City Updates: Commission Votes, Fish Survey, Senior Center Tree Project
By Beth Milligan | Oct. 2, 2023
Traverse City commissioners will vote tonight (Monday) on approving a new payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) policy for affordable housing projects in the city and updating the city attorney’s employment agreement, among other agenda items. In other city news, FishPass project partners the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians recently completed an electrofishing survey in the lower Boardman-Ottaway River, while city staff are salvaging trees removed during Senior Center reconstruction for a new Slabtown Neighborhood playground.
City Commission Agenda
City commissioners will vote tonight on approving a new payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) ordinance for the city.
Recent state legislation allows communities to now approve PILOT agreements – in which developers pay a percentage of rental income to the city instead of traditional taxes to offset the costs associated with developing affordable housing – without those projects having to secure state tax credits, as was previously required. If approved tonight, the city’s new PILOT ordinance will apply to projects “developed or rehabilitated for workforce housing for persons and families whose household income is not greater than 120 percent of area median income,” according to the draft language. Approving a PILOT agreement will require an affirmative vote from at least five city commissioners. Construction on an approved PILOT housing project must start generally start within 18 months, unless otherwise specified in the agreement.
Several other items are on the commission’s agenda tonight, including approving an updated employment agreement with City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht that will raise her annual salary to $160,000. Commissioners set the salary last year at $130,000 with the caveat that further adjustments would be considered once a city compensation study was completed. That study recommended a salary range of $160,000-$190,000 for both the city attorney and city manager. The vacant city manager position has been listed with the new salary range. Trible-Laucht will also be able to participate in the city’s MERS retirement plan under the new agreement, which was not available to her when she was hired but has since been made available to incoming employees.
Also on tonight’s commission agenda are votes to clarify how building height design standards apply to The Village at Grand Traverse Commons and the introduction and scheduling of an October 16 vote on zoning changes that would add marinas and liveries as allowed uses by right in the hotel-resort district. Commissioners will also vote to approve a special improvement district – in which the city pays 20 percent of costs and property owners agree to pay the other 80 percent of costs – to install new decorative lighting along East Bay Boulevard South. Finally, Sparks BBQ is seeking approval tonight to obtain a new Class C liquor license, relinquishing its existing redevelopment liquor license so that it can have more flexible hours and take its liquor license elsewhere if the business ever relocates.
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB) – partners with the City of Traverse City on the planned FishPass project at the Union Street Dam site – recently completed an electrofishing survey in the lower Boardman-Ottaway River (pictured, left). Fish surveys began in the river in 2017, with the GTB providing equipment and staff for the work starting in 2019, according to city newsletter the Bay Brief.
The surveys are used to measure “seasonal diversity and abundance” in the river, with staff also implanting bio-telemetry tags during the work, according to the city. “Bio-telemetry in the most basic sense is the remote detection, measurement, and monitoring of animal activity,” the Bay Brief states. “As such, these tags facilitate ongoing research on fish movement and presence in the river interim to the physical sampling of fish. The utilization of telemetry tags will further be used to assist the development of FishPass, which will be (outfitted) with numerous telemetry sensors to understand the efficacy of various sorting and selective technology at the site.”
The city provided the following results from the most recent survey. Pacific salmon – primarily Chinook and Coho salmon – were not measured as part of the work because they are monitored by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at the salmon weir. Hundreds of Chinook and Coho salmon were spotted by staff during the survey, with the city noting that the river “is very much dominated by these introduced salmon this time of year.”
Fish Survey Results – Listed by Species, Number of Fish, and Average Length in Inches
Northern Pike: 2, 26.8
Brown Trout: 3, 14.9
Common White Sucker: 4, 13.7
Rainbow Trout: 17, 11.5
Smallmouth Bass: 1, 5.5
Walleye: 1, 17.7
Senior Center Tree Project
The reconstruction of the Traverse City Senior Center on East Front Street is in full swing, with the former building now demolished on the site and Senior Center activities and programming relocated to the VFW Cherryland Post 2780 on Veterans Drive (Tuesday-Thursday from 8am-3pm) for the duration of construction work.
According to the Bay Brief, the city’s parks division is salvaging black locust trees – which are invasive in Michigan – from the Senior Center construction site for use in another project. The trees (pictured, right) will be recycled into a nature playscape at Ashton Park, located off Wayne Street next to Willow Hill Elementary School in Slabtown Neighborhood. The project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Slabtown Neighborhood Association.
“The playground will have enhanced climbing features, log stump steps, and balance structures to name a few,” according to the city. “The design is intended to be interactive and creative and encourages imaginative play.” Construction on the new playscape is planned to start in the spring.
Photo credit: Sean Leask (GTB) and Reid Swanson/City of Traverse CityComment