Costco official tells Pittsfield Township: 'Time kills all deals'
For anyone wondering whether Costco’s patience may be wearing thin as Pittsfield Township extends its master plan revisions into their third calendar year, the answer now is part of the public record.
“Time kills all deals,” said Jackie Frank, Costco’s vice president for real estate development, during the March 17 Planning Commission meeting.
File photo | AnnArbor.com
The comment came during his presentation that detailed the progress toward building the store. It's the second effort by Costco to build in the region in recent years, after Scio Township turned down a request.
Now Pittsfield Township is ready to rezone the property for the commercial development, and officials say they welcome the retailer.
The only holdup: Officials also have said the rezoning can’t take place until the “Pittsfield 2010” master plan revision is concluded.
Frank’s comment wasn’t adversarial. And after the meeting, he told me the store wasn’t threatening to walk away from the deal. The net result from the meeting was the project is “still moving in a positive direction,” he said.
Yet the public also got its first glimpse into how the store is responding to the continued extension of the timeline.
It’s moving forward in good faith and wants to keep the project collaborative and productive, Frank said.
But he also offered a request to planning commissioners: “Please expedite your master land use plan.”
The store began its siting effort for the store in early 2010, and the township confirmed its interest in seeing the store built there last April. The effort, Frank said, was pursued with the belief that the master plan would be done in November, he said.
“Here it is March,” he told the planning commission, noting that it likely will be June before the new master plan is adopted.
The presentation also gave Frank a chance to say that he thinks the work on the store that’s been accomplished by the township and the Costco team is making a better project. The results of the effort were on display later in the meeting, when Costco representatives detailed changes to the building plans, the site engineering and the pending agreement to roadway improvements.
But those ongoing conversations that prompted the changes also included a recent report by township planning consultant Richard Carlisle, which asked Costco to consider things like a pedestrian access, internal site circulation and the number and width of parking spaces.
Much of that already has been presented, discussed and revised in earlier communication with the township, including two previous visits to the Planning Commission.
That report, Frank told commissioners, “retraces steps that we together have made progress on.”
“In the last few weeks, we’ve taken steps backwards,” Frank said.
Both his reaction and the comments in Carlisle’s report were meant to be constructive, Frank said.
Still, he said, “if we could have had a dialogue this could have been a much shorter and less painful process.”
So what is next for Pittsfield Township’s master plan?
The 60-day public comment period should start in April, according to officials, and then changes will be made before it’s adopted.
Supervisor Mandy Grewal and other township officials have been open about what they expect with the master plan, and none of them predict a massive overhaul from the direction it’s already taken. That includes formalizing 6 commercial “nodes,” including the Costco site, which would allow the store to be built.
There’s already a lot of support for the commercial zoning at State and Ellsworth - so much, in fact, that Planning Commission Chair Matthew Payne suggested pursuing a conditional approval for Costco in advance of the master plan revisions. That could happen next month.
“We don’t want to wait until June or something (on Costco),” he said.
That solution would suit Costco, Frank said. And he’d appreciate the option, he told me later.
And despite the frustration that crept into the meeting, Frank expressed Costco’s intent to keep proceeding with the effort to build its long-sought store in Washtenaw County.
“Our goal,” Frank told commissioners, “is to meet your expectations and put our best foot forward and hopefully be a welcome addition to the community.”