Ebels grocery plan gets go-ahead from planning commission

Old Vic's Supermarket to be torn down

REED CITY -- After consultations with architect Fred Campbell of JML Design Group in Traverse City, the Ebels family has decided to build a new structure for their grocery store in Reed City.

Campbell presented the site plan for construction of the new structure on the property at 716 S. Chestnut St., to the Reed City Planning Commission at a special meeting on March 12.

The site plan calls for the new structure to be built at the back of the parking lot and connect to the current strip mall located there, rather than be a free-standing structure like the Vic's store.

The planning commission voted to approve the site plan, pending approval of a variance for set back by the city zoning board of appeals. City ordinances require a setback of 35 feet, which will need to be adjusted to accommodate the new structure at the back of the lot.

"The Ebels people have been evaluating whether to remodel, or demolish the current structure," city manager Ron Howell said. "They decided it would be better to demolish and rebuild. With that, they will move the structure from the front of the lot to the back and attach to the strip mall that is already there."

"It will be going in a different direction, and will be a larger facility than the current Vic's building," he added. "The zoning requires a setback of 35 feet, so they have developed the site plan and submitted the request for variance to the zoning board."

Howell said, the request will need to go to the zoning board of appeals for approval, following a public hearing.

"We are in the process of notifying property owners that are within 300 feet of the variance to get input from them," Howell said. "They can comment by email, regular mail, or the drop box outside city hall.

Howell said they will be holding a virtual public hearing, at a date yet to be determined, during which the public can participate via computer or telephone.

Since Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency and issued executive orders for businesses and local governments to cease operations except for essential services, the Reed City City Council has been working on a plan to hold virtual meetings, he said.

"The city will be implementing a system that allows local governments to meet virtually," Howell said. "We have contracted with GoToMeeting, which will allow council members and the public to join in the meeting virtually via computer or phone."

Howell said meeting information and documents will be posted on the city's website for the public to access prior to the meetings, and notices will be sent out with guidelines on how to access the meeting and the documents packet online. In addition, documents will be posted on the website explaining step by step how the public can participate.

"Anyone that does not have access to the internet will still be invited to attend the meeting, but will be asked to maintain the social distance requirement," he added. "Council members and the public will have the option to do it electronically.

"The Ebels grocery store is a big deal for the city, and we do not want to put that on a shelf and say that it has to wait if we can avoid that," he continued.

The Ebels family, owners of Ebels General Store in Falmouth, purchased the property on South Chestnut Street in December, with plans to put a grocery store in the former Vic's Supermarket.

Ebels family members have said they would like to open the new store in May 2020, in celebration of the original store's 100th anniversary, however, opening in early 2021 is still a possibility.

The Reed City location will focus mostly on groceries and will include a bakery, a full-service deli an a meat department with meat cutters on staff.

In other business

The city council decided to put development of the disc golf course at Rambadt Park on hold temporarily.

"Mayor John Joyce voiced some concerns about us, perhaps, moving to quickly on the project and neglecting to go out for bids on some parts," Howell said. "He has asked city attorney Cynthia Wotila to review everything that has been done to double-check for accuracy."

Wotila will be reviewing all the notes and decisions made to ensure everything has been done according to the city's legal requirements, he said. Further development of the course has been put on hold until the review is complete.

In addition, the city has taken steps to comply with the latest coronavirus-related executive orders from Whitmer.

City Hall has been closed to the public and the Depot is closed until April 20.

Officials are encouraging residents to use the online payment services, and the drop box outside city hall is available and will be checked regularly Monday through Friday.

Howell said with the stay at home order issued by Whitmer on Monday, the city has had to evaluate essential staff and essential services.

"We have decided that since all our services are essential, we will be splitting the staff in half, with half working one day and the other half working the next day," Howell said. "That way we can continue to run the services the city needs without violating the public order."

For additional information on how to conduct business with the city, or how to attend the virtual meetings, visit reedcity.org.