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      Manistee residents weigh in on possible Meijer move-in

      Meijer representatives answer questions from community members at Thursday's planning commission meeting.

      The parking lot at the Manistee Township Hall was packed on Thursday evening as dozens of residents packed tightly inside to hear what superstore Meijer representatives had to say about their potential building plans, during the Manistee Township planning commission meeting.

      The retail giant owns 20 acres of land on the Southeast corner of U.S. 31 and M-55; the possible site for the new business.

      Though Meijer says that the process is in it's early stages of development, and that they have not made a final decision on whether or not to build in Manistee, people had plenty of questions to ask.

      "The residents had some fantastic comments, very good questions," said Rob Carson, Manistee County planning officer. "Some of them were rather difficult questions to answer and I think that they were very accurate in being able to describe good solid answers to those questions. And when they weren't able to answer those questions, they were able to provide information to the residents to get back to them and provide answers to them in the future."

      One big concern at tonight's meeting was how this large store will affect the small businesses in Manistee.

      "I think there's a lot of great opportunity with Meijer coming to our community," said Executive Director of Alliance for Economic Success in Manistee, Kathy Odair. "The EAS did an impact study a few years ago and realized there's over a $40 million leaking of retail sales going to either the East or South. To either Ludington or Cadillac. That doesn't even include Traverse City. So there is quite a need for retail opportunities within Manistee County."

      Another common topic of discussion revolved around landscaping. Commissioners asked Meijer representatives about how they plan to come to agreements with the township on how much landscaping is required by the township ordinance. Carson says that Meijer is currently trying to use slightly less landscaping than what is required by the ordinance because of the large parking structure that will host nearly 700 parking spaces.

      "The fact that many tree species can't survive in small islands in large areas of asphalt because of the heat island effect," said Carson. "You get radiated heat and it's just not healthy for the plants that are there."

      Meijer also presented plans for a gas station, bottle return center, and gardening center at the meeting.

      If everything is approved, Meijer hopes to begin construction at the end of 2013, and finish in the Spring of 2015.