Traverse City Development – 60 Feet Or Less…What Next?

60 Feet Or Less…What Next?

November 10, 2016
60 Feet Or Less...What Next?

Following Tuesday’s passing of Proposition 3 – an amendment to Traverse City’s charter requiring a public vote on buildings over 60 feet – city staff and commissioners are wrestling with how to implement the new policy and whether to legally challenge the amendment.

Voters approved Prop 3 by a margin of 4,521 in favor to 4,012 against – a difference of 509 votes. The charter amendment states: “It is hereby declared that buildings over 60 feet in height 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.”

City officials say Prop 3’s language does not outline a specific process for placing buildings on the ballot or otherwise detail how the policy should be implemented. Under the city’s traditional zoning process, buildings over 60 feet must obtain a special land use permit (SLUP) – going first to city staff for review, then the city planning commission, and finally the city commission. With Prop 3’s requirement that a public vote occur on a building before any type of approval is granted by city staff or commissioners, officials say they’re uncertain what constitutes approval and when an election is triggered. Is it during staff review? At the planning or commission level? Is a SLUP the only type of permit that triggers an election, or would any building or construction permit require voter approval?

(As an example: Munson Medical Center has a SLUP for a 110-foot new building, and Great Lakes Central Properties has a SLUP for a 68-foot building at 124 West Front Street. Neither project has yet started construction. Even though the buildings received SLUPs before Prop 3 was passed, city staff express concerns both projects will be subjected to a vote once additional permits for those developments come up for city review.)

Confusion around the charter language has also raised questions over whether staff can first review buildings to determine if they qualify for a SLUP before placing them on the ballot, or if projects have to go immediately to voters, even if they might ultimately be illegal or ineligible for a SLUP. Officials are also uncertain whether 60-foot-plus building applications will now go first to the city planning department, which oversees zoning and development, or the city clerk’s office, which oversees ballot proposals.

“There are a number of questions like this that are lingering and we’re working to resolve,” says City Clerk Benjamin Marentette. “To be really frank, we don’t know exactly how it would be implemented. We’ll be conferring with the city attorney on how to proceed.”

Other outstanding questions include how building height will be measured, and what criteria voters will use to decide whether to approve projects. On the issue of building height, City Planning Director Russ Soyring notes some city buildings could be 45 feet tall, but have mechanical or architectural features that put them over 60 feet. While the city’s zoning ordinance describes methods for measuring height in such situations, the zoning ordinance is inapplicable to Prop 3, which is part of the city’s charter. “Because it’s not part of the zoning code, we can’t look to the zoning code (for how to measure height),” Soyring says.

As for voting criteria, while staff and commissioners must go through an extensive checklist of SLUP standards when reviewing taller buildings, those standards won’t appear on a ballot proposal for voters to review, say officials. Staff express concerns that without objective criteria in place for evaluating buildings, project votes could become “popularity contests” and open the door to discrimination against developers based on race, sexual orientation, gender, religion or other personal factors unrelated to project specs.

“That’s exactly why we have zoning rules dictated by local and state law,” says Commissioner Brian Haas. “It’s our job as a city to protect the rights of everyone, to make sure all people and properties are treated equally under the law.”

Commissioner Ross Richardson, who supported Prop 3, says he believes fellow commissioners and staff are “way, way overcomplicating” the new charter amendment. “I would think on technical questions like (building height), you would defer to the process that’s in place,” he says. “I’m not a lawyer…but the common sense path is simply that voters have established a height limitation for new construction, and if someone wants to build taller than 60 feet, it goes to a public vote.” Richardson says Prop 3’s passing offers an “important opportunity for people to express their opinions” about city development.

Commissioner Amy Shamroe, however, disagrees Prop 3 will be straightforward or easy to enforce. “It offers no road map or protocols…and it’s (a process) that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the state,” she says. “It leaves a lot of decisions up in the air that would normally come from zoning and planning, and puts a question mark next to who handles those.” Shamroe says she also has a “a big question of whether (Prop 3) is even legal” – a sentiment echoed by Haas.

Due to the number of staff questions surrounding implementing Prop 3, as well as commissioners’ concerns over its legality, City Attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht says she plans to soon send a memo to the board addressing the amendment. “Usually if there is a proposal to amend the charter, these kinds of contigencies are vetted in advance,” she says. “There are a lot of moving pieces to this and things that could happen that are unanticipated…we will start to explore those to move forward.” Trible-Laucht acknowledges one of the issues that could be addressed in her memo is whether or not city commissioners should consider challenging the legality of Prop 3.

Shamroe believes the city may ultimately have to consider going down that road. “I don’t see how we will be able to untangle it in a way that’s legal and binding, and that won’t get us sued by a developer or another group, without taking some of those legal steps,” she says.

Home Owners Should Feel Twice as Rich

Thanks to rising home prices, home owners are getting richer, a new study says. The amount of homeowner equity has doubled in the last five years, according to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index and HPI Forecast for September 2016.

“Home equity wealth has doubled during the last five years to $13 trillion, largely because of the recovery in home prices,” says Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Nationwide during the past year, the average gain in housing wealth was about $11,000 per home owner, but with wide geographic variation.”

Home owners in several markets across California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah are seeing some of the most growth, with double-digit home price gains.

Home owners nationwide likely are to see even more equity in the coming months, too.

“Home-price growth creates wealth for owners with home equity,” says Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “A 5 percent rise in home values over the next year would create another $1 trillion in home equity wealth for home owners.”

Source: CoreLogic and “Home Owners Twice as House Rich as Five Years Ago,” CNBC (Nov. 1, 2016)

Nail the Right Color for Your Listing



You’ve seen clients react: The wall color can make or break a room. And when selling a home, choosing wrongly could make for a very costly mistake.

Trendy color: The ‘It’ Paint Color for 2017

The color “sets up the temperature, the depth, the mood, and the atmosphere for all the other colors to be layered and featured,” says Gretchen Schauffer, founder of the paint line Devine Color.

Schauffler and Puji Sherer, president at Colorhouse Paint, recently offered some tips at for selecting the best paint color for a space. Among their tips:

Weigh the light and scale of the space. A room facing north could have a much different quality of light, affecting how the paint appears compared with a south-facing room. A dusky lavender’s blue undertones, for example, can be strong in a south-facing room, but the warm lavender can appear lilac in a north-facing space. Carefully review the paint colors in the actual space. Paint a big poster board or even a section of the wall before committing to the entire wall. This will help you spot any undertones in the color beforehand.

Don’t go too bright. Let the wall color be the background, the color experts recommend. In living spaces, Sherer and Schauffler recommends letting the wall color be the supporting player and not the star. “I’m always explaining how that background color is going to actually allow you to see the foreground,” Schauffler says. A neutral wall may feel “muted and subdued,” but “the colors sit back so they become more backdrops and don’t overwhelm the space,” Sherer says.

Check the color temperature. You want buyers to feel comfortable in the space as soon as they walk in. Cooler hues — blues and greens — are known for creating more restful retreats that are calm and peaceful. “Any colors that are a little bit on the cooler side are great for bedroom spaces,” Sherer says. On the other hand, warm and energetic colors — yellows, oranges, and reds — tend to work better for social areas in the home. They are “gathering colors, so they’re good to put in spaces like dining rooms or kitchens, where people sit around the table and share stories, or cook and eat together,” Sherer says.

View more of their color tips at

Source: “How to Choose the Best Paint Color for Any Room in Your House,” (Nov. 1, 2016)

Single Story For Sale in Traditions, Garfield Township

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Newer Paint, flooring, Dishwasher

•  1,073 sq. ft., 2 bath, 3 bdrm single story$144,444. Just out of town
MLS® #1824884  

– Country Cottage style w/ todays interior design in small country community just out of town with no through traffic , some open areas. Home features 3 bedrooms, 2 bath, Master Suite separated from other bedrooms, mud/laundry room, 9ft. ceilings, newer flooring, paint, dishwasher ( all appliances included),large back yard w/ room to add 2 car garage, great covered porch for sipping your morning coffee or an evening beverage, and low heating bills ( $68-$75 per mo.). Snowplowing, trash and lawn mowing included.

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Dick’s Sporting Goods on Hold – Traverse City

What Next As DICK’S Store On Hold?

October 3, 2016
What Next As DICK'S Store On Hold?

According to multiple sources, DICK’S Sporting Goods has withdrawn its plans to open a new store in Grand Traverse Mall. News of the retailer’s arrival broke in December; the store was to take over the massive space left by the departure of Carmike Cinemas and 10 other tenants in the northwestern wing of the mall. The 54,000 square-foot store was to employ 60-75 staff members.

Mall General Manager Donald Pelland says the deal is not officially “dead, but it’s also not moving forward.”

“It’s in a holding pattern for the moment pending negotiations, for a lot of different reasons,” he says. The mall “should have a better idea in 30 days” what the status of the project will be, according to Pelland. He says rumors DICK’S pulled out because of the mall’s no-carry policy are “absolutely” untrue, but demurred when asked about roadblocks with Garfield Township approvals. “The township I’m not going to comment on,” he says.

Garfield Township Deputy Planner Brian VanDenBrand says the last his department heard from DICK’S developers was in February, and that it’s been a “routine matter of getting their building permits,” which were issued months ago but never picked up.

Piccolo Forno
In other business news, the owner of Patisserie Amie is opening a new Neapolitan pizzeria in downtown Traverse City. New Jersey native Eric Fritch aims to bring the Little Italy food he loved on the East Coast to northern Michigan.

“It’s my responsibility to bring some good pasta and pizza to Traverse City,” Fritch says. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Fritch is targeting a December 1 opening for Piccolo Forno (“Little Oven” in Italian) in the former Happy Hog Café space at 810 East Front Street. The old-school joint will offer Neapolitan, New York and Sicilian-style pizza, pasta and “gravy” (simmered Italian meat sauce), gelato, zeppole (Italian fried doughnuts), and “maybe an arcade game or two,” says Fritch. Pizza variations will skew both traditional – such as pepperoni and margherita – and more exotic, including clam and conch.

Piccolo Forno will offer dine-in, take-out and delivery six or seven days a week, likely from 11am to 9pm, according to Fritch. The restaurant will not have a liquor license. Fritch will continue to run Patisserie Amie along with the new eatery, he says.

Ecco Closing
Less than a week after the announced closure of InsideOut Gallery in the Warehouse District, another downtown event venue is shutting down operations.

Venue Manager Madeline Begley tells The Ticker she will stop booking events at Ecco at 121 East Front Street at the end of 2016. Begley is leaving after four years of managing the space for building owner Marty Lagina in order to focus on her event planning business, Events to Remember. According to Begley, Lagina – who was out of the country and could not be reached for comment – does not plan to employ another event manager to continue rentals for him, but will instead seek a long-term tenant. That could include an event company willing to assume rent, utilities and all responsibility for the space, Begley says.

“If someone wants to come in and keep it going, it’s a great opportunity,” she says. “It’s a lot to take care of it, but it’s such a valuable space in downtown Traverse City.”

Fusion Love In Limbo
Also in downtown Traverse City, plans for Frankfort’s The Fusion Restaurant to open a second location called Fusion Love at 317 East Front Street have been aborted. Marsha Stratton of Idea Stream, the marketing firm representing Fusion, says a number of building issues – including plumbing and ventilation – made it “cost-prohibitive” to convert the former office space into a restaurant. However, Fusion’s owners are “still looking and hoping to find another location downtown,” Stratton says.

In Other News….
Press on Juice closed its retail store at 134 Front Street effective September 25. In an email to customers, owner Kris Rockwood wrote that overwhelming feedback showed patrons “preferred coming to our Eighth Street store because the parking is so much easier than on Front Street…we are now focusing all of our energy back on our Eighth Street location.”

Mobile wood-fired pizzeria trailer Rocco’s Old World Pizzeria has opened on M-22 next to Northern Building Supply near Suttons Bay. The eatery offers pizzas and calzones created from fresh house-made dough and baked in an authentic Italian wood-fired oven. Salads and desserts are also available. Rocco’s is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30am to 7pm.

Short’s Brewing Company is expanding its Elk Rapids production facility. The expansion includes a new 2,500 square-foot warehouse, a 1,000 square-foot cold-storage facility, and laboratory upgrades that will allow Short’s to test products for IBU, alcohol, calories, pH and more. The company plans to make the lab’s services available to other area brewers, vinters and cider makers.

Great Lakes Malting Company aims to be in full operation by early November at 3025 Cass Road in Traverse City. The company owned by partners Jeff Malkiewicz and Mike Chereskin will be one of only a handful of malt houses in Michigan, and the only one in northern Michigan. GLMC will convert grains like barley, wheat and rye for use in brewing and distilling, as well as food products like flour. “All the grain is sourced here in northern Michigan,” says Malkiewicz.

Edany B.L.T. owners Eddie and Dani Walker are planning to reopen their restaurant at an undisclosed location February 1, according to the company’s Facebook page. The couple closed their restaurant at 720 West Front Street earlier this year, then canceled plans to reopen at 317 East Front Street (the same space targeted by Fusion Love). The Walkers now have a contract with the city to run concessions at Clinch Park and Hickory Hills Ski Area.

Finally, the former Hooters building on US-31 is back on the market after a proposed bar and restaurant deal fell through. The site had been advertised as the future home of a new restaurant and bar called Paradise Grille and the Shrunken Head Tiki Bar. However, real estate agent Tom Krause – who represented the buyer – said “the financing fell through due to complications.” The 5,000 square-foot building is listed for $1.3 million, according to Jason Elsenheimer of Coldwell Banker Schmidt.


Hotel, Retail, Housing Could Follow Costco – Traverse City

Hotel, Retail, Housing Could Follow Costco

Costco is the first domino in a series of potential developments on South Airport Road that could eventually include a hotel, retail center, restaurant, and senior housing development, according to project documents.

Costco commissioned a traffic study from engineering firm GRAEF to determine potential impacts of opening a 156,170 square-foot retail store on the northeast corner of South Airport Road and Fly Don’t Drive on Cherry Capital Airport property in 2017. In addition to evaluating Costco’s impact, the study references several other projects planned for the corridor.

“Based on discussions with the Cherry Capital Airport Authority, the remaining three parcels surrounding the proposed Costco development are anticipated to be a hotel (125 rooms) and approximately 28,000 square feet of warehousing,” GRAEF wrote. A future retail development is also “anticipated to be located in the southeast quadrant of the South Airport Road intersection with Townline Road.” That development shows 30,000 square feet of retail space and a 7,000 square-foot “high turnover sit-down restaurant.”

Further up the corridor, an off-site senior living development “is proposed to be located south of South Airport Road along the west side of Three Mile Road,” East Bay Township officials told GRAEF. The traffic study mentions a 360-unit congregate care facility, 100-bed nursing home, and 123,000 square feet of retail space at the site.

Those developments will likely require significant traffic improvements in the corridor in the future, according to GRAEF. In the interim, however, Traverse City planning commissioners will first focus on Costco and its impact. The national retailer faces one of its last major hurdles tonight (Tuesday) to opening a new store in Traverse City: site plan approval from the city planning commission.

Costco’s site plan offers a new detailed look at specs and renderings for the proposed development. The project will include a Costco’s retail store, an attached tire center, and an eight-pump gas station. The development will be serviced by 753 parking spaces, as well as bike access/storage and a pedestrian path stretching from South Airport Road to the store’s front entrance.

In a memo to planning commissioners, Cherry Capital Airport Director Kevin Klein said the architectural features and landscaping of the new Costco building will complement those of the airport, including “stone work, columns and earth-tone colors.” Costco will be buffered by the existing tree line on South Airport Road to extend the “up north feel” of the airport entrance, and will incorporate “downward facing lighting to protect the night sky and avoid interference with flyers utilizing the airport.”

Klein also outlined the partnership potential offered by having Costco next to Cherry Capital Airport, which will earn close to $170,000 annually from the store’s lease. In addition to interconnected pedestrian and bike networks, Fly Don’t Drive (the airport’s entrance road) will serve as one of three access points to Costco. “Costco’s site plan addresses a valuable need by providing a fueling station conveniently located directly off Fly Don’t Drive,” Klein wrote. “This will greatly assist those airport customers that rent vehicles and need to return them with a full tank of gas.”

In a memo to planning commissioners, city planning staff recommended approving Costco’s site plan tonight – albeit with several key conditions. Those include updating the store’s stormwater control measures, finetuning bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and either downgrading Costco’s planned signage or requiring the store to obtain a zoning variance. But the most significant condition will likely hinge on Costco making traffic improvements to the South Airport Road corridor prior to the store’s opening.

According to GRAEF, the store is expected to generate 7,340 weekday and 9,530 weekend trip ends (counting vehicles both entering and departing). In addition to access from Fly Don’t Drive/Townline Road, customers will be able to enter Costco from two other points on South Airport: a new right-in, right-out driveway east of the airport entrance, and a new road into the development (accessible from all directions) closer to Three Mile Road.

Traffic Services Supervisor Garth Greenan of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission says the turn lanes required for the store entrances will “essentially make (South Airport) a three-lane road between Townline Road and the new Costco road.” The Road Commission is working with Costco on turn lane placement/length and “stacking space” for cars waiting to turn into the store to ensure those don’t “interfere with traffic flow” in the corridor, Greenan says.

Turn lane improvements and safety upgrades – including longer red light clearance intervals, new signal heads for each traffic lane, and optimized signal timings – are also recommended for the intersection of South Airport and Garfield roads. Should planning commissioners make the traffic improvements a condition of site plan approval, Costco would be responsible for funding and implementing the upgrades before opening, with final road permit approvals coming from the Road Commission.


Lot / Land For Sale in Springfield Township, Kalkaska County

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Near River, Lake, State Land

•  lot / land$9,900. 3.18 Surveyed Acres
MLS® #1823461  

– 3.18 Acre parcel on paved county maintained road only 5 mins. from US -131 and all sports Fife Lake and approx. 1.5 miles from Manistee River / Boat Launch and 1000’s of acres of State Land. Easy commute to Kalkaska, Grayling & I-75, Cadillac or Traverse City. Recently surveyed staked/flagged and mostly cleared and ready for thick second growth or build your home/weekend cabin (good slope for possible walk out basement) , per county you can build garage/pole barn with no residence also. Great recreation area…hike, boat, fish, hunt ( deer tracks /sign on property) and in heart of snow mobile country! Cash for deed, fast closing – no closing costs! Bring your offers! Seller is licensed Realtor in State of Michigan.

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Freddie Mac Tests Less-Stringent Loan Program



In a new pilot program, Freddie Mac and two non-bank lenders are easing income and documentation requirements for mortgage borrower applicants.

Meeting Buyers Halfway

FHA Condo Relief Coming: President Signs Bill

Banks Rush to Offer 3% Down Payment Loans

The aim is to fuel more mortgage originations among first-time buyers, who tend to have more low to moderate incomes, and to better reach those who live in underserved areas, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In the pilot program, Freddie Mac says that applicants will be able to use the income of others who live with the borrower but who aren’t going to be on the mortgage to qualify. Also, income from second jobs that borrowers have held, even for a short period of time, can now be factored in. The program will also not require borrowers to come up with bank statements to show how they saved for their down payment.

The pilot program does not lower down payment or credit score requirements.

Sister mortgage giant Fannie Mae offers a similar program. However, the loosened standards are new to Freddie Mac.

Freddie Mac says the changes took effect on Monday. The pilot program will be offered for the next 12 months to mortgage applicants with Alterra Home Loans, based in Las Vegas, or New American Funding in Trustin, Calif. After 12 months, Freddie Mac will determine whether to expand its pilot program.

Source: “Freddie Mac Starts Pilot Program With Looser Standards,” The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 19, 2016)

Lot / Land For Sale in Union Township, Grand Traverse County

State Land 3 Side, Snowmobile/ATV Trails

•  lot / land$94,900. 80 Wooded Acres
MLS® #1822948  

– 80 (79.54)Heavily wooded acres with tons of road frontage on 2 roads and surrounded on 3 sides by thousands of acres of state land, splits may be available. Short drive to Boardman & Manistee rives, Fife Lake, Kingsley, Traverse City, Kalkaska, Cadillac with highly rated Kingsley schools. Perfect for the up north getaway ( camping, hunting, hiking, snow mobiles /ATV-trails right out your door) or year round home in the heart of nature, peace & quiet and wildlife. Currently in Forestry Mgt. Program making taxes only approx. $100 per year- all or part may be removed if desired after purchase.

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Bad Habits That May Ruin a Home



Certain home owner habits could actually be harming the home, and can lead to major home improvement projects later on. This Old House recently featured a list of several bad home owner habits to avoid, including:

Slamming the front door

Slamming the heavy front door can push it out of alignment. Eventually, the door may get really tough to open and even have a gap between the trim and jamb that could allow moisture and cold air to seep in.

Fix: Replace the existing hinges of the door with self-closing ones so that the door can softly close without slamming.

Read more: 8 Bad ‘Home Improvement’ Habits

Never lifting up outdoor rugs.

Outdoor rugs with rubber or vinyl backings shouldn’t be left in place. They can trap water and lead to mold and mildew.

Fix: Select an open-weave rug that allows rainwater to evaporate and air to circulate. Also, rinse the rug with a hose occasionally and then hang it out to dry.

Failing to clean the gutters.

Fallen leaves, pine needles, branches, and even the neighbor’s tennis ball can end up clogging your gutter and prevent water from properly flowing through. Water could then either back up or dump along the foundation and seep into cracks and crevices.

Fix: Clean your gutters before the spring rains. Check them in the winter for any ice or snow damage. Consider mesh gutter guards to help prevent clogs.

Flushing “flushable wipes.”

Pre-moistened, flushable wipes may not be so good to flush down your toilet after all. Flushing them could cause a plumbing problem, according to This Old House. The nonwoven fabric from the wipes may collect with grease and other materials and lead to a clog.

Fix: Place a covered trash bin in the bathroom to dispose of the wipes instead. Stick to traditional toilet paper.

Closing vents.

Shutting vents to try to push air to other rooms to cool or heat may end up doing more harm than good. You could cause “a pressure imbalance in the ducts that can make the furnace work harder or the cooling coil freeze over,” according to This Old House article.

Fix: An HVAC contractor can install branch dampers in the main areas of your ductwork to force cooler air to the second floor in the summer and warmer air to the ground floor in the winter.

Using too much drain cleaner.

Clog-dissolving liquids or crystals may help unclog a septic system. But too much of it may lead to less of the essential bacteria needed to break down the waste continually.

Fix: When you first get a clog, pour some boiling water in and flush. For more pesky clogs, try a mechanical cleaning with a closet auger snake – which according to the article is less damaging than drain-clearing chemicals. If you do use drain cleaner, use them sparingly.

View the full list of 25 bad habits of home owners and how to avoid them at This Old House.

Source: “Break These Bad Home Owner Habits,” This Old House (September 2016)