Traverse City News and Events

East Bay Township Approves Luxury Car Wash, Plans Public Hearing For 216-Unit Housing Development On Hammond/Townline

By Beth Milligan | July 12, 2020

East Bay Township planning commissioners approved plans this week for a new luxury car wash to open on the former Hooters property at 1840 US-31. Developers plan to break ground on the project this fall, with the business open by early 2021. Planning commissioners this week also approved a zoning height change that could pave the way for a new 216-unit housing development to be built on the corner of Hammond and Townline roads, a project expected to return for a public hearing in August.

Owner Mark Wanner of Promark Investments is planning to open a car wash facility called Green Mitt at the former Hooters site (pictured, rendering). The facility is capable of stacking up to 40 cars at its entrance – with an additional 12-16 cars accommodated in the washing station and exit lanes – and will offer all-LED lighting, motion-activated vacuum stations, and additional parking on the 1.66 acre lot. Wanner has hired designer Nick Spallone of the Chicago-based Car Wash Pro Designers – a company that has built hundreds of luxury car washes nationwide – to design the facility. Spallone told planning commissioners his firm “did a lot of searching for land in Michigan” before landing on a site they felt would be “very conducive for this use.”

“The building has been designed specifically to resemble a bank, so the visuals are easy for residents nearby,” Spallone said. “Everything’s done in brick and stone…all of the mechanical units are housed inside the building.” Addressing concerns that often arise with car washes, Spallone said the company was “very eco-friendly, very eco-conscious. We pay a lot of attention to noise pollution, to chemical pollution, to light pollution, to the…amount of water being used. We’ve hit industry lows pretty much on every one of those points.” The designer said the car wash would use biodegradable – or “marine grade” – products that are “safe for lakes, safe for oceans.” Spallone previously stated that where the average car wash uses 70-80 gallons in a single wash, Green Mitt would only use 15.

East Bay Township Director of Planning & Zoning Claire Karner said that developers had worked to address several concerns from planning commissioners and neighbors since the project first came up for review in March. Those included addressing traffic flow, including both the internal circulation of the site as well as cars entering or exiting off US-31. The car wash will allow cars to turn into the facility from both directions, but will have a right-only exit onto US-31. Striping will clearly delineate traffic lanes within the internal car wash area. Spallone said the facility will use a new technology called NoPileups that monitors activity on the property with more than three dozen cameras and automatically shuts the system down if cars get too close to one another or there are traffic conflicts.

“There’s not a square inch of this site that’s not monitored 100 percent,” Spallone said. He added that a minimum of three attendants will be on-site at all times at the facility, with up to six attendants working on busy days. The property has space designated for one on-site food truck, with developers expressing interest in offering a food option on certain days for customers. Any food trucks will need to obtain a permit through East Bay Township to operate on the site, according to Karner.

Spallone addressed additional concerns expressed by neighbors during this week’s public hearing for the project's special use permit. Those included potential noise and light impacts, including from headlights shining into neighboring yards. Spallone noted the facility will not operate late into the night; planned hours are Monday-Saturday 7am-8pm and Sunday 7am-6pm. Developers agreed to build a rear fence to further block light and sound, and said the maximum sound levels at the lot line closest to the car wash would be 29 decibels – below the township’s maximum level of 40 decibels. Spallone said lighting at the back of the car wash would be minimal, with Karner noting that the development not only met but exceeded the township’s lighting requirements.

Karner recommended planning commissioners approve the project, saying it will create more open space than what is currently on the site, will preserve 16 of the 22 mature trees on the property, and reflects developers’ willingness to collaborate and adjust project plans to accommodate township and neighbor concerns. She also said the project had obtained favorable reviews from the Michigan Department of Transportation and local fire, soil erosion, engineering, and permitting agencies. Planning commissioners voted to unanimously approve Green Mitt’s special use permit. Spallone previously said he expected construction to begin this fall, with the goal of having the car wash up and running by February 2021.

Planning commissioners this week also supported a zoning amendment to change the maximum building height in high-density residential areas in East Bay Township from two-and-a-half stories/35 feet to three stories/40 feet. Staff noted that other similar districts in the township already have a 40-foot maximum, as do neighboring townships in their high-density residential zones. The change – which still has to go to township trustees for final approval Monday – would pave the way for a new development called Bayview to go in on the southeast corner of the Townline and Hammond intersection.

The 216-unit development would consist of 108 attached townhome units and 108 apartment units with community amenities. The 27.6-acre site is currently vacant. The additional height will allow the development to have higher ceilings and more generous living spaces, according to project representatives, as well as accommodate a fire barrier and sprinkler system. “It’s all about delivering a high-quality product,” developer Joe Locricchio told planning commissioners. “That’s our goal throughout this entire project.”

Should township trustees approve the zoning change Monday, the project is expected to return for a formal site plan review and public hearing in August. Township officials have also discussed the possibility of working with the Grand Traverse County Road Commission to determine whether the project and increasing traffic on Hammond Road would merit installing a new traffic signal at the Townline/Hammond intersection.

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