Costco gets nod from planners _ local news _ record-eagle. com

TRAVERSE CITY — A proposed Costco Wholesale store won a positive recommendation for a needed zoning change from city planners, but a split among the two city commissioners on the planning board may herald a rougher ride when the question goes before the city commission.

Costco wants to build a 156,000-square-foot store and gas station on 18 of 60 acres owned by Cherry Capital Airport on South Airport Road east of the entrance to the airport’s main passenger terminal. The proposed amendment will make the city’s transportation district, which encompasses mostly airport property, one of the most flexible zoning districts in the municipality, allowing industrial, office, certain retail and drive-through businesses to operate side by side.

The flexibility will accommodate existing and proposed uses on the airport-owned property, including some uses that are not currently compliant with zoning, said Airport Director Kevin Klein. He cited Traverse City Light & Power’s use of airport property on Hastings Road as an example of a use not in compliance with existing city zoning.

The mix of uses allowed and those that are banned is based in part on Federal Aviation Administration Regulations. City planners also struck some uses objected to by the East Bay Township Planning Commission and will require buildings to have certain architectural elements, and roof-top mechanical systems must be hidden from the view of nearby township homes.

“All of the concerns of the planning commissions have been included in the amendment and it has been a very open process,” Klein said. “It’s an amendment that had a lot of input and a product that will reflect everyone’s needs.”

City Commissioner Ross Richardson joined the majority in supporting the amendment on Tuesday but his fellow city commissioner, Gary Howe, cast the lone “no” vote.

Howe raised concerns about the sizing of retail stores and objected to a 20-foot-wide vegetative buffer along South Airport Road. Howe said allowing construction of stores up to the road right of way with sidewalks in front and parking in the rear, similar to downtown streets, would be “an improvement” to South Airport Road.

City Planner Russ Soyring said the vegetative buffer was preferred to give the area a softer, more rural feel in line with the surrounding neighborhoods and airport entrance design.

Howe is among a group of city commissioners sometimes referred to as the “anti-car contingent” of the commission, which tends to favor pedestrian-friendly, high-density, urban-like developments over businesses that rely on cars. City commissioners likely will take up the zoning amendment on April 18.

“It could be an issue, but to me it’s a no-brainer,” Richardson said. “It fits the airport, it’s good for the airport, it’s good for the city, it’s good for the economy and it creates decent jobs.”

Klein said he’s not concerned about the proposal’s reception at the city commission.

“I think we’ve been partners with the city commission over the years and this is of a mutual benefit to the city and the airport,” Klein said. “Going forward I look forward to the city (commission) supporting it.”