BENTON TOWNSHIP — A hotel developer and Benton Township officials are trying to reopen the Crystal Avenue entrance to Home Depot off Napier Avenue.
Michael Patel, who is in the process of building a Hampton Inn and Suites near Home Depot in Benton Township, met with township and Berrien County Road Department officials earlier this year to talk about reopening Crystal Avenue.
“We’re still talking about how we can do it. I think it gives easier access to Home Depot, Meijer and Benton Heights,” Patel said. “We want to bring other businesses in there too. We want to make it a little business park.”
Because the proposed hotel would open near Home Depot, having two access points for drivers would be a big selling point for the hotel.
However, the road has been closed for nearly a decade due to maintenance and traffic accidents.
Kevin Stack, county engineer for the road department, said that stretch of Crystal Avenue was built for Home Depot when the home improvement store opened.
Shortly after, Stack said the county was asked to take over maintenance of the road. But the road did not meet the country’s specifications when it came to the width.
According to Stack, one of the sticking points to reopening the road is for Patel to reconstruct the stretch of Crystal Avenue that has not been maintained since the Napier Avenue access was closed.
Stack said once that is completed, the county would inspect the road and determine if it would be eligible to join the county road system.
“They own all the land, but have to widen the road and turn over the right of way to the county,” Stack said. “They have to invest their own money and widen it. Once that is done, they’ll send an application with the county.”
That stretch of Crystal Avenue is about 20 feet wide, but Stack said it needs to be between 25 or 30 feet to be added to the county road system.
The access point was closed after the county refused to take over maintaining the road and several car accidents occurred at the Napier and Crystal intersection.
“If it snowed and iced up, there were numerous accidents,” said Chris Fuchs, chief building official for Benton Township. “It wasn’t being maintained. So, there wasn’t any salt out there and cars were sliding out into the intersection. Ultimately, it was closed because of traffic hazards.”
Merritt Midwest is contracted to handle engineering and site plan aspects of the hotel and has also been in touch with the Road Department.
Since the township board approved the hotel’s site plans, workers have cleared the property close to I-94, along with stretches of wooded area for other potential businesses. The hotel is expected to be finished by the fall of 2020 at the latest.
Patel said he’ll have a better idea of where they stand on reopening the Crystal Avenue access in another two to three months.
“We’re interested in the road reopening and serving the entire development,” Fuchs said. “I think we have a way that we can do it. But we need to sit down and figure it out.”
Stacks added that the road department has plans next year to update the stoplight at the intersection where Crystal Avenue is closed.
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