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New 'fueling facility'?

Indianwood Junction asks township for approval of expansion plan

July 14, 2010 - Running low on fuel?

If all goes according to plan, Orion Township residents may soon have what some call a 'much needed' pit stop.

Darrell and Marylou Enneking , owners of Indianwood Junction Party Store, recently walked away with conceptual approval after delivering plans for expansion to the township planning commission.

The proposed Planned Unit Development (PUD) project calls for a 4,100 square foot gas station/convenience store and adjoining restaurant with drive-thru window.

The current building, which sits on a 1.5-acre parcel on the southwest corner of Baldwin Road and Indianwood Road, is more than 100 years old.

"About 15 years ago, I thought it might be great to see what the public wanted," said Darrell Enneking, who, along with his wife has owned the business for some 33 years. "The number one thing requested was a fueling facility."

Enneking said he received a mostly-positive response from neighbors and homeowner associations back then, but got dismayed by Orion's building stance and decided to back off for a while.

"Just recently, about a year and a half ago, I decided its now or never," he said after a joint public hearing held by the Orion Township Planning Commission and the Board of Trustees, Wednesday, July 7.

The PUD includes demolition of the old and construction of a new building, and installation of gas pumps with an overhead canopy.

An underground storm water detention system and new septic field are also proposed

While zoning regulation in the area prohibit such a project – specifically gas stations and drive-thru facilities – the township's zoning ordinance allows for the PUD, which is similar to a rezoning, but not, in fact, a rezoning.

In order to be eligible for PUD approval, township documents cite a number of specific requirements: recognizable benefit, preservation of natural features, and improvements in traffic patterns, for starters.

But many who showed up at the public hearing to cite concerns were concerned with traffic flow, especially given the roundabout constructed in 2004.

"We're in a bad way in that turning circle now," said Elmer Whaley, a Baldwin Road resident. "With more (traffic) in that area it's going to be worse. Quite often there's a police car right in front of my house and I'm sure they're giving a ticket for something that happened in that circle."

Dennis Smirnow said he wasn't against the project, but did have concerns about traffic and hoped the township would commission a study to ensure neighbors weren't signing off on "something that's going to be a monster down the road."

Nearby resident Johanna Barker, who said she can see the store and from her home hear people talking in the parking lot, said she was against the idea of a gas station.

"I don't mind Darrell making a new and better party store there," she said. "What's it going to be like with a drive through with speakers?" she said. "Or the gas smell permeating the air. What if there's an accident in the gas station? What if somebody runs into those pumps?"

Milton Hill, who noted he was caught off guard because he didn't receive notification of the proposed project, said he values the privacy his nearby home on 3.5 acres offers and is "very particular" about his property.

"This is going to bring down my property value," he said. "If I ever decide to sell, I'm going to have a hard time. The convenience store I don't have a problem with, but I'm not really keen on a gas station right in my back yard."

But a number of others either showed up or wrote letters in support of the project.

Including Gary Elzerman, who also spoke at the meeting.

"Darrell gave me my first job about 30 years ago," said Elzerman. "He's always been a guy who does what he says he's going to do."

Marylou Enneking also spoke to the board, citing a number of factors she believed made the project beneficial to the area.

The improved building and extensive, professional landscaping, she said, would make a statement.

"It would enhance the gateway to Orion Township at that roundabout area," she said. "It would speak to the entry into Orion Township. Anything we do, we would do with the intent to enhance the area."

Board members had a number of comments and suggestions, but generally appeared ameanable to moving the project forward.

"We've heard it many times from residents in that area: Fueling is needed," said John Steimel, the township board representative to the planning commission. "They're really hurting up there; they have to drive so far (for gas). "I think you're filling a definite need in the area.

Steimel said he was glad to see an established business looking toward betterment, and also noted that, while many voiced concerns about traffic and related problems, those conditions weren't caused by the Junction, and had, in fact, improved since installation of the roundabout.

"We don't get the really bad accidents any more," he said. " But when people aren't courteous and don't use the roundabout properly, we get a lot of minor t-bone accidents there. The quantity has probably gone up but I guess in the (Road Commission for Oakland County's) eyes, that's OK."

With the planning commission's unanimous recommendation, he PUD now goes to the township board for formal action.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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