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TRAVERSE CITY — Buying land near a Traverse City parking lot could allow the city to build a more cost-effective parking garage there, said the Downtown Development Authority CEO.

Jean Derenzy made the argument for shelling out $645,000 to buy 115 Pine Street, formerly a dry cleaner that since moved around the corner. That, plus two more land buys, would set the city up to build a parking garage with a bigger footprint and lower per-car cost, she said.

City Commissioner Brian McGillivary said he thinks the buy is the right move, even if he’s not entirely sold on building the parking garage.

“I have basically told them from the beginning that my position has been, ever since I’ve been on the commission, is that you need more space, so I’m supportive of this,” he said.

The price seems fair, too, McGillivary said. He’s a real estate agent and asked some colleagues if they thought it seemed reasonable, and they agreed. Plus, the city’s getting it a little below asking cost.

“I mean, I’ve looked for property for people downtown, and it’s not cheap,” he said.

That’s despite property sales records showing the current owner, DJC Investments Inc., paid $235,000 for the land in 2017 — the city would pay nearly three times more. McGillivary said he doesn’t think the two situations compare.

McGillivary said he understands people are opposed to building the parking garage because they don’t want to extend the tax increment finance plan called TIF 97 to pay for it. That’s another discussion, he said, one for which he’ll have plenty of questions. Plus, the city can always resell the land.

Commissioner Ashlea Walter said she’s also in favor of the purchase as part of a years-old plan to build a third parking ramp. It should reduce the city’s reliance on surface parking lots, which are a waste of land and contribute to storm water runoff.

It’s also possible the economic tumult could result in a lower construction price for the parking garage, Walter said. She acknowledged the price seems high but trusts the DDA’s due diligence. Others are interested in buying the lot, too.

“There’s a demand issue there for sure, it’s in a prime location and it will get us to the point where we can kind of get more bang for our buck,” she said.

MARIJUANA DEADLINES

Commissioners also will consider whether to extend the city’s opt-out of recreational marijuana sales until June 30, and give medical marijuana sellers more time to build their provisioning shops — as long as Aug. 3.

Both extensions are because the COVID-19 pandemic has put so much on hold, city Manager Marty Colburn said (he’s set to give an update on how the virus has impacted the city and region Monday). Private contractors can’t work on the dispensaries, and the ad hoc committee formulating the city’s recreational marijuana rules isn’t meeting right now.

Both Colburn and Walter said they have no problem with pushing back the city’s opt-out. But they split on whether dispensary owners not yet open should get a carte-blanche extension.

While Walter said she believes owners have been working diligently, McGillivary said some took months to finalize their property purchases and waited even longer to start construction.

Others, meanwhile, are only stopped from opening because the state’s not conducting final inspections right now, McGillivary said. They deserve more time, but others, not so much.

“I’m not in favor of an automatic extension by any stretch,” he said.

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