Next Tuesday, November 8, is Election Day and marks a significant turning point in the economic future of Traverse City. Among the city ballot issues is Proposal 3, a proposed amendment to the City Charter that would require a public vote of city residents for any development projects with that exceed a 60-foot building height – a limit of 4-5 stories depending on the building design.
For numerous reasons, the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce is vigorously opposed to this ill-conceived ballot proposal and urges a “No” vote at Tuesday’s election. Proposal 3 represents a major over-reaction to a single downtown development proposal, and creates obstacles to future development that are unprecedented in Michigan and throughout the Midwest that threaten the economic future of the city and the region:
- Proposal 3 is not legal and conflicts with state zoning and planning enabling statutes, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s office. This opinion is also shared by the Traverse City city attorney’s office. Voter approval would likely result in a lawsuit and the accompanying legal expenses for city taxpayers.
- Proposal 3 is in direct conflict with the city’s long-approved and publicly supported zoning ordinance and master development plan, which for decades has provided for taller development structures in specific, limited areas designated for such projects.
- The reach of Proposal 3 goes way beyond downtown. Proposal 3 would impact future development plans for areas like the Munson Medical Center medical campus, the Grand Traverse Commons and Northwestern Michigan College, all of which would need voter approval to develop structures over 60 feet.
- Proposal 3 would cost the city both directly and indirectly. City taxpayers would have to absorb the costs of legal challenges and future special elections if this proposal were to stand. The city would also incur the unknown, but likely consequential loss of investment dollars and future tax revenue due to a cumbersome and unfriendly planning process.
- Proposal 3 would have no impact on the use of development incentives such as tax increment financing districts and state and local brownfield redevelopment funds, which have been major boogeymen for proponents of Proposal 3.
- Proposal 3 injects campaign politics into decisions and processes that are complicated and meant to be deliberative, objective, and provide multiple avenues for public input.
The Traverse City Area Chamber historically has been leery of local and state ballot initiatives; they are a poor way to craft public policy. They usurp the authority of local development plans and zoning ordinances, override our duly-elected and appointed representatives, and bolster the influence of special interests over the public decision-making process. For these reasons and others, the Chamber opposed a city charter amendment proposed in 2010 to politicize the city’s independent utility board, a proposal back by many of the same proponents of Proposal 3.
The Chamber is not alone in its concerns. Proposal 3 has been opposed by other community organizations including the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, and the Traverse Area Association of Realtors. It is opposed by other credible voices including the Traverse City Record-Eagle and by Midwestern Broadcasting President Ross Biederman. The Chamber fully endorses the work and position of Stand Up TC, a grassroots citizens group that’s been working in opposition to Proposal 3.
The Chamber opposes this unprecedented and extraordinary infringement on public process and property rights. We encourage our members and the public to vote “No” on Proposal 3.