August 2023 / Vol. 04

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August 28

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August 28

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AUGUST 28, 2023

At their June 6, 2023 meeting, the Planning Commission approved an amendment to the Traverse City Code of Ordinances to allow additional dwelling types and to modify dimensional standards in the R-1a, R-1b and R-2 residential zoning districts.

The item will be discussed at the City Commission Study Session on Monday, August 28, 2023, with no formal action. In order to approve the ordinance amendments (either in their current form or with modifications), the City Commission would need to take action to introduce them (at a future meeting) and then no sooner than 14 days later take action to enact them.

Proposed Zoning Changes

  • Create Definitions for Duplexes, Triplexes, and Quadplexes
  • Eliminate the Annual Cap on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)
  • Remove the Owner-Occupancy Requirement for ADUs
  • Allow ADUs with Duplexes
  • Allow Duplexes by Right in the R-1a/b zoning District
  • Allow up to Four Dwelling Units Per Lot in the R-2 District
  • Reduce Minimum Lot Area in R-1a/b Zoning District
  • Reduce Minimum Lot Width in the R-1a/b Zoning District
  • Marginally Increase Impervious Surface Limits
  • Allow Two Homes on a Lot That is Twice the Minimum Area without Being Split
  • Reduce the Minimum Land Area for the Cluster Housing Development Option
  • Rename the R-1a/b and R-2 Zoning Districts to Reflect the Proposed Changes

The demand for housing in our region remains high, particularly in locations that are convenient and accessible to one’s daily needs. Land use regulations as they relate to permitting housing types, densities, and locations are just one of the many levers influencing the housing needs in the City, and one that the City Commission and Planning Commission have direct influence over.



On August 22, 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal the Save Our Downtown vs. City of Traverse City/Innovo case. In a unanimous published decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with the City and Innovo’s arguments that the trial court erred by adopting plaintiffs’ interpretation of the charter amendment and by giving precedence to their interpretation over the method of measuring building height stated in the zoning ordinance. Today, the Michigan Supreme Court upheld this decision, which affirms the City’s longstanding method of measuring building height.

The City developed an Implementation Policy when Charter 28 was amended in 2016, where buildings over 60 feet must go to a public vote. However, the City’s historical method of how it measures building height was not changed by the Charter amendment or the Implementation Policy. The purpose of the City of Traverse City Implementation Policy for Charter 28 Building Height Restriction is to establish a procedure for implementation of the above referenced Charter provision that may be relied upon by property owners, City administration, staff and the public to ensure consistency and predictability in the administration of approvals related to building height, as required by this provision.




On August 22, 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal in the FishPass case, which confirms the Court of Appeals decision and allows the City of Traverse City to implement the project. At issue in this lawsuit was whether the City Charter required a public vote prior to construction of the FishPass Project. The Court of Appeals unanimous ruling agreed with the City’s position and held that no public vote is required.

According to the Michigan Supreme Court, “The application for leave to appeal the October 20, 2022 judgment of the Court of Appeals is considered, and it is denied, because we are not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

FishPass is the capstone of an approximately 20 year restoration project on the Boardman/Ottaway River, re-connecting the river with Lake Michigan. In 2021, a required MDEQ Dam Safety Unit inspection was performed on the Union Street Dam and indicated a downgraded rating from Good to Fair/Poor condition. FishPass will replace the deteriorating Union Street Dam with a new, complete barrier to all fish that will have the ability to sort and selectively pass desirable fishes while blocking harmful invaders like sea lamprey. While fully automated selective passage is the long-term goal of the project, passage of any fish during the initial 10 years will be coordinated with fishery management agencies, limited in number, and restricted to fishes native to the upper Great Lakes.




MDOT’s contractor for their Grandview Parkway reconstruction project, Team Elmer’s, will be conducting preconstruction work beginning September 2023 through November 2023.


Project Background

MDOT plans to rebuild a 2-mile section of US-31/Grandview Parkway/Front Street in 2024 between Garfield Avenue and Division Street. This project will result in operational enhancements at the intersections of Division Street, Hall Street, Front Street, and Peninsula Drive, drainage improvements, Americans with Disabilities Act review and upgrades, repairs to the Murchie Bridge over the Boardman River, and new signs and pavement markings. 

In addition, the City of Traverse City is investing $3.5 million to replace underground water and wastewater utilities as part of the project.

The major project is anticipated to begin in March 2024 and will be divided into two segments. The first segment, Garfield Avenue to Front Streets is expected to take place from March 2024 to July 2024. The second segment, Front Street to Division Street is expected to take place from July 2024, after the conclusions of the National Cherry Festival, to November 2024.

Preconstruction Work

Beginning September 5, 2023, preconstruction work will take place near the project location to accommodate for the planned detours. Temporary traffic signals will not be operational until major construction begins in 2024. Preconstruction work will be as follows:

  • Installation of a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Railroad Avenue and East Front Street, removal of a portion of the center median at Grandview Parkway, and temporary paving at the north end of Railroad Avenue connecting it directly to Front Street.
  • Removal of a portion of the center median island on Grandview Parkway at Division Street.
  • Widening the turn radius at Railroad Avenue and Eighth Street for detour traffic, and installation of a temporary sidewalk ramp.
  • Installation of a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of US-31 (Front Street) and Milliken Drive.
  • Installation of a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Railroad Avenue and Washington Street.
  • Installation of advance warning and detour signs for 2024 work.


The City will be working closely with MDOT and Team Elmer’s to provide the latest updates throughout this major project.




The City had the pleasure of working with Angela Green in the Planning Department and Tom Dolinka in the City Clerk's Office this summer!

Angela Green

The Planning intern, Angela, is a rising Junior at Hope College with majors in History and Global French Studies. After graduation, she hopes to continue her education by pursuing Municipal Law or a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning. Angela's projects this summer included working with GIS Coordinator, Jerry Swanson, to update the ADU layer in ArcGIS. In addition, she provided tremendous support in the City's short-term rental enforcement. According to Angela, she enjoyed sharing an office with Planning Assistant, Laura Mattas this summer, and confusing City Planning Director, Shawn Winter, and Planning & Zoning Administrator, Dave Weston, with Gen-Z slang.

Tom Dolinka

The City Clerk's Office summer intern, Tom, will be graduating from Michigan State University's James Madison College in spring 2024 with a degree in Social Relations and Policy and a concentration in Global Political Economics. In the upcoming years, he hopes to work in cooperative housing development and administration or in labor union advocacy. For this, he also plans to continue his education and obtain a Masters Degree in Community Sustainability and Development.

Thanks to Angela and Tom! We wish you both well in the upcoming year and know you will do great things to impact your communities in the future!


The Friendly Garden Club of Traverse City was organized in 2023 and turned 100 this year! Each year, they dedicate their time and talents to the planter at the Open Space. This year, the theme celebrated their 100 years with approximately 6,000 flowers planted!

Thank you Friendly Garden Club!

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