Ypsilanti delays decision on $1.2M Family Dollar development on Water Street property
Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com
The Ypsilanti City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night, with council members Brian Robb and Susan Moeller as the two no votes, to delay a decision on the purchase agreement until April 23.
Council member Daniel Vogt said his mindset a year ago, in regards to the Water Street property, was that any development was better than nothing. However, he said his thinking has now changed and believes the city should take its time when picking future developments.
"I think we need to delay this and not get involved with a commitment," Vogt said. " I think we want to let the master plan run... I have nothing against Family Dollar, but I don't think we're ready to commit. I think it would be wrong."
Vogt said he believes a decision on Family Dollar should be delayed until the Shape Ypsi master plan process is completed.
The master plan is expected to be completed near the end of the summer.
Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson said the 38-acre Water Street property has been vacant for years and is in long need of development.
In 2010, the city considered a proposal from Burger King to open a location on 1 acre of Water Street. Burger King offered to purchase the parcel at Michigan Avenue and Park Street for $400,000. The city council ultimately rejected the proposal.
"I don’t think that just because we’re in a flurry of creating a new master plan that it's going to have that much of an effect on Water Street," Richardson said. "I don't see any sense in us postponing or tabling it. I think we have done that over the years and I really think we have sat on it long enough. I think it's time for us to move on."
The delay will allow the city and Family Dollar to come to an agreement on some terms that could potentially change the location of the store on the Water Street site, and increase the size of the area it would occupy, among other things.
"In 2006, Joseph Freed and Associates had proposed a full scale development plan for the site," said City Planner Teresa Gillotti. "They had proposed a pharmacy and they had sized it at 1.4 acres."
One of the changes to the purchase agreement could see Family Dollar's footprint increase from 1.1 acres to 1.4.
"It is a goal of this master plan process to have a master plan for the Water Street site," Gillotti said. "We currently don't have that now, but we're in the discovery phase."
This past week, the city met with community members to discuss the master plan process and Gillotti said Family Dollar was a recurring topic.
"One of the things that came up most frequently of this discussion of the parcel was that the curb cut should match Lincoln Street to the north and one of the things that was suggested was to make the parcel slightly larger," Gillotti said. "There was quite a bit of conversation about where the building should be orientated on site."
The property is currently slated to be located on the northeast corner of the Water Street site, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Park Street, but that could change.
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
Core Resources Representative Bill Tippman said the company, which is the developer for this project, is willing to work with the city on some modifications.
"We would very much like to bring that business deal to a close and bring that flexibility to accomodate that master plan process," Tippman said. "We have approvals that we need to get corporately first that we need to get to move forward."
However, Tippman cautioned council to remember that in order to move the project forward, they must approve the agreement soon. Tippman said he wasn't notified of the master plan update process until last week.
"I just want to respectfully remind council that 90 days ago we signed a letter of intent," Tippman said. "The other party (Family Dollar) is left with a deal that’s different than what we had 90 days ago. We would like to get the deal done."
Dave Heikkenen, owner of Heikk's Decorated Apparel Studio at 133 W. Michigan Avenue, urged council to consider not moving forward with the Family Dollar plan until the master plan process is fully completed or possibly not at all.
"There's a lot of vision for the property and very few of them are complimentary to the Family Dollar," he said. " I would defer the whole thing... Ann Arbor is talking about a 14-story high-rise, we have to set our sights higher."
Heikkenen criticized Family Dollar's other locations in the Ypsilanti area, saying he feared the proposed one might not be kept up.
"The one on East Michigan Avenue has a crooked sign hanging," he said. "It looks dilapidated... We have to maximize the value of this property and raise our standards."
Council member Pete Murdock said it's time to move the proposal forward into a reality.
"We've heard a lot of discussion about Family Dollar and whether it's the right project and that we need a vision and a plan," Murdock said. "The fact is, we have a vision and a plan."
Mayor Paul Schreiber is in favor of the project moving forward, citing sustainability and predictability as things the city needs.
"I do support having a Family Dollar proposal and I wold also like to see it be more instep with the grid structure that the master plan is going to come up with," he said. "I think Family Dollar is a good use and we will have a diverse group of people using the store... It's like Walgreens without the liquor and drugs."
Council approved a letter of intent Nov. 20 with Core Resources, Family Dollar's development partner, to purchase and develop approximately 8,320 square feet of the 36-acre Water Street property.
The letter of intent was signed on Dec.10, establishing 90 days for the city to finalize the plans with Family Dollar.
Family Dollar is proposing purchasing the land from the city for $210,000 and investing about $800,000 in improvements, not including land cost. The estimated taxable value for the Family Dollar is between $350,000 and $400,000, which would result in an estimated $30,000 a year in taxes.
Family Dollar hopes to begin construction by this summer.