ROGERS CITY - A project to move the entrance of a Rogers City shopping center won't happen this year, according to the city manager.
The Michigan Department of Transportation notified the city by mail that it wouldn't provide funding for the Glen's Market project, City Manager Mark Slown told city council members on Sept. 18. Department officials rejected a proposal by the shopping center grocery store's owner to build a new drive and keep the existing one. The city wants to build a new driveway and close the existing one, as officials feel its close proximity to the intersection of US-23 and M-68 causes traffic conflicts. While the project is on hold indefinitely, the city, MDOT and store owners will continue to work on a solution.
"To keep the existing driveway open, and add a new driveway, MDOT just wouldn't go for that," Slown told council members.
City council members voted in August to contribute $10,000 of city money to the $33,000 project. In order for the project to receive $20,000 in MDOT funds, the money needed to be allocated by the end of the year. For that to happen, the city needed approval from Catt Development, the Gaylord-based owner of the shopping center, and Spartan Stores, Inc., the owner of Glen's Market, based in Grand Rapids.
Spartan Stores management objected to the move because they believed it would negatively impact the store's business, Slown said earlier in September. The company requested more information, and Slown sent them a packet with a letter from a citizen, the city's zoning administrator, its police chief, and a memo from MDOT. The company responded with a proposal to build the new drive, which would have been further from Glen's and the intersection, and to keep the current one open.
This was a proposal the state transportation department did not want to pursue, said Steve Conradson, MDOT Alpena Traffic Service Center traffic and safety engineer. Instead, the department will spend the money on other projects throughout Presque Isle County.
"We didn't feel we wanted to spend our money if they wouldn't agree to close the other driveway," he said.
Jeanne Norcross, Spartan Stores vice president of corporate affairs, said Monday the company aims to continue working with the city on a solution.
"We are certainly interested in traffic safety, we've been part of the community for a long time, and we want what's best for the community, just as everyone does," she said. "But we also want to look at all of the options, and that might include adding a curb cut, but retaining the exisiting one."
After the Sept. 18 meeting, Mayor Beach Hall said he didn't blame anyone for the project's indefinite delay.
"We tried to do it too quick without getting our ducks in order," he said.
Hall said he looks forward to working with the parties involved to finding a solution, as traffic problems at the intersection of US-23 and M-68 are a long-standing issue.
"I very much regret that we were unable to get it done because it's something that ... probably the major complaint I've had as mayor over my tenure," he said. "We didn't have enough time to get all of the approvals that we needed, plus to get the job done by the end of September, and so MDOT moved its funding elsewhere. I would like to hope that we've got a dialogue going, that we'll get our approvals in advance so if some money suddenly becomes available, we can do it."
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.