EZ Mart or “No Mart”
Preface: I have blogged about EZ Mart for several months, all the while expressing my joys and concerns, but not forming an opinion until today – one that might surprise some of my readers, because it’s not a typical opinion from me. But it’s the right decision for Elk Rapids, and I will advocate it from now on.
My sense of last night’s Planning Commission (PC) meeting is that only one side showed up. Except for Chair Barb Mullaly and Zoning Admin Steve Ravezzani, the entire meeting was devoted to safety, traffic, urban sprawl and “You’re not welcome” opinions.
I led off with a how-good-a-community-member-are-you-going-to-be speech, which BC was prepared for and answered predictably that it is community friendly. Most every other speaker fell into one of the above categories, except for Barb, Steve and Matt Webb. Matt was a bit enigmatic, so his point was a bit muted.
If I could have spoken again (against the rules until everyone else got to speak first), I would have given the pro-business argument to get it out there. That usually blows people’s minds because they expect me to be consistent and dogmatic, so, when I promote business growth, I usually prefer to have others make that argument. Not any longer.
It appears to me, based on what I witnessed last night, that we have a majority on the Planning Commission that is willing to expand its authority on dubious grounds to turn down the EZ Mart proposal and thereby make a statement about our Village character – even at the risk of a test-case lawsuit. The Village would likely lose the suit, and the business climate here would take a big hit. I hope that the PC is just posturing for the vocal constituency and will at least reluctantly vote to approve the plan.
I am now an advocate for project approval. BC has over achieved to provide plans for a very non-traditional gas station. The Village has been engaged at all levels in assessing compliance with the zoning ordinance as well as having BC adjust to meet the concerns of the Fire, Ambulance and DPW departments. BC and the County have come up with an innovative rain garden/storm sewer approach to runoff.
Some citizens are seemingly opposed to development and have traffic/safety concerns regardless of what causes it and where it occurs. Any new business along U.S. 31, or anywhere else, has the potential to cause more traffic, and any future use of Super Tool will likely increase traffic on First and Bridge Streets.
Here is the crux of my point-of-view:
In my judgment, I’d rather blog about how Elk Rapids has become a progressive pro-business community that has raised the bar for businesses while still remaining viable and welcoming. And Blarney Castle has put forth an heroic effort to be a community-sensitive business, even though it did not have to.
Any other story would be worse.
I support a walkable community – but with all of us walking through an economically vibrant Village. For me, that means I sometimes have to walk or bike past businesses I’d personally rather not have in town.
I supported the Dam Beach alternative, because I felt at the time, and still believe, that the beginning of the process was flawed and the proposal was rather dumped on the community. But the EZ Mart application shows a dedication of purpose and action by government officials, volunteers and developers to create the best gas station possibly on the face of the earth. But it can’t change its essence; it is a gas station.
If Elk Rapids cannot support this application, it must face the likely negative consequences of rejecting a business that has gone overboard to meet and address the concerns expressed.
We cannot hold this business hostage while we seek to address the ills of for-profit capitalism, the intransigence of MDOT or the installation of more modern and better ordinances.
I ask you to consider my position carefully and, if you still disagree with me, please give compelling information and arguments that show what I’ve got wrong and what you offer as an alternative – that is more than a “no development, back to the 20th century” approach. I cannot be bought, but I can be convinced to change my opinion. But you’ll have to do better than rant, rave and rail.