Ebels grocery store plans move forward

Governor's order opening construction allows work to commence

REED CITY - Construction of the new Ebels grocery store, on the site of the former Vic's Supermarket on Chestnut Street, took another step forward after receiving approval of a setback variance from the Reed City Zoning Board of Appeals at its meeting April 21.

According to Reed City city manager Ron Howell, the Ebels family, along with architect Fred Campbell, of JML Design Group in Traverse City, determined it would be better to demolish the old structure and build new, rather than refurbish the existing structure.

The site plan, which was approved by the Reed City Planning Commission at its April meeting, pending approval of the variance, calls for a new structure to be built at the back of the parking lot and connect to the existing strip mall. Because city ordinance requires a setback of 35 feet, that needed to be adjusted to accommodate the new structure.

With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order allowing construction to begin again May 7, the Ebels family is now cleared to move forward with their plans to build the new structure, Howell said.

"I spoke with Bob Ebels, and as the zoning part of this was completed, there was concern that there may be executive orders coming into conflict with moving forward," Howell said. "They wanted to start construction right away, and with the executive order allowing construction to commence on May 7, Ebels is cleared to move forward."

According to Howell, the site plan was approved for 20,000-plus square feet, however, the Ebels have indicated that they may not need that whole footprint.

"If they do fill the whole footprint, they said they are interested in the two parcels to the north of the structure, which would include the existing J&A Grocery store and another house," Howell said.

Board member Nate Bailey said after speaking with Samir Angious, owner of J&A Grocery, that it appeared he would be interested in negotiating a sale of the property.

Now that the construction of the new grocery store is cleared to begin, the Reed City City Council will be looking at revoking an existing commercial rehabilitation tax break certificate that was issued for Vic's, in order to set the stage for a new one to be issued for the Ebels store, Howell said.

"We will be going through a public hearing process, passing a resolution and sending it to the state treasury," Howell said. "The date for the public hearing is at the May 18 regular city council meeting."

A commercial rehabilitation certificate provides a property tax exemption for qualified food establishments that are rehabilitated. Qualified food establishments include retail supermarkets and grocery stores that offer fresh USDA inspected meats, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products for sale.

Exemptions are approved for a term of 1 to 10 years, as determined by the local unit of government. Under the exemption, the taxable value of the property is frozen at the previous year's assessment for the duration of the exemption period.

An applicant seeking the certification must be situated within a Commercial Rehabilitation District established by the local governing unit and must be likely to increase the commercial activity in the area, create employment, revitalize urban areas or increase the number of residents in the community.

The Ebels family, owners of Ebels General Store in Falmouth, purchased the property on South Chestnut Street in December, with plans to put a full service grocery store there.

Ebels family members said they would have liked to have opened the new store in May, in celebration of the original store's 100th anniversary, but it will likely be sometime in 2021.

Given the current circumstances, with delays in construction caused by the coronavirus pandemic, along with the decision to build a new structure rather than refurbish the current one, the process will take longer than originally planned.

An opening date has not yet been confirmed.