Traverse City Government

Aaron Selbig

A local human rights official is proposing Traverse City not become a sanctuary city. Earlier this year, community members asked the Traverse City Human Rights Commission to explore the designation. Sanctuary city status would mean local law enforcement would not cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), potentially protecting people living in the country illegally from deportation.

A discussion on whether Traverse City should become a sanctuary city drew dozens of protesters to the governmental center Wednesday night.

Sanctuary city status would likely mean that local police would not report illegal immigrants to the federal government.

A proposed high-speed boat race in Traverse City is dead in the water. The city commission rejected plans for the “Grand Traverse Bay Offshore Classic” last night.

Commissioners said they were concerned about noise, possible environmental damage and congestion at the city marina. They said they had heard mostly negative input from the community.

Commissioner Tim Werner said the city may only have room for two big events – the National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival.

Fans of high-speed boat racing want to hold a three-day race on Grand Traverse Bay next year. Organizers say the “Grand Traverse Bay Offshore Classic” could draw 100,000 spectators - and $10 million - to Traverse City.

West Grand Traverse Bay could host a high-speed boat race next summer. Organizers with the American Power Boat Association and the Offshore Powerboat Association want to hold the “Grand Traverse Bay Offshore Classic” in Traverse City for three days in August 2018.

Unequal park funding smacks of favoritism, critics say

May 3, 2017
Grand Traverse Ski Club

Three years ago, voters in Traverse City were asked if they wanted to spend more money on parks. They said “yes,” and a special fund was set up for that purpose. The parks funding comes from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund – a savings account of oil and gas royalties from the Brown Bridge Quiet Area south of Traverse City.

Northwestern Michigan College

The Traverse City commission has a new member. After Commissioner Ross Richardson resigned last month, his colleagues had to pick someone to fill out his term until November of next year. Out of 11 candidates, they picked Michele Howard.

Howard is a librarian at Northwestern Michigan College. She’s done a lot of work in the community – at school PTOs, local ski races and at her church. She's expected to be sworn in Monday night.

Aaron Selbig

Costco is coming to Traverse City, but even before ground is broken for the big box store, city officials are worried Costco might try to get a so-called “dark store” tax assessment.

That’s when big retailers argue that the value of their stores is only equal to an empty – or “dark” – store. They’ve been winning these disputes all over Michigan.

Opponents are fighting back, saying dark store assessments are hurting communities.

Wikipedia

Officials in Traverse City are concerned that if Costco comes to town, it will take advantage of so-called “dark store” tax assessments. That’s when businesses argue for lower tax rates based on what their stores would be worth empty – or “dark.”

Retailers like Target, Meijer and Costco have appealed their assessments in Michigan, hoping to pay less money in taxes. They say if they turned around and tried to sell their stores, not many companies would want to buy them. The Michigan Tax Tribunal, which decides tax appeals, has been ruling in favor of retailers.

Aaron Selbig

There’s a new plan to fix Division Street in Traverse City. The street has long been considered one of the most dangerous routes in northern Michigan, especially for people walking or biking.

Four years ago, voters agreed to give up some city park land for the project. Now the plan is in the hands of the city commission.

Traverse City Commissioner Gary Howe says the section of the road between 14th Street and the bay is confusing and dangerous.

The Traverse City commission decided today not to appeal a judge’s ruling on the nine-story Pine Street development downtown.

Last month, judge Philip Rodgers said the commission acted improperly when it approved a permit for the development. The commission voted this afternoon on whether to spend $10,000 to hire a lawyer to work on an appeal, but approval failed by one vote.

City Commissioner Amy Shamroe says the city will still work to improve the permitting process.

Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse

The Safe Harbor homeless shelter in Traverse City will have a permanent home. Monday night, the city commission agreed to sell an unused city building on Wellington Street to Safe Harbor for $50,000.

The deal says the building must be a functioning shelter by 2018. After 10 years of operation, Safe Harbor would own the property outright.

Safe Harbor Board Chairman Peter Starkel said his group is ready for the next step.

The Woda Group

 A judge has ruled that Traverse City commissioners should not have approved a Special Land Use Permit for a nine-story building development downtown. Grand Traverse County Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers vacated the permit on Thursday.

Rodgers said the city commission did not gather information legally required for the permit before they approved the development.

The Woda Group

Developers can go ahead with their plan to build a nine-story building in downtown Traverse City. The city commission voted last night to approve a Special Land Use Permit - or SLUP - for the project. The vote came well after midnight, after three hours of public testimony. 

Mike Jackson took issue with the idea that the building would provide much-needed workforce housing.

“This project is not about affordable housing or workforce housing for our young citizens," said Jackson. "This project is all about making the wealthy a little bit more wealthy.”

Traverse City’s mayor wants a timeout on plans to build a nine-story development downtown.

The city commission is set to hear public comment about the mixed-use project Monday night. But opponents have asked a judge to stop the process until Traverse City residents can vote on it directly.

Mayor Jim Carruthers says he fears the city could get caught up in a lengthy – and expensive – court battle.

The WODA Group

A voter petition to ban tall buildings in downtown Traverse City could soon be hitting the streets. A group opposed to tall buildings expects to submit its petition language to the city clerk by the end of this week.

Attorney Grant Parsons is leading the effort.

“We are not against large developments elsewhere that might work better but in the downtown area, it’s just too congested," says Parsons. "It’s a three-story town … at max.”

The WODA Group

A proposal to build two nine-story mixed-use buildings in downtown Traverse City ran into a buzzsaw of opposition last night. Residents warned the city commission the buildings would change the character of downtown.

But supporters say the extra housing is desperately needed for the city’s growing workforce.

The WODA Group

A plan to build two nine-story buildings in downtown Traverse City will go before the city commission tonight. The buildings would provide 162 residences and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

Opponents of the project say it will change the character of the downtown area. But Commissioner Gary Howe says having more people downtown has been part of the city’s plan for a long time.

A Traverse City police captain has rejected a plea bargain. Captain Mike Ayling is charged with neglecting his duty during an investigation of a former city manager.

According to court documents, Grand Traverse County prosecutors offered to lower Ayling’s charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. But Ayling refused, choosing instead to proceed to trial.

Google Maps

Officials in Traverse City envision a new “Markets District” along west Front Street, west of downtown. The city will use grant money to hire a consultant to help re-design the area.

City Planning Director Russ Soyring says business owners want the area to have its own identity.

“And they don’t want to become just a pass-through – like a strip development – area that people just have to get through on their way from point A to point B," says Soyring. "They want to become a destination and they want to become the gateway for downtown.”

Traverse City Ticker

The Traverse City Commission has chosen a new city manager. At a meeting yesterday, commissioners voted 4-to-3 to offer the job to Martin Colburn. Colburn is currently city administrator in Mason, Michigan – a small town near Lansing.

Commissioners said Colburn’s experience with budgeting and city planning put him ahead of two other finalists. Commissioner Jeanine Easterday said she liked what Colburn had to say about homelessness.

The Traverse City Human Rights Commission thinks homeless people in Traverse City are being treated unfairly. The commission passed a non-binding “Bill of Rights” for homeless people at its meeting last night.

The document lists ten rights, including being able to move freely “without harassment or intimidation.” Commissioner Patricia Nugent says the idea came after the commission heard about some of the abuses suffered by homeless people.

Traverse City planners say nine homeowners have already applied to build “granny flats” on their property. A new law allowing the small apartments went into effect Thursday.

Planning Director Russ Soyring says the first step for all of them is a review process from the city planning department.

“And then we just process it like … you’re applying for an addition to your garage or your house," says Soyring. "Then, eventually, you’d take all your paperwork and go to the county construction code office and make an application for a building permit.”

The Traverse City Commission has cleared the way for “granny flats” to be built throughout the city. Ten homeowners per year will be allowed to build the small apartments attached to their house or garage.

The commission’s decision last night came after months of debate. Many homeowners argue the plan will harm the character of Traverse City’s historic single-family neighborhoods.

“With every bit of heart I can offer, please don’t do this," said Christine Maxbauer. "You’re changing the character of our city. Please don’t.”

Investigators with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department recommend criminal charges against a Traverse City police captain. A report released Thursday says Captain Mike Ayling mishandled a police call to the home of then-City Manager Jered Ottenwess.

Ottenwess was not arrested during the February incident but later pleaded “no contest” to charges of domestic violence and resisting police. The investigators asked County Prosecutor Bob Cooney charge Ayling with “willful neglect of public duty.”

Cooney says the request is not an actual criminal charge.

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