Traverse City News and Events

City Rejects Governmental Center Parking Proposal; Discussion Coming On Rec Marijuana, Parkway Design

By Beth Milligan | April 19, 2022

A Grand Traverse County proposal to convert 103 public parking spaces at the Governmental Center to permit-only parking for employees and board members was rejected by city commissioners Monday, who declined to even put the motion to a vote. City commissioners also had an extensive discussion on proposed recreational marijuana rules, with the board leaning toward allowing up to two dozen retail dispensaries in city limits – a significant increase from past discussions of 8-10 permits. Commissioners will discuss the proposed recreational rules in more depth at a study session next Monday, where they’ll also revisit the Grandview Parkway reconstruction design process.

Governmental Center Parking
Grand Traverse County, which co-owns the Governmental Center with the City of Traverse City, recently proposed to convert the southern half of the property’s parking lot into a permit-only lot for employees and board members. The plan would require vehicles to have a permit to park in that area Monday-Friday from 7am-5:30pm, with the county and city to distribute free permits to employees and city/county board members to use those spaces. Twenty-five metered spaces and six handicap spaces would still be available for public use in the northern section of the lot closest to the building, including a row of spaces that offer 30 minutes of free parking. The southern lot would remain available for free public use during evenings and weekends. County Administrator Nate Alger previously said the looming opening of Commongrounds and other nearby developments prompted the requested change, with officials worried those projects will drive up weekday parking demand at the already-stressed Governmental Center lot.

Under the agreement, the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) – which handles parking enforcement for the city – would patrol the lot and receive revenue from fines. While county commissioners and DDA board members both approved the proposal, several city commissioners balked at the change Monday. Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe noted that most city meetings are held in the evening, when free public parking would be available at the Governmental Center, but that the county commission holds its meetings in the morning. If public spaces were converted to permitted spaces, residents trying to attend county commission meetings – which can sometimes last up to four hours – would be pushed out into surrounding city streets because of a lack of available Governmental Center parking, according to Shamroe. She said moving to a permit system would be “creating a bigger bureaucracy” than is needed at the Governmental Center parking lot.

Commissioner Tim Werner said that parking spaces are a “limited resource” with inherent value, and that if the Governmental Center lot was going to be converted to permitted parking, a value should be assigned “to each of those parking spaces.” Instead of just doling out free permits to employees, the city and county should incentivize alternative transportation by offering a stipend to staff who opt not to take a permit, Werner said. Commissioner Ashlea Walter added that she was opposed to charging the public for parking in general at the Governmental Center, saying it “sends the wrong message” to residents trying to participate in their community and government. With a variety of dissenting opinions to the proposal, commissioners declined to even take the motion up for a vote. DDA CEO Jean Derenzy told commissioners that essentially means the proposal will sit on the shelf, as the DDA’s only stake in the agreement was as an enforcing agency if the county and city both approved it. “We’re not following up on this,” she said.

Recreational Marijuana Rules
City commissioners are zeroing in on new recreational marijuana rules that could allow staff to start issuing permits for retail dispensaries this summer. Commissioners talked extensively through the proposed rules Monday, notably on the number of retail permits that should be allowed in city limits. While some commissioners liked an initial proposed range of 8-10 permits, several were willing to go up to 24 – a figure that would not only accommodate the current field of roughly a dozen medical dispensaries that want to sell recreational products but new players on the scene as well. Those permits would be spread across 10 “overlay district” zones, or different neighborhoods, with a maximum of two permits generally allowed in each zone (with some having up to five). The overlay district approach is meant to spread retail stores throughout the city instead of having them congregated in certain corridors, a previous complaint about medical dispensaries.

Industry representatives urged commissioners to adopt the higher number of permits, noting that two dozen stores could generate well over $1 million annually in estimated tax revenues for the city. Mike DiLaura – chief of corporate operations and general counsel for SecureCann, which does business as House of Dank – said retail stores provide “easy low-hanging fruit money…that can be put to good use” by the city. City commissioners will talk through the rules in greater detail at a study session next Monday before potentially voting to approve them at their May 2 meeting. If commissioners approve the rules on that date, City Clerk Benjamin Marentette said the city would “be in a position to start accepting applications sometime in early June.” Building in time for application review, that means permits could start being issued by August or September, according to Marentette.

Grandview Parkway
Commissioner Werner requested that commissioners discuss the proposed design of Grandview Parkway at their study session next Monday, including hiring a negotiator to work with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) on design elements the city wants incorporated in the project. A recent legal opinion from an outside attorney determined that a 1947 agreement between the City of Traverse City and the state gives the city approval power over the new design of Grandview Parkway. Reconstruction work on the corridor is expected to start next March, with MDOT working to finalize the design this spring. City commissioners have not yet publicly discussed how they will exert their power in the design process. City Manager Marty Colburn, Assistant City Manager Penny Hill, City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht, and City Engineer Tim Lodge did not return a request for comment Monday on what the city approval process would look like. Werner said he will ask commissioners next week to discuss “bringing in somebody with the expertise and experience in high-powered negotiations” to work with MDOT on the city’s behalf. “This is an opportunity that I don’t want us to squander,” he said of the Grandview Parkway redesign.

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