Whither EZ Mart?

EZ_MartI noticed with interest that the Blarney Castle application for an EZ Mart at U.S. 31 and First Street in Elk Rapids is not on the Village Planning Commission agenda for the Tuesday meeting. So I first checked with the Village.

Blarney Castle [EZ Mart] is on hold until it completes the traffic impact assessment study that was requested by the Planning Commission. The assessment will not likely take place until after July 4. Upon completion of the study they are to notify me when they would like to be placed back on the agenda for further review by the Planning Commission. (Source: email from Village Office – edited slightly)

Then I called Blarney Castle, a family-owned business for over 75 years. I spoke with Bill McCarthy, son of founder Denny McCarthy, at length today. Bill confirmed that the traffic study requirement came from the Planning Commission, not from (as rumored) the Michigan Department of Transportation. He noted that Blarney Castle has wanted to do business in Elk Rapids for 25 years, but there had never been property available that was large enough. Now that they own land in Elk Rapids, they have been working on this EZ Mart proposal for quite some time, meeting or exceeding the levied requirements.

At the last Planning Commission meeting, a traffic study requirement was included by the Commission. Note that the Commission acted legally when requiring this study but also note that the need for the study was subject to considerable interpretation and discussion.

McCarthy said that the impact of this delay is significant.
  • Blarney Castle will miss the summer selling season.
  • Elk Rapids will miss out on the annual community festivities, put on at almost every EZ Mart location.

As an aside, Blarney Castle plans to sell Marathon gasoline at the Elk Rapids EZ Mart, not BP as widely speculated. No word yet on what fast food outlet will go in there. An earlier food vendor decision unraveled due to the delay. 

In closing, I asked McCarthy his opinion of high gas prices. He said “I hate them.” It turns out that high gas prices make everything more expensive, including the products that Blarney Castle sells. He attributes the high and fluctuating prices partly to the peculiar speculative market approach that is used for both oil purchases and no-oil-on-hand speculative betting. I hope that Blarney Castle does not exercise one of its other options and moves this project elsewhere. Although some residents oppose this project, I think that the majority approves it, but the seemingly endless requirements that need to be met have stalled this endeavor for at least another five to seven months.

I note with some irony that the required traffic study by EZ Mart might be overshadowed somewhat by the recent application by 45th Parallel Furniture to manufacture upholstered furniture at the adjacent location adjacent. Seems that traffic will increase in the vicinity anyway.

Note: I wanted to interview a member of the Planning Commission, but I received an email from Planning Commission Chair Barb Mullaly that stated:

It is my belief than any plan before the commission should be discussed in a public forum. Therefore, no one person can speak for the commission prior to any formal decision. Any opinion gleamed from an interview would be a personal opinion. Commission members are bound by law to make a decision when all relevant facts are presented and our bylaws clearly indicate ex parte communications should be avoided. I believe an interview with any news source could be viewed as an ex parte communication and I would not want any commission member exposed to a possible breach of the bylaws.

The meeting is tomorrow night, so I’ll attend and find out what is discussed.

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5 Responses to Whither EZ Mart?

  1. Greg Reisig says:

    I continue to be opposed to the EZ Mart and feel it is nothing more than small box sprawl creeping into Elk Rapids and will contribute very little to our village. The comparison of 45th Parallel Furniture traffic (13-15 cars) is not even close to the number of cars (400 or more per day) pulling onto First St.

    My personal feeling is this is an excellent piece of property for a small hotel or motel which would greatly benefit Elk Rapids and be a much better fit for the village.

    I beg to disagree on community support for the project. My belief is most people are opposed to another gas station/mini mart and would much rather see something that truly fits with our village character.

    Business for the sake of business is not always good.

  2. patti celovsky says:

    With all due respect Mr. Miller – your post is inaccurate and badgering the Planning Commission is inappropriate. Consider the following:
    • MDOT did recommend that a Traffic Impact Study be undertaken which our zoning administrator forwarded to the developer. The planning commission didn’t actually request it, as you implied. What is relevant about obtaining this Impact Study is that the developer actually knows there may be a traffic issue. They originally approached MDOT – prior to their application – to have a traffic light installed at this intersection. It was denied by MDOT.
    • The developer hasn’t disclosed to the Planning Commission the projected traffic flow to and from the site. The only information they provided was within their Market Study – which was a one line – incidental statement (i.e. not an in depth projection) which said they expected appx. 400 people to shop at the store daily. There will be a magnitude of added trucks, trailers, cars, etc. flowing all day, every day, on Village streets at a main intersection. There are legitimate traffic concerns. The developer needs to provide this information.
    • The developer did not have all of their required information for approval, as you mistakenly surmised. They haven’t provided even all of the basic information such as their hours of operation, traffic counts, maintenance plans (on storm water infrastructure), etc. These are all things which will have a huge impact on Village infrastructure and safety. Safety aside – the infrastructure supporting this development will be subject to excessive wear & tear due to the considerable increase of traffic – who will bear the expense of repair? On another note, storm water pollution from gas stations is notorious and should be scrutinized. Every effort to mitigate the release of toxins should be reviewed. Storm water pollution is one of the most detrimental threats facing our lakes. The planning commission has every legal right to request this information.
    • Your equating 45th Parallel Furniture traffic to that of a gas station doesn’t hold water. These two uses are completely disparate. 45th Parallel Furniture will have minimal traffic at very specific times of the work day. Implying that they will both generate “volumes” of traffic is false.
    • As for the developer’s “loss of a food franchisee” – there was speculation that the Subway would be re-locating (to the new gas station) from their current location in the strip retail next to Gillroys. This would not be adding any new jobs – merely transferring them from one location to another…..not to mention leaving a vacancy in their wake (along with the possible eventual vacancy of Speedway). This is called “Blight” and the ramifications are counter intuitive to a healthy economic outlook.
    I don’t share in your enthusiastic & anxious anticipation of this business in our community and based on what I saw at the public forum & what I have heard since – neither does the majority of the community.

  3. Hi Greg,

    One of my concerns with the EZ Mart application is the remarkable number of requirements that have been required of Blarney Castle. At some point, a long list, plus what appears to be an increasing number of items on the list, starts to look like calculated obstructionism.

    I promote due diligence, but I also recognize that both Blarney Castle and our volunteer Planning Commission have a limited amount of time to work on Special Use Permit issues. And I don’t like excluding legitimate businesses because I don’t like them. For me, it seems like a line has been crossed that is requiring Blarney Castle to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles.

    As always, Greg, I doubt that my opinion is God-like perfect, so I look forward to hearing more from you. And I note that we agreed on the Dam Beach issue, but not this time.

  4. Pingback: Opposing EZ Mart | Elk Rapids Live

  5. Pingback: Opposing EZ Mart | Elk Rapids Live

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