City Commission To Consider New Housing Development, Second Solar Offer

By Beth Milligan | July 17, 2017

Traverse City commissioners will consider approving a rezoning request for a new housing development on State Street and putting a proposed solar energy deal on hold to consider a second proposal at their 7pm meeting tonight (Monday) at the Governmental Center.

State Street Developer
A development group hopes to fill a niche by building housing affordable to Traverse City’s “median household income” at a new townhouse site at 415 East State Street (pictured).

Old Silver Maple LLC – consisting of partners Chris Bzdok, Scott Howard, Ross Hammersley, and Colleen Mulligan – is proposing to convert the single home on the property into a six-unit, multi-family building. Each townhouse unit will offer two stories of living space and exterior windows on at least two sides. All units will have 1.5 baths, and four of the six units will have two bedrooms. Units will have sheltered parking for one car, include either a covered porch or balcony, and share a common basement with separate storage areas. None of the units will be stacked, according to developers.

Old Silver Maple is seeking city approval to rezone the site from R-15 to R-29, which would allow the developer to build up to seven units instead of the four allowed by right on the site. The rezoning would not change the height or setback requirements on the property. In discussions with city planning commissioners, developers agreed to limit construction to six units and to use architectural design standards that reflect the city’s master plan and surrounding Boardman Neighborhood aesthetic. Based on those conditions, planning commissioners forwarded the request to city commissioners with a recommendation to approve the rezoning. City staff are also supporting the request.

In a memo to city officials, developers noted that while Traverse City “is experiencing robust development of new condominium projects in town…the majority of new units are being offered at prices ranging from $350,000 to upwards of $1 million.” The group also pointed out that multiple apartment complexes are coming online in the region, helping to address a rental shortage. “In the space between high-end condominiums and new apartments, there appears to be little new housing under development in town that can be purchased with typical household incomes generated by the local economy,” the group wrote.

Old Silver Maple intends to sell at least five of its State Street units, with the sixth potentially used as a long-term rental. While developers didn’t specify an intended price range for the units, they indicated their goal was to cater to full-time residents in Traverse City’s median income range of $50,586.

Howard, one of the development partners, is the husband of City Commissioner Michele Howard. She told The Ticker she plans to recuse herself from tonight’s vote and discussion on the rezoning request.

Second Solar Deal
City commissioners were set to vote on a proposed solar energy deal with Heritage Sustainable Energy tonight – but may end up tabling the proposal to buy time to consider a second proposal.

Traverse City Light & Power (TCL&P) has already approved the initial deal with developer Marty Lagina of Heritage Sustainable Energy, who is offering to build a one-megawatt solar array on property next to his company’s wind turbine at the corner of M-72 and Gray Road. TCL&P’s approval is contingent on city commissioners also agreeing to the proposal, which they were set to vote on tonight. If approved, the deal would see Lagina sell solar energy to Traverse City to help the city meet its goal of powering all city operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.

The project would get the city nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal, but would require the city to pay a “green rate,” or subsidy, buying the energy at 11.25 cents per kilowatt-hour. That price is an increase from the average market rate of 8.9 cents. The deal is expected to cost Traverse City $25,000 annually for the next 20 years.

In a memo to commissioners Thursday, City Manager Marty Colburn said another company has come forward and offered to “supply the city with Michigan-based wind and solar energy at the capacities needed to sustain the city.” The company guaranteed “this supply by September 2017,” Colburn wrote. He also said the deal would “eliminate the proposed green rate surcharge” required under Heritage’s offer. Colburn asked commissioners for more time to research the second offer. City commissioners have until September 15 to make a decision on the Heritage deal under terms approved by TCL&P.

While Colburn didn’t identify the company behind the competing offer, TCL&P Exeuctive Director Tim Arends tells The Ticker the proposal was made by Spartan Renewable Energy, an affiliate of Wolverine Power Cooperative. He says TCL&P boad members were aware of the company’s interest in an energy deal but that Spartan Renewable Energy hadn’t submitted any formal type of proposal to the utility, prompting the board to move ahead with the concrete offer from Lagina on the table.

Spartan Renewable Energy is “interested in making an offer…and have claimed it would not require a green rate or subsidy,” Arends says. “Those are the fine details that need to be worked out. Their calculations may not be the same as ours.” Arends says the company would likely provide the city with power from both existing infrastructure and new infrastructure to be developed locally. Because TCL&P has already approved a contract with Lagina, Arends says his board will wait until city commissioners make a decision on one or both offers before revisiting the issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *