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Great Lakes Article:

Home Depot defends site plan

A consultant for developers of a Home Depot proposed for Stadium Drive in Kalamazoo said the home-improvement giant is committed to the site if it gets state approval to fill wetlands.

About 15 people who spoke at a public hearing Wednesday urged the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, however, to prevent the store from being built.

"Filling in a wetland, I think, can be no less devastating than napalming it," said Mary Hosley of 1839 Sheffield.

Home Depot has proposed building a 95,000-square-foot store at 3300 Stadium, on the former site of Wayside Lanes. A spokesman at Home Depot's Atlanta headquarters said in March that it is also considering the former Montgomery Ward site at Maple Hill Mall in Oshtemo Township, as well as other locations.

Home Depot officials recently told the Stadium developers they are concerned about the "economics" of the vacant Montgomery Ward property, including costs to demolish the existing building, Tim Bureau, vice president of Resource Management Group Inc., said Wednesday.

Bureau, whose firm is consulting for Hinco L.L.C., which owns the Stadium site, said Home Depot has a written agreement to build on Stadium if the project gets state approval. "If we obtain the (wetlands) permit, they are committed to come to this site," Bureau said.

A proposal filed with the DEQ in January asks permission to fill in 3.67 acres of wetlands on the Stadium site. Developers would compensate by creating 5.5 acres of new wetlands on and near an adjacent city well field and possibly several miles away at the Hidden Lake residential development near Sprinkle and Gull roads.

The low-lying, 13-acre property on Stadium backs up to Arcadia Creek and is immediately west of the well field. Kalamazoo city officials endorsed the proposal, saying it would increase ground-water infiltration contiguous to the well field and maintain water quality and quantity.

Bureau said the plan would create slightly more wetlands in the immediate area than would be lost, and that filters and other safeguards to be installed would make water running into the Arcadia Creek flood plain and onto the well field cleaner. The site now gathers untreated storm-water runoff from Stadium as far west as Drake Road, through a Michigan Department of Transportation drain.

"This is good, urban redevelopment," Bureau said of the site, vacant since the bowling alley was razed several years ago.

Several people who spoke Wednesday urged the DEQ to closely follow its criteria for considering wetlands applications, including a provision that requires there be "no feasible and prudent alternatives" to building on a wetland, and that the "activity is primarily dependent upon being located in the wetland."

"Certainly building a Home Depot is not dependent on being in a wetland," said Dale Harrison of the Kalamazoo River Protection Association. "Certainly there are other locations."

Other speakers stressed that there are already five major home-improvement stores in the Kalamazoo-area market, including a Home Depot in Portage and Menards and Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse stores within a few miles of the Stadium site.

"The competition to build more and more retail stores and drive out existing ones, leaving empty stores and parking lots, does not serve the public interest," said Patricia Klein of Crest Drive.

The DEQ will accept written public comments on the Home Depot wetlands mitigation plan for 15 more days, then has 90 days to either grant, reject or modify the permit, the DEQ's Larry Poynter said.

© 2002 Kalamazoo. Used with permission

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