December 1, 2022
Traverse City Rejects Proposal 1
Large urban areas bring to mind images of skyscrapers, interstate highways, and densely populated areas. However, these cities didn’t always exist. There is a point in any populated area’s history when it was just a village or settlement. Over time, that village becomes a town, then that town becomes a city, then a tourist attraction, then a bustling metropolis.
City Proposal 1, which Traverse City voters rejected in the Nov. 8 election, sought to greenlight the construction of a new mixed-use, 88-unit apartment complex on two vacant Hall Street parcels between The Candle Factory and BATA transfer station. City representatives initially granted approval for the project, however local group Save Our Downtown filed a lawsuit claiming that this would violate Section 28 of the City Charter.
Section 28 states:
“It is hereby declared that buildings over 60 feet are generally inconsistent with the residential and historical character of Traverse City. Therefore, any proposal for
construction of a building with a height above 60 feet, shall not be approved by the City
or City Commission, until after the proposal is submitted to and approved by a majority
of the City electors at a regular election, or at a special election.”
Developers claim the Hall Street building itself meets the 60-foot requirement, but opponents claim the rooftop additions, including elevator shafts and a patio, make the final height closer to 80 feet. The issue has been fought in the courts and on Oct. 13, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the rooftop amenities could not be considered part of the building's height. However, they did find that the total height was two feet taller than the city allows and therefore required voter approval or a change in the building design.
Proposal 1 failed, with 58.35% of Traverse City residents voting against the tall building waiver for the Hall Street development. The developers plan on adjusting the building plans to comply with the 60-foot limit.
Taller buildings could change Traverse City in ways similar to other areas that have expanded, gentrified, and urbanized. In 1970, the city of Austin, Texas had a population of just over 250,000. Today the city is close to having a population of a million people, with a projection of tripling that number by 2030.
Historically the area has always been quaint, yet each year more tourists come curious about the wonders that the city has to offer. It could only be a matter of time before Traverse City is more than just a summer tourist destination.