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Acme Needs a Grand VisionPrint

Thriving Communities | September 14, 2009 | By Jim Lively

This old orchard in Acme Township has been the focus of a longstanding community dispute about how to build a new village there. A developer is again proposing to start with a big-box Meijer store.

If the Grand Vision wanted a ‘poster community’ to illustrate the challenge of implementing the region’s new growth strategy, it would be Acme Township.

For more than 5 years, Acme residents have been split over their support for a proposed village center development that would contain a big-box store, other commercial storefronts and new residential units.

Some can’t wait for more shopping options that will keep them from having to drive across Traverse City. Others are deeply concerned about the impact of traffic and the aesthetics of a major commercial development on this rural community.

During those years, there have been many hotly contested elections and lawsuits but nothing has been built. But now that the lawsuits appear to be settled, the developer of the proposed Village at Grand Traverse is attempting again to have his project approved by the township.

The Concerned Citizens of Acme Township, which was behind much of the litigation opposing the Village proposal, continues to maintain that they are supportive of a walkable, neighborhood-oriented village in their township, and will even accept a big-box Meijer store. But they remain concerned that too much commercial space is being proposed, as well as a lack of commitment to residential neighborhoods and an auto-oriented design.

So this is not a discussion about whether there should be a new village in Acme Township, or even where it should be located. Instead it needs to be a discussion about what is the right scale, commercial to residential ratio, and overall design to create a lasting, walkable village. Neither the township officials nor the developer have a track record of planning a real town center, and the have not worked well together.

This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the new regional commitment of the Grand Vision to bring expertise to the table to negotiate a workable solution.

As a result of a massive public involvement process last year, a regional Grand Vision emerged with very clear results: “to create attractive and active village centers where people can gather and engage.”

Since then, one of the biggest criticisms of the Grand Vision has been a general skepticism that anything will change - that it will end up as just one more report on a shelf, while business as usual occurs on the ground.

Acme Township offers an early critical test to see if the Grand Vision will actually make a difference on a important community issue. It is time for the key Grand Vision partners to step up and offer support, resources, and guidance on this high-profile regional project.

The Michigan Land Use Institute is committed to bringing our resources to the table to help Acme Township officials, residents and the developer find a workable solution. We expect to see our partner groups and the citizens who spoke out about their Grand Vision for the future also show up to help. Now is the time.