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Letters 06-20-2016

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Home · Articles · News · Other Opinions · The Battle in Acme
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The Battle in Acme

Jim Lively - March 1st, 2007
Acme Township’s brave battle to build a village instead of a pair of huge shopping centers is raging again. No matter where you live in Northern Michigan, you should care about this.
Acme’s struggle is more than another fight between aggressive developers and growth-fearing townies. Unlike many communities that have allowed themselves to be gradually paved over during the past half-century, Acme residents took the time a few years ago to decide, together, what they wanted their
community to look and feel like—and wrote it into their master plan.
Their idea was visionary: Concentrate development, rather than letting it run rampant across Acme’s beautiful countryside. Transform a 182-acre field along M-72 near U.S. 31 into a downtown resembling Elk Rapids or Suttons Bay. Give it a main street, lots of retail businesses and offices, and surround it with traditionally designed, walkable neighborhoods with pleasurable and practical nearby destinations—parks, stores, and work places. Encourage community, rather than eviscerate it.
But Acme’s board of trustees now finds itself in a startling, ironic bind.
After sweeping the previous board out of office because it ignored the master plan and instead approved a massive shopping mall “lifestyle center” for the M-72 site—and after winning, as a township board and as individual citizens, three out of three lawsuits involving either the lifestyle center or a Meijer store proposal for an adjacent field—the current trustees now face their own recall election on Tuesday, February 27.
Even though the master plan that the board is defending allows lots of commercial development, even though the board has repeatedly invited the developers to work with them and a renowned consultant to find a compromise, and even though the board has already granted Meijer permission to build a 232,000-square-foot store, recall proponents insist that the trustees are anti-growth, anti-property rights extremists.
In evaluating that accusation, it’s important to understand the scale of the developers’ proposals: a lifestyle center and an adjacent big-box mall that, together, would contain slightly more than one million square feet of commercial space—about the size of the Grand Traverse Mall and Grand Traverse Crossing combined. In retail space alone, moreover, the Acme proposal still exceeds the 461,000 square feet of retail space that downtown Traverse City—the region’s largest city—offers.
So, perhaps, when the current board puts modest conditions on the design
of these developments, it is not about being anti-growth. Maybe it is about
self-defense.

Jim Lively directs the Michigan Land Use Institute’s Northwest Michigan program. Reach him at jim@mlui.org.
 
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