I noticed with interest that the Blarney Castle application for an EZ Mart at U.S. 31 and First Street in Elk Rapids is not on the Village Planning Commission agenda for the Tuesday meeting. So I first checked with the Village.
Blarney Castle [EZ Mart] is on hold until it completes the traffic impact assessment study that was requested by the Planning Commission. The assessment will not likely take place until after July 4. Upon completion of the study they are to notify me when they would like to be placed back on the agenda for further review by the Planning Commission. (Source: email from Village Office – edited slightly)
Then I called Blarney Castle, a family-owned business for over 75 years. I spoke with Bill McCarthy, son of founder Denny McCarthy, at length today. Bill confirmed that the traffic study requirement came from the Planning Commission, not from (as rumored) the Michigan Department of Transportation. He noted that Blarney Castle has wanted to do business in Elk Rapids for 25 years, but there had never been property available that was large enough. Now that they own land in Elk Rapids, they have been working on this EZ Mart proposal for quite some time, meeting or exceeding the levied requirements.
At the last Planning Commission meeting, a traffic study requirement was included by the Commission. Note that the Commission acted legally when requiring this study but also note that the need for the study was subject to considerable interpretation and discussion.
McCarthy said that the impact of this delay is significant.
- Blarney Castle will miss the summer selling season.
- Elk Rapids will miss out on the annual community festivities, put on at almost every EZ Mart location.
As an aside, Blarney Castle plans to sell Marathon gasoline at the Elk Rapids EZ Mart, not BP as widely speculated. No word yet on what fast food outlet will go in there. An earlier food vendor decision unraveled due to the delay.
In closing, I asked McCarthy his opinion of high gas prices. He said “I hate them.” It turns out that high gas prices make everything more expensive, including the products that Blarney Castle sells. He attributes the high and fluctuating prices partly to the peculiar speculative market approach that is used for both oil purchases and no-oil-on-hand speculative betting. I hope that Blarney Castle does not exercise one of its other options and moves this project elsewhere. Although some residents oppose this project, I think that the majority approves it, but the seemingly endless requirements that need to be met have stalled this endeavor for at least another five to seven months.
I note with some irony that the required traffic study by EZ Mart might be overshadowed somewhat by the recent application by 45th Parallel Furniture to manufacture upholstered furniture at the adjacent location adjacent. Seems that traffic will increase in the vicinity anyway.
Note: I wanted to interview a member of the Planning Commission, but I received an email from Planning Commission Chair Barb Mullaly that stated:
It is my belief than any plan before the commission should be discussed in a public forum. Therefore, no one person can speak for the commission prior to any formal decision. Any opinion gleamed from an interview would be a personal opinion. Commission members are bound by law to make a decision when all relevant facts are presented and our bylaws clearly indicate ex parte communications should be avoided. I believe an interview with any news source could be viewed as an ex parte communication and I would not want any commission member exposed to a possible breach of the bylaws.
The meeting is tomorrow night, so I’ll attend and find out what is discussed.