Traverse City Commissioners to consider potential changes to city zoning rules that would limit certain first-floor uses of downtown buildings, vote to move forward to hire three new Traverse Fire Department firefighters City and approve permits for this year’s Traverse City Film Festival at their 7 p.m. meeting tonight (Monday).
Commissioners will tonight consider scheduling a July 5 promulgation vote on a proposal to impose certain use restrictions and design standards on the first floors of the city centre. The proposal has evolved significantly since it was first discussed by planning commissioners over the fall and winter. The original draft proposal planned to limit the entire first floor of buildings in the C-4b neighborhood, which consists primarily of properties along Front Street, to a short list of uses including retail stores, restaurants, drinking places, art galleries, theatres/concert halls, cultural facilities, convenience stores, amusement/recreation services and essential services. The goal was to prevent “dead spaces” with minimal customer interaction, such as offices, parking lots, and residential units, from taking precedence over more interactive uses like restaurants and retail stores at first. downtown floors.
However, planning director Shawn Winter said that when the planning commission sought public comment on the proposal, “it became apparent that many owners thought the approach was going too far”. He adds: “Given all the current complexities present in commercial markets, they were gravely concerned that it could restrict them under certain market conditions to end up with an empty first floor that does not provide any benefit to the city centre. City and DDA (Downtown Development Authority) staff have been receptive to these concerns and have asked the planning commission for more time to listen to owners and bring back a revised approach.
The revised project now focuses more on form than use, according to Winter. The restrictive list of ground floor uses has been removed, with the exception of maintaining a ban on short-term rentals on the ground floor. “The uses permitted in a neighborhood are generally intended to complement each other, and many agreed that first-floor vacation home rentals do not complement other uses,” says Winter. The first 30 feet of a building’s interior space on the first floor also cannot be used for parking, storage, or utilities. The new rules also remove a current exception that residential-only buildings need not meet the minimum 50% window transparency requirement on the first floor, as well as an exception that residential-only buildings do not have no need to meet the minimum height requirement of 14 feet on the first floor.
“The last two elements aim to ensure a flexible space on the first floor that can meet many needs,” says Winter. “For example, larger windows and higher ceilings will not prevent a first floor from being used for residential use, however, not having adequate windows takes away the interest that research brings to a commercial property, and an eight foot high ceiling would likely preclude retail or restaurant use as there would be no space for hoods and ventilation or stacking of merchandise. Winter adds, “Again, the intent is to preserve and strengthen downtown, not to ban and restrict our property and business owners who have contributed so much to its vibrancy.”
City Commissioners will also tonight consider authorizing City Manager Marty Colburn to initiate the hiring process to fill three new firefighter/paramedic positions for the Traverse City Fire Department (TCFD) in the 2022-23 Budget. , which the commissioners approved this month. Colburn added $360,000 to the budget at the request of commissioners who had originally been left out to fund the three positions. The actual hiring of these positions, however, depended on the commission’s future approval. Commissioners held a study session last week where they discussed the future of the fire department and whether it would become the city’s main ambulance provider. That discussion — and talks about renovating or rebuilding the city’s two fire stations — are expected to continue in the coming weeks. In the meantime, however, Mayor Richard Lewis told commissioners that the TCFD “obviously” needed more staff and that the council should resolve this crisis first. Colburn therefore asked the commissioners to give him his approval this evening to “attempt to begin the hiring process as soon as possible”.
Commissioners will also consider approving permits for the Traverse City Film Festival to hold its event this year, its first festival since 2019. According to a memo from City Clerk Benjamin Marentette, who reviewed plans for the festival, ” while the festival may generally resemble those of years past, it is a scaled down version. He said the Open Space, State Theater, Bijou by the Bay and one or two other “locations to be determined” will be in play this year. TCFF Director Johanna Evans said The ticker last week venues like the City Opera House, Lars Hockstad and Milliken Auditorium won’t be returning this year; instead, TCFF will lease four additional screens from AMC. Evans said in TCFF’s application to the city that the festival is “working with BATA to provide transport for festival-goers, and pick-up points will be at Park and Ride, car parks near the city and Thirlby Field.”
According to the app, the festival kicks off on Tuesday, July 26 with an opening night on the 200 block of Front Street, nightly screenings at State and Bijou and an Open Space movie. The free movies will continue the rest of the week at the Open Space until the closing night on Sunday, July 31. Evans wrote that TCFF “may also create a second outdoor venue near the Grand Traverse Resort & Casino with programming aimed at teens and adults.” TCFF’s Wednesday-Sunday schedule will include movies or panels at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., with one or two midnight movies screened at the State Theater.
“We also hope to host our panels and workshops at an outdoor venue this year, a tent in Clinch Park behind the Bijou by the Bay Theater,” Evans wrote. “The Clinch Park tent will serve as the venue for Founders Day (July 24) and Filmmakers Day (July 30).” A private midweek happy hour for filmmakers and donors is also offered at Clinch Park, as is a volunteer party on August 1. in the Open Space from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. before the free family films. Evans said TCFF had requested a meeting in July with the Traverse City Police Department “to coordinate open space staffing for the benefit of public safety and free movie enjoyment and to optimize festival costs. for police and fire departments.