The Traverse City Commission tackled a hefty agenda at its back-to-back special meeting and study session last night, which included the consideration of new zoning ordinances, downtown renovation projects and a possible ballot proposal for next fall.
A look at some of the key issues commissioners reviewed and took action on:
Boardman River Improvements
City commissioners voted unanimously last night to endorse a City application for an $80,000 grant from the Michigan Coastal Management Program for renovations to the Boardman River boat launch along Grandview Parkway near Park Street. Renovations would include a new launch ramp, an accessible kayak/canoe launch, resurfacing of the turnaround and parking area, and a retaining wall for bank stabilization.
“Our goal is to make the area look more attractive, reduce the environmental impact and provide opportunities for more people to use the recreational area,” says City Planning Director Russ Soyring.
The grant, which carries a requirement of matching funds from the City, would combine with $80,000 in already-secured local parking system funds to cover the project's costs. It would also augment a Michigan Waterways grant request previously submitted to the state. Soyring says the City will likely know by September if the grant has been approved.
Clinch Park Tunnel Project
Hallmark Construction has been awarded a contract by the City to oversee the redevelopment of the Cass Street pedestrian tunnel leading to Clinch Park. The company, which previously won contracts to complete earlier phases of the Clinch Park revitalization effort, submitted a bid of $396,150 for the base project plus four recommended design modifications, including stone veneer, additional railings, five bike racks, and a solar/wind energy system to power the tunnel's proposed snowmelt system.
Hallmark was the lowest of three companies that submitted sealed bids in the desired price range for the project. In a memo to city commissioners, Soyring and City Engineer Timothy Lodge noted the total estimated project costs – including design and professional services – will amount to $448,250, nearly $120,000 more than previously anticipated. However, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Executive Director Bryan Crough said the DDA will cover the shortfall for the project out of its TIF 97 budget.
Accessory Dwelling Units
A hot-button issue that generated fierce debate when it previously came before the Commission in 2007 is now back on the City agenda. Commissioners will soon decide whether to approve ordinance amendments allowing homeowners in the Traverse Heights neighborhood – bordered by Garfield Avenue, Eighth Street, Centre Street and Boardman Lake – to maintain accessory dwelling units (ADUs), commonly called granny flats, on their properties.
Commissioners previously rejected a proposed ADU ordinance amid resident concerns over parking, traffic and property values. To ease concerns this go-round, the city planning commission drafted a neighborhood-specific rather than city-wide ordinance and enacted restrictions to address public criticism. Only five permits a year can be issued for the Traverse Heights neighborhood, rental units must have on-site paved parking and 250-square feet of floor space per person, and homeowners must live on the property.
The City Commission was originally scheduled to consider the ordinance for enactment at its April 1 meeting, but Commissioner Barbara Budros last night requested to reschedule the possible enactment to April 15. The request was approved by the Commission.
Brown Bridge Trust Funds
Commissioners are in the early stages of discussing a possible ballot proposal to obtain voter approval to use Brown Bridge Trust Fund (BBTF) dollars for capital improvements.
The Brown Bridge Trust Fund was established in 1978 to receive royalty income from natural resources located within the 1300-acre Brown Bridge Quiet Area in East Bay Township. The projected June 30, 2013 BBTF balance is $13.2 million. A 60% voter approval is required to withdraw funds from the BBTF, an authorization that has occurred twice to date: in 1987 to purchase property on West Bay, and in 1994 to purchase additional property by the Quiet Area.
According to City Manager Ben Bifoss, some commissioners “have expressed a desire that (BBTF) funds be dedicated to capital improvements in the City's parks,” which could possibly include the acquisition of new parkland. If the City Commission decides to put the issue on the November 2013 ballot, it will need to take action by early August to do so.