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January 16, 2013

Planning Commission: Coffee to go is no-go for Tim Hortons

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

The fourth time was not a charm for a developer who hoped to move forward with plans for a Tim Hortons Café and Bake Shop on the northwest corner of Square Lake and Dequindre. It would have been the fourth Tim Hortons in Troy.

After two hours of discussion and residents’ comments at the Jan. 8 meeting, the Planning Commission unanimously postponed making a decision on a conditional rezoning request needed to allow for a drive-thru window at the restaurant. The Planning Commission is the recommending body for conditional rezonings, and the City Council has final approval. 

Three Tim Hortons currently operate in Troy: one on Rochester Road between Big Beaver and Wattles, one on Big Beaver, and another at Maple and John R.

The developer, Burt Kassab, requested a change from the current zoning of Neighborhood Node N, which allows low-intensity commercial uses, to Community Business to accommodate the drive-thru window on the 0.68-acre parcel, allowed under a special-use permit.

Ben Carlisle of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, the city’s planning consultant, did not recommend approval of the request. He cited numerous issues on the relatively small-sized parcel, such as traffic conflicts, a parking space that would jut out into the driving aisle, internal traffic circulation issues, access, lack of a snow storage and high visibility from Square Lake of a garbage Dumpster.

“We cannot recommend conditional rezoning at this time,” he said.

The proposed plans included access from Dequindre and Square Lake. Mark Kellenberger, spokesman for Tim Hortons, told the Planning Commission that the company wanted to pursue a 24-hour operation because of the close proximity of the site to Beaumont Hospital, Troy, and its employees working different shifts.

“Unfortunately, the size is what it is,” Kassab said. He said that, without a drive-thru, Tim Hortons would not open on the site. “The property owner has been trying to develop this site for seven years,” he said. “Based on the circulation on this site, we think a drive-thru is functional.”

Numerous residents disagreed. Comments ranged from concerns about noise generated by the 24-hour drive-thru, to traffic congestion near a school bus stop and litter.

One resident, James Grix, supported the rezoning request and said it would bring employment and generate more taxes. “If we don’t approve it, Tim Hortons will walk across the street (to Sterling Heights). It’s been an empty lot a long time.”

Lisa Havlish, a Briarwood resident, said she was concerned about noise and suggested reusing existing sites nearby, such as the site where the Big Boy restaurant had operated on Long Lake.

“I find too many deficiencies in this as designed,” Planning Commissioner Tom Krent said.

Planning Commissioner Gordon Schepke disagreed. “I think it’s an almost perfect fit for the area,” he said.

Kassab said they had not completed a traffic study at this time.

In his report, Carlisle states, “The site is only 0.68 acres in area. The site appears too tight for adequate circulation for a drive-thru use and creates the potential for both automobile and pedestrian conflicts.

“Furthermore, the size limitation of the site does not allow for adequate buffering from adjacent residential uses.”

Planning Commissioner Philip Sanzica said the developer first approached the Planning Commission with the rezoning request last May during a study session and said the proposed plans were an overuse for the site.

“I’m really disappointed they didn’t address the issues,” he said. “I understand why the residents are concerned. They’re trying to put too much on a property that really doesn’t belong there.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.