Michigan Land Use Institute

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Conditions For Reviewing Conceptual Plan

Memorandum to Acme Township officials

September 4, 2004 | By Kelly Thayer
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

The Michigan Land Use Institute respectfully requests that before granting any approval of the conceptual plan, the Acme Township Board require the developers of the Village at Grand Traverse to submit full and complete studies of traffic and transportation, environmental impacts, and the market and economic feasibility.

Acme Township Attorney Jim Christopherson, in an Aug. 12, 2004, memo to the Acme Township planning commission made clear that the township has the right to request this information now rather than during the review of the site plan. The Institute believes that with a project of this magnitude and significance, having the results of these studies available is essential to knowing whether the conceptual plan is in the best interest of the township.

In addition, the Institute recommends that the Acme Township Board, at a minimum, apply these conditions to any conceptual plan approval that might be granted to the application for a mixed-used planned development known as The Village at Grand Traverse.

Institute’s Recommended Conditions:

      Written concept

  • If provided, any conceptual approval should be granted to the Village proposal as described in words or text, rather than granting a more broad brush approval of the graphic conceptual site plan itself, which lacks many details and leaves many questions unanswered.

Big-box or anchor stores

  • Do not provide conceptual approval to any anchor or big-box stores greater than 50,000 square feet by right. Rather, seek concessions regarding number of anchor stores, their placement, size, and design from the developers for any negotiated acceptance of a store greater than 50,000 square feet.
  • The design of any anchor or big-box store should be integrated into the fabric of the downtown, rather than being built as a stand-alone rectangular design surrounded by parking.
  • Negotiate with the Village developers and Meijer to use transfer of development rights to transfer Meijer’s development rights from its site on M-72 east of Lautner Road to the proposed Village site. This should result in a total of only one anchor store at the Village, and none at the current Meijer property.


  • With project phasing, establish a desirable and enforceable linkage between the amount of residential square footage and/or units that must be built before specified additional commercial square footage will be allowed. The Grand Traverse Crossing used a similar mechanism but did not achieve nearly as much housing as should be provided at the Village.

Housing and neighborhoods

  • Reserve some of the proposed residential development as a “receiving area” for a future township residential transfer-of-development rights program.
  • Require the developers to hire an expert new urbanist designer for the proposed housing and neighborhoods.
  • Require the developers to consider adding or working with adjacent property owners to create a larger set of residential, and possibly mixed-used, neighborhoods surrounding the village. These potential residential areas also could be part of a transfer of development rights “receiving zone.”

Parking and transportation

  • Continue to seek to reduce the amount of surface parking.
  • Actively explore possibilities for a parking structure, and frequent and convenient bus service, for the predicted 34,000 daily visitors and additional numbers of employees.
  • Require a comprehensive traffic, public transit, bicycle, and pedestrian study. The developer’s current traffic memo is not adequate. It lacks much data, ignores transportation modes other than driving, and does not make clear that the Village could roughly double existing traffic on M-72, possibly in just a few years.
  • Require the consideration of a more extensive road network that might connect to and serve parcels to the south of the Village property.


  • Require that the developers alleviate the environmental and water quality concerns outlined in the Ball Environmental Report dated July 26, 2004, and any subsequent submissions from the company.

Kelly Thayer, a journalist and transportation policy analyst,  directs the Institute’s land use and transportation projects in Benzie and Grand Traverse counties.


Michigan Land Use Institute

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Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
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