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Meijer plan creates sharp divide in opinion

Size, location of store stirs controversy

July 6, 2012

Where supporters of a Franklin Meijer store see an opportunity for expanded tax base, local job creation and a new place to shop, opponents see the loss of wetlands, more traffic and a store too large to fit the city's neighborhood feel.

The Franklin Plan Commission drew a full house Thursday as it met to consider a proposal to build a Meijer grocery and department store at the eastern corner of Loomis and St. Martin's roads.

And though Mayor Tom Taylor decreed in advance that the matter would be put off until the next meeting, that didn't stop a presentation and public comment period that lasted close to two hours and illuminated sharp schisms in public sentiment.

More than two dozen members of the public spoke, and their comments were almost evenly divided between support for the project and opposition.

"I'm in support of this," Sara Nowacki said. "I think Franklin needs more retail right now."

She was not the only one who said she leaves Franklin to shop.

But others feel the project is too just to big for the city.

"It's too much of a mega-mart for that corner, and it's just going to attract more development," said Karen Anderson.

Many on both sides said a smaller-scale, village-like 2004 project known as Crossroads, aimed at the same corner but not pursued, was a missed opportunity.

Ultimately, the vote was delayed. Taylor said it wouldn't be fair to the public to take such an important vote during a holiday week when many people, including two members of the commission, wouldn't have a chance to attend. Moreover, the city received a letter this week from the state Department of Natural Resources requesting it to postpone a decision to allow more time to study substantial wetland and floodplain issues presented by the plan.

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