Traverse City News and Events

TCAPS Admin Building Rezoning, Riparian Ordinance Goes to Planning Commission

By Beth Milligan | Feb. 6, 2024

The development group that has a pending deal to purchase the Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) Administration Building on Webster Street will appear before the Traverse City planning commission tonight (Tuesday) with a rezoning request that would allow the building to be preserved and converted into residential housing. Planning commissioners will also consider next steps in pursuing a long-discussed riparian buffer ordinance for Traverse City.

TCAPS Admin Building
Planning commissioners tonight will review a request from Boardman Building LLC to rezone the TCAPS Administration Building from R-2 (Mixed Density Residential District) to D-2 (Development District). The request, supported by planning staff, would allow the building to be preserved and a  new housing project to move forward on the site. Planning commissioners could vote tonight to set a public hearing on the request for March 5.

TCAPS has a pending deal to sell the property to Boardman Building LLC for $750,000, with a targeted closing at the end of June. Ahead of the closing, TCAPS is preparing to relocate its printing department to the Sabin Data Center on Cass Road and its administrative offices and boardroom for TCAPS board meetings to Glenn Loomis. TCAPS will begin moving from the Administration Building to Glenn Loomis in April with the goal of finishing before the end of June, TCAPS Superintendent Dr. John VanWagoner previously told The Ticker.

Boardman Building LLC did not make its final offer contingent on city zoning approval, but indicated months ago it would seek rezoning to covert the building to residential units, with three additional townhomes added in new construction. The purchase agreement includes a deed restriction prohibiting any short-term or vacation rentals on the property (that restriction applies to the original Administration Building, not the new construction planned). The agreement also protects the Administration Building from being demolished for at least 25 years. If Boardman Building LLC were to sell its entire interest in the property before any individual residential units or townhouse-style homes were sold, it could recover its purchase price – plus expenses – but then must pay any excess revenues beyond that to TCAPS.

In a letter last week to Boardman Neighborhood residents – who have generally supported Boardman Building LLC’s plans, wanting to see the historic building preserved – architect Ken Richmond highlighted those points in seeking their public support of the zoning change. “This change will give us more control to do what we want to do to save the building and make the site compliant with the city master plan,” he wrote. Richmond said there were three building use options on the table. Option one would include “market-rate residential condominiums with some building additions,” such as garages, a new entry, and roof patios, he wrote. Option two would include “all office use – essentially continuing the existing use of the building – with very little site work changes.” Option three would include “some of these two – possible residential on lower level with office above.” The rezoning process is the “first step to proceed with our plans to save the building,” he wrote.

In a memo to planning commissioners, City Planning Director Shawn Winter wrote that the property’s current R-2 zoning “does not reflect the scale or the current and historic use of the existing building. D-2 zoning would better fit the existing structure and proposed uses in order to feasibly maintain the current structure.” The area directly south of the property – the commercial corridor along Eighth Street – is already D-2, which could be extended slightly north to include the Administration Building. Winter also said that the large size of the parcel “prevents lot splits allowable under R-2 zoning without demolishing the building.” He said the proposed D-2 rezoning is consistent with the city’s future land use map and “will allow better utilization of the existing structure.”

If the rezoning request is supported by planning commissioners following tonight’s discussion and the potential March 5 public hearing, it would then go to city commissioners. They could potentially have a first look at the request on March 18 and vote on it following an April 1 public hearing, according to a project timeline.

Riparian Buffer Zone Ordinance
Planning commissioners will discuss next steps tonight in addressing one of their top priorities for 2024: finishing a long-discussed draft of a new riparian buffer zone ordinance.

The ordinance, which has been in the works since 2019, would create a protected zone on waterfront properties in the city. Past drafts have considered regulations like restricting development, the removal of healthy trees, and the use of fertilizers, manures, and chemicals within the riparian buffer zone. Other discussed provisions have sought to protect waterways by limiting shoreline hardening materials like private seawalls, bulkheads, and rubble, and requiring any new landscaping that occurs in a buffer zone to only include native plants.

Work to finalize the ordinance was delayed by the pandemic and other major planning projects, including a new master plan and mobility action plan. However, at a January meeting, planning commissioners agreed to take the issue up again and create a reconstituted Riparian Buffer Committee. Planning commissioners Shea O’Brien, AnnaMarie Dituri, and Mitch Treadwell (also a city commissioner) volunteered to serve. Tonight, planning commissioners will approve next steps including a process for appointing other committee members. Several city staff members are expected to serve, as well as two at-large riparian property owners proposed to be recommended by staff and appointed by the planning commission chair. An application form has been created for any interested volunteers, with applications accepted through the end of the month. Outside review and input will also be sought from the local drain commissioner and The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, according to packet materials.

A proposed workplan outlines an “aggressive schedule” under which the committee would create an updated version of the ordinance and seek public input this year, according to Deputy City Planner Leslie Sickterman, with the goal of having a draft completed by the end of 2024.

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