not supposed to put any conditions on it’s approval other than those offered by the applicant (i.e. have to vote up or down based on what’s proposed). In reality, if the PC sounds like it might not approve the project as proposed then I wouldn’t be surprised if the applicant came back with another proposal with a different set of conditions that tried to better satisfy the PC. I think Jim Olson
    actually has a case in the Michigan Court of Appeals right now that may clarify procedurally how such conditional rezonings are handled by local governments.

    I think the Russ Soyring’s analysis is spot on that if this property was to be re-zoned it should go to C-4, not C-3, to be consistent with the master plan. In that vein, some of the conditions that the applicant is offering are antithetical to the long-term use of that property for dense, mixed-use as consistent with the master plan. Namely, that the height be limited to two stories and the building mass be limited to 13,500, which is the size of the proposed building. If that property, long-term is going to support more than just this stand-alone store with its own parking lot then those conditions will be problematic. I imagine, however, that the developer has offered those conditions because he/she assumes that such restrictions will make the project more palatable to the neighbors. Maybe, maybe not. Of course, removing those conditions won’t mean that your’re going to see a two-story CVS with six apartments on top. Because I doubt that CVS want, among other things, to be a landlord. And I don’t think residential is very viable at this busy corner because of the noise, etc.

    I don’t think it’s realistic to believe that any use of that property is going to be viable for the near future without at least a certain amount of on-site parking. There is not enough street parking within reasonable walking distance and there’s no public parking, that I’m aware of, anywhere close either. But, has the applicant proposed more parking than they need? Probably. It appears that the developer owns or most likely has optioned the several adjoining lots. If the re-zoning was to C-4 and had to go to a special use permit for the parking, and the parking was required to be smaller than perhaps the developer wouldn’t buy/develop all of those lots. Leaving the possibility that instead of being used for parking that adjoining space could become another building, residential or commercial.

    As far as the drive-through, seems antithetical to what is envisioned by the master plan. Given how congested that corner is, however, I don’t know how many extra trips it would generate.

    So if I was a PC member I’d think hard but probably deny it as proposed and indicate that I’d likely approve it if it came back as a re-zoning to C-4. Again, procedurally I don’t know if that’s kosher.

  7. December 7, 2011 at 10:37 am

    It’s generally not lawful under a U.S. Supreme Court decision called Dolan v. City of Tigard for the government to require the donation of private property for a public use as a condition for approval of a land use. Found to be an unlawful “takings” under the Constitution. So requiring CVS to make their parking lot into public space would most likely not fly, at least legally.

  8. December 7, 2011 at 11:31 am

    This is fairly close to how the discussion went last night. The PC did approve moving this to a public hearing on Jan. 4th and they were very delicate with their language in light that last night was not a negotiation. That said, there was an unease by most of the board with being asked to build a development more fitting with suburbia than for what the master plan calls for along West Front–a pedestrian focused downtown land-use.

    At a certain point, the City needs to stick to the vision it sets out for itself. The current proposal is only a step forward in that it fills a hole and adds a business, but it’s design lacks anything to be excited about.

    Thanks for legal description, Mike.

  9. james b
    December 7, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Mike brings up a good question. Setting this specific project aside, would people live at that intersection?

    Sandy Weir, as quoted in today’s Record Eagle, lives in a condo that overlooks the intersection.

    I wonder how she feels about traffic noise.

  10. December 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    For what’s it’s worth, according to County GIS, Ms. Weir’s condos are 100 yards from Front and Division. So I don’t know how representative she would be as to living at that intersection. Although, really, that’s not really the relevant question. The relevant question is whether or not any developer would be willing to build residential housing at that location, not whether somebody would be willing to live there. It appears from the zoning that it’s been legal for a long time to build high-density residential there, but it’s never been proposed. I suppose that the City could deny the re-zoning, in hopes that this developer or some other developer will come back with a mixed-use proposal. Based on recent (20 years?) of history, I wouldn’t bet on such a mixed-use proposal any time soon.

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