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Rezoning recommended for McDonald's

The plan is to move the Oxford McDonald’s from its current 280 N. Washington St. location and build a new restaurant just north of Market St. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
May 19, 2010 - Plans to move the Oxford McDonald's a little further north got one step closer to becoming a reality last week as the township planning commission recommended a necessary rezoning.

Following a May 13 public hearing, commissioners voted 6-0 to recommend the rezoning of a 1.513-acre parcel on the west side of M-24 – north of Market St. and south of Ray Rd. – to general commercial (C-2) zoning.

"Due the fact it's consistent with the current master plan – it's what we've always planned for some of that area to be developed as in the near future – I don't have a problem with this rezoning," said Planning Commissioner Tom Berger.

McDonald's is looking to build a 4,362-square-foot restaurant, complete with drive-through, on the site, which is vacant and currently owned by Randal D. Bellestri.

"It brings it closer to all the other commercial areas, so it's a win-win for the whole community and ourselves," said Iggy Pipitone, area construction manager for McDonald's USA, LLC in Brighton.

The existing McDonald's, located at 280 N. Washington St. (M-24), would be closed once the new restaurant was constructed and operational.

Pipitone noted the current restaurant is about 35 years old and is outdated in many respects. "It's time," he said. "We're trying to be green. We're looking at ways to have a more (energy) efficient building, much less heating and cooling."

The parcel McDonald's wishes to build on consists of 0.52 acres taken from an 11.23-acre parcel zoned local commercial (C-1) and 0.993 acres taken from a 19.73-acre parcel zoned research/office (RO). Both are owned by Bellestri.

A lot split and combination was already approved May 8 by the planning commission's acreage/lot split subcommittee. It's currently awaiting approval from the Oakland County Land Division Department.

Planning Commission Chairman Todd Bell noted none of the consultants who reviewed the proposed rezoning had any objections to it. "The fire department and the sheriff's department and (Michigan Department of Transportation) have no issue with this," he said. "MDOT has a couple issues, but those will come up with planning. Those have nothing to do with the rezoning of this."

The only person who did express some concerns was Oxford resident Charles McKenna, who resides in the condominium development along Stony Lake Dr., part of Waterstone. This reporter interviewed him following the meeting.

"I'm concerned about the traffic that already flows through Stony Lake Drive. It's kind of a thoroughfare between Market (St.) and M-24," he said. "With the addition of this McDonald's on that side of M-24, it might increase that traffic and it might not. I don't know."

"The residents around here have already voiced some concerns about the speed and the amount of traffic that does flow through here," McKenna noted.

He's also concerned about how the proposed McDonald's would impact traffic along M-24, on which the restaurant's only ingress and egress would be located.

"That McDonald's is going to be located right in front of the Michigan (U-turn) that people use to turn back to the entrance to Waterstone and Stony Lake," McKenna said. "I don't know how they're going to funnel the traffic through there at that point."

"Most of the north-to-south traffic is probably going in excess of 45-50 miles per hour at that point," he noted. "I don't know how they're going to manage that . . . Whether or not the McDonald's, once it goes up, is going to create a traffic bottleneck there, I don't know."

In his May 7 zoning analysis, township planner Brian Oppmann, of the Ann Arbor-based Carlisle/Wortman Associates, addressed the potential traffic impact.

"Increased traffic will be expected by developing the site as a commercial use," he wrote. "However, MDOT will ensure the proper acceleration/deceleration lanes or other measures will be installed to limit possible traffic conflicts."

McKenna was curious about whether or not McDonald's had explored building on the east side of M-24.

"It seems to me there are some properties available on the other side of M-24 that might make a more reasonable place to put a McDonald's," he said. "The traffic over there is already flowing in that direction. There's a Chili's standing there vacant. Whether or not that particular property suits McDonald's needs, I don't know."

Despite his concerns, McKenna said he understands development is going to happen.

"I'm fairly certain it's going to pass," he said. "You can't stop progress, I understand that. Progress is progress. There are a lot of commercial properties up there that are eventually going to get built up and we'll just have to live with it."

McDonald's rezoning request must now go before the township board for two readings and a vote to approve or deny it.

In order to have a drive-through, the restaurant chain must obtain a special land use permit from the township, which will require another public hearing.

According to Pipitone, because McDonald's is still going through the necessary planning and zoning steps, it's hard to say when the new restaurant will be built.

"It all depends on the weather and when we get approval," he said. "We don't want to start something that we can't finish. If the weather's against us, we'll have to do it starting next year. Would we like to (do it this year)? Sure. But again we have to go through all the obstacles first. Once we get the green light, we'll make a decision then."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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