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Posted on Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 6:04 a.m.

Costco plans put on hold until Pittsfield Township master plan changes set vision for area

By Paula Gardner

Costco’s effort to build a store in Pittsfield Township continues, with store officials fine-tuning their development plans based on reaction received during Thursday’s first public meeting on the proposal.

However, a clearer timeline for the proposed development also took shape: The popular warehouse club will have to wait until the township completes its master plan revisions before it can seek a final vote.

costco mtg.jpg

Ted Johnson of TJ Design Strategies in Oak Brook, Ill., presented details of Costco's plans to the Pittsfield Township Planning Commission on Thursday night.

Paula Gardner |

Officials estimate the master plan process will end in January 2011, clearing the way for Costco to seek its approvals afterward.

“Costco understands our timeline,” Planning Commission Chairman Matthew Payne said. “Our postponement was not a surprise to them.”

The reason, officials said, is the store’s proposed location on Ellsworth between South State and Airport Boulevard is centered in an area that’s prime for redevelopment — particularly after Costco, if approved, raises the area’s commercial profile.

“The current landscape may not be the landscape in the future,” said Commissioner Amy Longcore.

That, they said, means Costco’s proposal gives the township a unique opportunity to shape the future direction of the State and Ellsworth area as it weighs the single proposal.

Jack Frank, Costco’s vice president for real estate development, said he recognized the store was a catalyst for the township's future development.

“We’d like to be the economic engine that drives your redevelopment efforts,” he said. “The (projects) that follow us will emulate the look that we establish.”

costco site plan.jpg

Costco had filed a request to rezone 17 acres on Ellsworth Road, now occupied by nine office buildings.

The Planning Commission, at its meeting Thursday, voted to postpone that request. Costco officials will continue to discuss plans with staff, and when the master plan process is complete, the store will resubmit plans in a different format: A planned unit development.

The move means no decision will be made on the store until early 2011 at the earliest, despite the intense interest in the plan from residents.

About 45 people sat in the audience Thursday, listening to township planner Paul Montagno give a staff report before Costco representatives outlined the principles of the company and specifics of the upscale warehouse club’s designs for 17 acres on Ellsworth Road.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, 11 people spoke. Most were in favor of the store.

Mike Reed, who lives about one mile west of the proposed store, described the site as an “old, tired environment.”

He continued: “I hope you’ll allow this development. It’s an opportunity to jumpstart the revitalization of that whole (area)."

Another reason cited was the new jobs the store would bring. Frank said about 230 people would be hired, about half full-time. The average starting wage is $11.50 per hour, he said, with most earning $19-$20 per hour. Most employees also are eligible for benefits, he added.

Exposure for nearby businesses was noted by Larry Osterling, president of the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce, and Androulla Youssef, part of the partnership that owns the former Chi-Chi’s on South State, recently reopened as Passports Restaurant and Lounge.

“This will be a plus to the community,” Youssef said. “I’m here to support the project in the strongest possible fashion.”

But some speakers also urged caution due to traffic and environmental concerns.

Resident Andy Lawrence said he was a fan of Costco, but as a nearby homeowner, he valued having office space as a buffer to the higher-intensity commercial corner.

“If it’s too big for Zeeb Road,” he said, referring to the store’s failed effort to build in Scio Township several years ago, “it’s too big for Ellsworth.”

Other speakers encouraged the store to pursue sustainable construction and wanted details on traffic mitigation.

“This is going to be the gateway to Pittsfield Township,” said Kathie Mahn.

Store officials had met earlier Thursday with the Washtenaw County Road Commission, according to officials, as they try to finalize a plan for road improvements near the store.

After ongoing discussions with the road commission and Ann Arbor area officials, all parties now agree on the projections for how traffic would be distributed on the various roads after a store is built, officials said.

“We have recommended various improvements in the general area,” Costco consultant Ted Johnson said. “…We do intend to make traffic improvements to the adjacent roadways by this site.”

Payne said after the meeting that specific solutions haven't been outlined, but they could include a roundabout and improvements to traffic flow at State and Airport.

“We’re very positive about Costco, but concerned about traffic on State and Ellsworth,” he said. “We’re not just looking at how (the building) looks. We’re doing everything we possibly can for Costco to help expand that road network to improve traffic flow.”

During their reaction to the plans, planning commissioners also spoke about non-motorized traffic patterns and the desire to make the area walkable. Sidewalks and building scale were focal points.

Planning commissioners also raised some concerns and questions about the proposal.

Planning Commissioner Ann Harris said she was hoping for something “more creative,” with more sustainable attributes. She also wanted assurances the store would seek local vendors.

“I was disappointed when I saw the layout. It’s a parking lot with a big building on it. I was expecting something a little grander in terms of improvements to the area,” said Planning Commissioner Christopher Wall.

Frank accepted the reactions, saying it was up to the development team to better outline how it had made its decisions and to present more options — including the pursuit of “urban flair.”

The design of the building that Costco presented is contemporary, but Frank said the drawings that accompanied the plans lacked a “richness of detail” for commissioners to get the sense of how the finished product would look on the site with the full landscaping.

“We hear you and we will come back,” he said. “We want to exceed your expectations.”

Meanwhile, commissioners stressed that while they’re considering Costco for a specific site, the impact of the decision on this store extends to the future of the township corridor.

More development is likely to follow the store to the area, they said. Speedway is rebuilding its store, three smaller retail developments have been approved at the corner, and possibilities for more redevelopment is possible among older buildings.

“Costco is setting the stage,” Payne said. “It’s important that we get a good site plan, and a good look and feel to Costco. The architecture there will have an impact on the other development that would go in there, and we’ll want it to match (Costco’s) standards.”

Proposed Pittsfield Township Costco store details:

  • The size is 148,500 square feet, including a tire changing facility.
  • The main entrance is at the northwest corner.
  • Carts would be stored under a canopy along the north edge of the building.
  • The gas station at the northeast portion of the property — set back from the road to preserve trees — will only be a 3-island fueling station with no other retail sales.
  • 728 parking spaces, divided into islands with two trees and groundcover on each.
  • Stormwater retention will be in an underground vault, with a small outdoor area on the eastern edge of the property.
  • A sidewalk will be found on 3.5 sides; the topography of the remaining area won’t allow it.
  • Construction materials will be energy efficient, including light-colored, textured metal panels.
  • Landscaping will screen the parking area from the road and sidewalks.

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of, and she's covered development in Ann Arbor since 2003. Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by email. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.


Jay Allen

Mon, Sep 20, 2010 : 11:18 a.m.

All of you that have the "it takes a long time approach" -OR- "the twp has a master plan" OK, let's PLAY your game. Then why wait until a meeting to let this out? Why not approach Costco and let them know it would be when hell freezes over before they'll look into this? Answers to this, not more wasted bandwidth.


Sat, Sep 18, 2010 : 11:51 a.m.

Zingerman's little complex is on the other side of Airport, right? It is so nice to have them in this area. I'd hate to see them go. Also, I hope the NW (?) corner of Ellsworth and State is slated for some major improvement. The furniture store really needs to modernize their facade. There could be small stores opened along three sides of that unnecessarily huge parking lot with access on Ellsworth. Perhaps this has already been considered, but I hope the powers that be make that corner into kind of a gateway, a destination, including the former Chi Chi's. The stretch of State going south between 94 and Ellsworth is dismal.

John Q

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 8:24 p.m.

Some people here have a very distorted sense of how long projects of this size take. These projects don't get reviewed, approved and built in a matter of months. You can bet that Costco doesn't have any expectations of opening the store before 2012. Based on the economy, they may not be in any rush to get this store open any earlier than that.

Jimmy Olsen

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 6:48 p.m.

planned unit development = PUD = Pittsfield Township Planning Commission. Build it and they will come. Zone around them, but Costco will do the right thing. If this fails, next stop Saline....


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 4:08 p.m.

"Here we go with the latest fad. Roundabout!" Bring it on...they're great!


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 3:29 p.m.

"Payne said after the meeting that specific solutions haven't been outlined, but they could include a roundabout and improvements to traffic flow at State and Airport" Here we go with the latest fad. Roundabout!


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 3:14 p.m.

if you really want them Planning Commission do what you have to do and do it NOW


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 2:58 p.m.

I was disappointed when I saw the layout. Its a parking lot with a big building on it." Yeeeaahhhh. Costco. What was he expecting? Everything underground with a park built above it? If he is worried about trees and landscaping being put in, perhaps coming out and saying that would help clarify. I think Costco got that message in any case.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 2:30 p.m.

Yes, rush it through and six months after you'll hear complaints about the traffic, township didn't do their job, taxpayers end up footing the bill, etc. Look, this was just announced less than a few months ago, it's not Taco Bell, it a serious impact on the area. Of all the complaining about the Walmart, at least the traffic appears to not be a problem. Put some thought into it and you'll have others knocking at the door. Screw it up and not only is everyone upset, but developers will look elsewhere. Just don't get carried away with the other "wouldn't it be nice", solve the problem at hand.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 12:57 p.m.

I guess I keep driving to Brighton and giving them my sales tax dollars. Now at least until 2012 +

Jay Allen

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 11:49 a.m.

To any of you trying to say that building a Costco is wrong or trying to defend Pittsfield, why don't you folks get your ducks in a row before piping off? Why don't you understand what YOU are even saying before you hit submit? First off, it is irrelevant what the business is. It just so happens to be a Costco. Kind of a thin stance to take that; "Seems to me to many posters here are desperate for a Costco". LOL.......Too funny. Typical narrow minded approach to a far bigger problem/issue. Second, it isn't like they have to tear down a forest, ruin a corn field or anything else "Green" to get this done. They are tearing down one building and parking lot to build another. So the; "big box building with a parking lot. Make sure trees are added" card is rendered USELESS as there isn't any there now. Geez. Third, Pittsfield has shown their true colors in the past. This is NOT the first time that stall tactics have been used. Those of you that have thin arguments, do YOU live in the Twp? Did you attend the meetings when Wal-Mart wanted in? A few of those meetings were so ugly I thought PTPD was going to come in. They are doing the exact same thing with Costco and if Costco decided to take their bat and ball and go elsewhere, I wouldn't blame them and/or be surprised.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 11:25 a.m.

I liked to comment about the realities...a big box building with a parking lot. Make sure trees are added to it please. AND please don't dither around with this. Take some inititive and MOVE forward. Pittsfield Twshp shouldn't have a huge bureaucracy to dance around.

Rob Pollard

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 11:20 a.m.

Some folks have a "govt is being difficult/screwing business over" narrative that they seem to apply to every situation. There are certainly many cases where that is true, but it doesn't mean it's true in regards to Costco. For example, Thomas Donnelly's post stated, "Canton Michigan was viewed as a possible site for a Costco. Something botched the deal Now it has a Walmart being built on the site. Too much delay, and the good people at Costco will seek greener pastures. Get on the stick, folks." Ummm, Canton govt officials would have LOVED to have a Costco at that site. As noted, they approved a Wal-Mart there, so obviously there weren't "traffic" or "aesthetic" concerns of many big box stores. In fact, here's a story from 2007 (when Costco pulled out). Two key quotes: "In late 2005, the township board unanimously voted to rezone 18.76 acres of land for the development." (i.e., Canton was ready, just waiting on Cotsco) and "This hurts," said Canton Twp Supervisor Yack "From what we understand their current stores are not meeting sales expectations, and they have put on hold all the stores they were planning to build in Michigan." Does that sound like govt was in the way? No, it sounds like Costco pulled back from store openings in 2006-2009ish and by the time they started looking at spaces again, Wal-Mart had stepped in. That's business - has nothing to do with govt.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 11:03 a.m.

Seems to me to many posters here are desperate for a Costco. This is not a shovel ready project by any stretch. The township wants to start the master plan based on the information they received from Costco. If Costco had a completely different idea, then the townships master plan for the area would be useless. I am guessing none of these people know how the world operates with these large scale projects. There are other concerns that will need to be met before anything can be approved. There are current tenants, purchasing the property, plans for making sure the infrastructure can handle a store this size. If you thought last night was going to be, talk then approve, you are delusional.That is not how it works, nor how it should work.

Basic Bob

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 10:52 a.m.

The draft master plan looks like a Urban Planning fairy tale. It may detail a vision of the future, but there's not enough detail in it to hold up real development in the present. Enough of this academic exercise. The township needs to get their act together, and fast. Our future growth depends on pragmatic leadership now.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 10:23 a.m.

I posted my comment on the wall last night after the meeting. Seems like the Board thinks the store needs "prettying up". What they don't understand is Costco's basic design is environmentally friendly and sustainable and it's CHEAP. Costco does everything to keep COSTS DOWN. When they got Wal Mart to gussy up their store, Wal Mart just passed on the costs to the CUSTOMERS. The corner of State and Ellsworth doesn't exactly resemble Paris, and there is a Landfill just down the road. As I said in the meeting last night, the Board knew very little about Costco and that is disappointing, seems they think the world is their oyster, guess what folks, they may be the only ones who ever want to come here again and bring 230 good paying jobs and a solid tax base with them. Get it together, do your homework and as I said at the meeting last night DON'T BLOW IT!


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 10:15 a.m.

@ Go Blue Beat OSU: First off I love your name, secondly and most important what you said bears repeating I could not have said it better, thanks you for caring about our Township ( this is not go Green liberal A2) if our officials blow this chance we will recall them all: Costco understands our timeline, Planning Commission Chairman Matthew Payne said.".... excuse me...what is Payne talking about? Costco is the customer of Pittsfield. Pittsfield Twp needs to learn they are there to service the customer. Pittsfield has known about this for a long time. Other articles indicated that Pittsfield Twp was having on going discussions with Costco. Any master plan revisions should have been completed by now. The Costco proposal isn't a surprise to anyone. If the people at Pittsfield Twp can't run the process they need to get out of the way and let other people that know what they are doing take over. 230 jobs, plus construction jobs, are on hold because Pittsfield Twp staff can't get their act together. Wait, I have an idea, how about the Pittsfield Twp staff pay those 230 people that aren't working (out of their own pockets) because they can't manage the process. Thanks again for your effort to try to awake the sleeping giant!

My A2 cents

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 10:07 a.m.

The sooner Costco opens in Pittsfield Township, the happier this consumer will be!


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 10:04 a.m.

Please. Much ado about nothing. Costco will move forward just fine. I can't blame the township for wanting to have all its ducks in line and integrate plans for the area into the Costco plan. We are not talking about years, only an extra few months tops. Seems like it has been six months since Costco was first announced anyway. People need to sit back and realize the magnitude of what is at stake hear. We are talking about an area that can be the economic engine for a wide region, one that will stabilize and improve property values. Do you really want a township administration to rush everything through only to later realize that planning opportunities were missed? Me thinks residents would be quick to blame in that case. Think long term not short term. Costco isn't going anywhere else but Pittsfield.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 10:03 a.m.

only in a2 do they build stuff the people don't want and then delay/kill building something the people do. If Pitts delays this b/c of thier timeline I hope they have some sort of contract with Costco that they will indeed build it hinging on approval within x many months. WOuldn't want the twp to drag this out and have Costco give up on building. also to the man that likes the buffer of office buildings between his house and the busy corridor, you bought a house near an airport/busy corridor, a costco close by would be a plus for most new homeowners should you decide to sell. both brighton and livonia costcos have benefited from ann arbor costco customers, it's time we had one here.

Jay Allen

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

I live in the Twp. I wanted to attend last night but I had a prior engagement. I went to the Wal-Mart meetings and I heard what rubbish the "Planning Commission" spewed. This is the same story, different chapter. There are 2 or 3 folks on that board that simply do not get it. There are a handful of Pittsfield Twp residents that cry and whine, oh, um, huh, about EVERYTHING. This is a case of the vocal minority ruining it. Do you guys want basic proof that this is a stall tactic? Just like Wal-Mart? The Twp knew this was coming, right? They knew Cotsco had plans. They knew there was a meeting. So why wait until the actually MEETING to state, "Oh we need to wait on our *master* plan". This could have easily been stated MONTHS ago.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

Actually the new headline should be Pittsfield Township follows Ypsilanti board in revitalization. OK, So you like us will have empty buildings and no revitalization. We have a huge amount of land space and no building. Sounds like same O same O politics to me. Good luck Costco, you will be stalled for years. Ypsilanti has some huge land space maybe try here?


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 9:25 a.m.

Pittsfield Township officals need to work around the clock on their plan and move this project with Costco forward. As already mentioned, this will bring new jobs and tax revenue to the area. I do not shop at Costco due to the distance of the closest location, but will shop at Costco in Pittsfield Township.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 9:18 a.m.

Let me write a new headline for this story: Pittsfield Township Board members delay new development to give their real-estate friends more time to speculate. I don't know if its true, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was.

Sandy Castle

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 9:15 a.m.

Costco, if Pittsfield Twp doesn't want you, come on over to Ypsilanti Twp. We would love to have you! I bet we could find space for you on Huron/Whittaker, easy access to highways and lots of potential consumers!

Tom Joad

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 9:11 a.m.

Costco, yuck. Pay to shop

Thomas Donnelly

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 9:03 a.m.

Costco is a wonderful business and a good employer. I frequent the Livona Stores, but occasionally I get to Windson, Ontario or the Toledo store. I often ask the employes if they enjoy their jobs at Costco,and all answer affirmatively. Canton Michigan was viewed as a possible site for a Costco. Something botched the deal Now it has a Walmart being built on the site. Too much delay, and the good people at Costco will seek greener pastures. Get on the stick, folks. Jobs are at stake!


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

CALM DOWN PEOPLE! I do not think most people posting know the process. Based on what I read, Costco needs to do more work to "fine-tune." No development, no matter who it is, gets approval on their initial site plan. Initial site plans are submitted for REVIEW. During this time, suggestions are made to improve the plan or find problems and get public input. Just as every development that comes to town. This town or any other town. While Costco is doing this, the Master Plan will be finished. So, even though Costco's plan is "put on hold," there really is no significant delay since Costco has things they must do during the approval process. If there is a delay because of the Master Plan, it will probably be 1 to 3 months max since the Master Plan will be finish by the end of this year. I believe the Master Plan was started about a year ago. As the article says in the first paragraph, the plan continues.

Phil K.

Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 8:07 a.m.

Two points come to mind: 1. Costco kinda came up out of the blue and said "hey, we wanna build on this underdeveloped spot." In that situation, it seems like the township would want to say what they said last night: "fantastic, but we kinda need to look at what our plan was for the area and see how that needs to change to accommodate you guys, and future growth. Oh, and it'd be nice to make sure you're not planning on dumping raw sewage into the Huron river." 2. Even if the township went full tilt gonzo last night and rubber stamped whatever Costco wanted, what good would it have done? Aren't there still a couple tenants in the existing development? Does Costco even own the land they want to build on yet? There would be permits that still need to be pulled, and a I doubt that Costco even has demo contractors lined up for the site, let alone construction contracts. On top of that, even fast tracked, work probably wouldn't start at the site for another 30 days or so, longer if there are existing tenants, which by the calender I'm looking at says mid-October just to get the old buildings knocked down. So now we're talking almost November for ground breaking? That's not exactly ideal 'start a new construction project' time. Costco understands our timeline" That's the most important statement. Pittsfield Twp. wants Costco, Costco wants to move in. Both sides know that you're not going to break ground on Monday and have a grand opening on Friday. Priority is to get whatever tenants are still in the development out, *legally*, make sure the master plan gets the right input (maybe someone in planning wants to put in a fifteen consecutive roundabout monstrosity like the one in Brighton? Maybe some folks in the township would like a say in that), and make sure the ducks are all in a row so that once everybody's ready on both sides, this project gets knocked out. But hey, don't let me ruin a perfectly good "waaaaah! bloated big government!" cry-fest.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 7:44 a.m.

I have to agree with the other posters that there seems to be a general lack on diligence here on the part of Pittsfield Twp. If Pittsfield doesn't want the project that's one thing, but if they do want it the delays are a problem. As someone who has been through the development process, if you think you know everything about what the other party is thinking you have lulled yourself into a false sense of security, and it can come back to bite you in a big way.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 7:27 a.m.

It's kind of disappointing that this project is now delayed another 6 months due to the lack of a master plan by Pittsfield. But, I do understand the need for one given Costco's plan and what it will do for the surrounding area. Pittsfield obviously didn't know this project would happen, and now that it looks pretty firm, they're finally taking action on the master plan. Still, I think they could have started the ball rolling sooner. I hoping that it doesn't go any longer than January. Let the bureaucracy run it's course, but then it's time to take action. This area needs Costco, the jobs it will create (both directly and indirectly), and the extra business to the area. Let's not screw it up like last time they wanted to build around here.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 7:08 a.m.

Costco understands...but the uninvolved people don't! Some citizens, ie "We the People" have concerns, and are asking the twp to do their job. That is democracy, folks. BTW, before any Scio Twp bashing starts, remember it was "The People" that stopped Costco in Scio, specifically the folks inhabiting the Wing Dr area. The board just did what the people asked, not the other way around.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 6:49 a.m.

Pittsfield Township has had YEARS to "develop a master plan" and now that a big box store wants to build in the area they have decided to drag their feet on this much needed project and employer. I seriously doubt Costco will wait forever for the township to decide what it is they are doing and eventually pull out. Unbelievable!


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 6:21 a.m.

Costco understands our timeline, Planning Commission Chairman Matthew Payne said.".... excuse me...what is Payne talking about? Costco is the customer of Pittsfield. Pittsfield Twp needs to learn they are there to service the customer. Pittsfield has known about this for a long time. Other articles indicated that Pittsfield Twp was having on going discussions with Costco. Any master plan revisions should have been completed by now. The Costco proposal isn't a surprise to anyone. If the people at Pittsfield Twp can't run the process they need to get out of the way and let other people that know what they are doing take over. 230 jobs, plus construction jobs, are on hold because Pittsfield Twp staff can't get their act together. Wait, I have an idea, how about the Pittsfield Twp staff pay those 230 people that aren't working (out of their own pockets) because they can't manage the process.