Traverse City commissioners could vote tonight (Monday) to approve putting a request before city voters in November to grant a 50-year lease to Grand Traverse County to continue using the Senior Center building on East Front Street. The issue is one of several that commissioners will tackle as part of a busy agenda that also includes finalizing recreational marijuana rules in the city – which could be formally enacted as soon as August 17 – and declaring a downtown parking lot next to Mode’s Bum Steer as surplus so a mixed-use development can be built on the site.

City commissioners are facing an August 11 deadline to approve language that would appear on the November 3 ballot asking voters for approval to lease a portion of the Senior Center property to Grand Traverse County through 2070. Though the city owns the property, the county runs the Senior Center as part of its countywide Senior Center Network. Supporters want to build a new facility on the site – a plan past city and county commissioners approved, with the city already paying for design services – but current county officials have said they won’t put a millage request on the ballot to pay for the new building without a long-term interest in the property, such as a lease. Because the property is city parkland, any type of disposal of the property or long-term lease agreement requires the approval of city voters.

Though the county’s request irked city commissioners – with some describing it as “political maneuvering” and an ungrounded lack of trust by the county in the city – the commission could agree tonight to put the lease request to voters. However, the ballot proposal is explicitly contingent on a county millage to pay for the new building also being approved by voters on November 3. If either ballot proposal fails – or if Grand Traverse County fails to put a millage request on the ballot – the lease proposal would be nullified, even if approved by voters. County commissioners will need to act by August 11 to put a millage request on the ballot, meaning the board will either need to add it to Wednesday’s agenda – it’s not currently on the docket – or hold a special meeting before next Tuesday. City Manager Marty Colburn says he remains “excited about the possibility of constructing a new senior center to provide engaging programming and activities for this area’s senior citizens.”

Rules legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana in the city could finally go into effect at the end of this month after more than a year of review by commissioners – a process that was further delayed by the pandemic. The new rules spell out which types of recreational businesses can operate in the city – such as growing, processing, transportation, safety compliance, and retail sales, with events and on-site consumption lounges off the table for now – and in what districts they will be permitted. A scoring metric to determine how business owners qualify for retail permits is also included in the new ordinance. At the request of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), a maximum of two retail stores would be permitted downtown at least 1,500 feet apart and not in the main Front Street area. Commissioners could schedule a formal vote to enact the recreational rules on August 17, which would then officially go into effect by the end of the month.

Commissioners tonight will also vote to declare a downtown city parking lot as surplus so a planned mixed-use development can be built on the site. Lot G contains 55 parking spaces next to Mode’s Bum Steer on State Street and is planned to house a new building that will serve as the home of TCF Financial Corporation, which will relocate from its existing building across the street to allow Rotary Square to be built on the site. The new building, which will be a public-private partnership, is also anticipated to house rental apartments and some public parking.

Commissioners in early July gave staff the OK to begin the process to declare the property surplus, which includes assessing its value and condition, any potential easements needed, and how its disposal will meet city goals (in this case, helping build Rotary Square, adding rental housing to downtown, and converting surface lots into more valuable uses). If commissioners officially declare the property surplus tonight, the DDA’s next step will be to establish a committee to seek and review proposals from developers to partner on the project. Commissioners Tim Werner and Christie Minervini have asked to serve as the commission’s representatives on that committee.

Also at tonight’s meeting…
> Commissioners will consider scheduling an August 17 vote to amend the city’s ordinance to ban contractors and developers from blocking public right-of-ways during construction projects, including bike paths, parking, and sidewalks. Bikers and pedestrians have complained about several construction projects around town that have intruded into sidewalks or bike lanes, making it difficult or dangerous to navigate around sites. The new rules will better allow staff to enforce violations if a construction site blocks a public right-of-way.

> Commissioners will vote on a request to rezone property at 1028 Carver Street to allow a new multi-family development from Homestretch to be built on the site. Planning commissioners already unanimously supported the rezoning, which will allow Homestretch to build up to 10 affordable rental units on the property, with rents likely ranging from $675 to $875 per month.

> Commissioners will hold public hearings before voting to approve resolutions of support for two city grant requests, including a $300,000 grant application to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for improvements to the Union Street Dam Park and a $50,000 grant application to the same fund for improvements to Boon Street Park.


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