‘Save big money’ soon

By Meg Peters
Review Co-Editor
The home improvement retail chain store, Menards, submitted the paperwork for an approximate 207,000 sq. ft. development in Orion Township’s Brown Road Innovation Zone (BIZ district) last Wednesday.
The development would span 32 acres of the near-262 acres within the district, with 5.5 acres reserved as additional out-lots for possible ancillary use. Ancillary uses could include banks, restaurants, and other such establishments that would partner with Menards to lease or purchase the space.
Complete with about 423 parking spaces, Menards would be located directly across the street from Costco off of Brown Rd.
A privately owned chain of home improvement centers, Menards has about 300 stores throughout the midwest in 14 different states. It’s the third largest home improvement chain in the United States, behind The Home Depot and Lowe’s.
According to representative Tom O’Neil, Menards is pursuing purchasing the land from two private property owners. If granted, the development would replace the longstanding business Pontiac Sand and Gravel, Inc. at 397 Brown Rd.
Menards representatives are scheduled to present the initial site plans on Wednesday, May 18 to the Orion Township Planning Commission.
If commissioners recommend site plan approval, the process will continue on to the Orion Township Board of Trustees, who have final say as to whether the development will proceed or not.
According to Supervisor Chris Barnett, who referenced the development in his State of the Township Address, the Menards has been a while in the making.
“We’re really excited for the starting of great things to come to Brown Rd.,” he said. “We’ve heard a lot from our residents that this is the type of business they’d like to see in our community and that this is a great spot for it.”
Menards would be the second business to build in the BIZ district on Brown Rd. since its establishment in 2010. The first was Checkers.
In this light, Menards would be one of the first developments to contribute to Orion Township’s Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA) Development Plan.
In basic terms, the CIA Development Plan is a set of priorities to utilize incremental tax captures for property along Brown Rd. and Baldwin Rd. from the base year, 2016.
The public can learn more about the CIA Development Plan at a public hearing scheduled for May 16.
The Orion Township Board of Trustees approved the CIA, in adherence to Act 280, in October of 2015, and appointed the seven-person CIA Authority Board shortly thereafter. The CIA board was appointed to make recommendations to trustees regarding the CIA plans.
As township consultant Gary Roberts of Strategic Communications Solutions said, without the CIA Development Plan, a Menards would not be possible.
“They directly correlate,” he said. “The idea is to reinvest back into the community, and in absence of that you would not have a Menards.”
He explained it this way: If a property owner paid $1 a year in property taxes, then a large development comes along then that property value could increase to something like $5.
The CIA Development plan proposes to take that $4 tax increment increase and reinvest half of it, $2,  towards the CIA’s priorities, with the other half going towards the taxing authority, in this case Orion Township’s general fund.
The CIA’s biggest priorities at this point are to first widen Brown Rd. to five lanes, to support incoming developments, and to beautify Baldwin Rd.
“The plan sets forth a scope of work and a budget both on the funding and on the expense side,” Roberts said.
Barnett said developing the CIA, and its priorities, is essential to bringing new developments to the Brown Rd. and Baldwin Rd. area.
“It’s one of the main reasons we established the CIA, to improve the infrastructure to attract growth,” he said. “It’s needed. If anyone shops on Saturday at Costco they know, there is a ton of traffic.”