EastpointeMay 22, 2012
Plans for credit union site move forward
By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer
EASTPOINTE — Michigan First Credit Union is tentatively moving forward with its site plans in Eastpointe.
The credit union previously threatened to pull out of the project after its site plans were rejected by the Zoning Board of Appeals last month.
But at the May 3 Planning Commission meeting, the commission voted unanimously to allow the credit union to proceed with its plans under one condition: The City Council, all members of which rallied in support of the proposed site, do as promised and amend a city ordinance.
The ordinance, the reasoning behind the zoning board’s rejection, states that no commercial business can have a driveway coming out onto a side street unless there is a commercial property across the street. Their site plan has an entryway off Crusade, across from a residential property.
But the council is already in the process of updating the ordinance to allow for one or more driveways onto side streets from commercial property if one or more driveways were already there when redevelopment started.
The lot — which used to house a bowling alley — had three driveways when Michigan First purchased it, and under the amendment, the single driveway they propose is well within the confines of the ordinance.
With the tentative approval from the Planning Commission, Michigan First continued with construction for the new site, which is located directly south of its current location on Gratiot, at the southeast corner of Toepfer.
“There are some more things that need to be done on the administrative level, but I think I can say that the project is back on track, and I am very excited about that,” said Michael Poulos, president and CEO of Michigan First.
But some zoning board members are still against it. They say that the ordinance was put in place to protect residents, and amending it goes against the best interest of the residents on Crusade.
“The ordinance is designed to protect the interest of residents, and having an entryway and exit off crusade will increase traffic on the street,” said Zoning Board of Appeals member Walter Jakubiak. “I have personally gone out and spoken to the residents on Crusade, and they do not want it.”
Others at City Hall say it is actually better for the residents because a nice building there will not only block light and sound from Gratiot, but will increase their property values far more than an abandoned lot.
“What we have here is a reversal of deterioration,” said City Manager Steve Duchane. “You’re putting a better face on the city for the public. And that’s a lot bigger than just one site. I am here to protect a variety of interests, and a part of that is sustainability and development of the community. We want to protect everybody from having a financial loss, and that includes the residents and the businesses.”
The new facility would be an improvement aesthetically. Among its features are a two-story glass walled entrance facing Gratiot, an expanded parking lot, three tandem teller windows that can service two cars at once, two drive-through ATMs, 3-foot-high masonry walls, linden trees around the premises and small green spots.
“We really do everything top-notch,” Poulos said. “We make all of our buildings look nice.”
It’s not just the look of the building and removal of blight that will be an improvement, though, the current site sits on an awkwardly shaped lot, and because of its location, traffic problems and accidents are common there.
“I have wheeled over and parked in the bowling alley parking lot, so I can get in and out quicker because it is a mess trying to get in and out of the current location,” said Mayor Pro tem Bill Sweeney.
“I have watched on numerous occasions people get frustrated at not being able to turn in at Toepfer and shoot down Crusade. If their present location could fit a Gratiot entrance, I don’t think that would be an issue, but Toepfer backs up huge there. The current location has created a traffic issue, but I personally believe that that issue will go away with this new site.”
Architects for Michigan First, the city planner and officials from MDOT all agree: The new site would reverse the current traffic problem and offer a traffic flow that should be prohibitive of creating a new issue, especially considering their plan for the current site once they get the new one up and running.
“We tried to figure out how we can best use that other property for the betterment of the community, and the best idea right now is for a green spot,” said Poulus. “It’s still at the concept level, but right now it’s the best idea on the table.”
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