What is City Proposal 3?

Proposal 3 is a proposed amendment to the Traverse City Charter intended to prevent buildings over 60’ in height from being built in Traverse City. The proposal will appear on the November 8 ballot for voters in the city of Traverse City. The petition seeks to amend Section 28 of the city’s charter to add a new requirement stating:

“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.”

Is Prop 3 about stopping the nine-story buildings proposed for Pine and Front street in downtown Traverse City?

While Prop 3 grew out of opposition to the proposed Pine Street project, the proposed charter amendment would cover every proposed building exceeding 60’ anywhere within the city limits. This would include Munson Medical Center, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons and any other institutions and businesses with expansion plans. So, Prop 3 is not about stopping any one project. It is a regressive approach to zoning and a serious and damaging overreach that would affect virtually every corner of the city. There are better ways to address the issue of building height.

Is Prop 3 legal?

According to the Michigan Attorney General, “the proposed charter amendment conflicts with the city’s authority under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to have a zoning ordinance adopted and amended by the city council.” If an action is contrary to state law, it is illegal. For this reason, Governor Snyder – who must approve an amendment to a city charter under the Michigan Home Rule City Act, has stated that he would not sign the Prop 3 amendment.

If Prop 3 is illegal, why is it on the ballot?

State law requires that proposed amendments duly filed with the city clerk by initiative petition shall be submitted to the city’s voters for approval, even if the Governor has declined to approve the charter amendment.

How does Prop 3 affect me?

Prop 3 will affect every single person in the City and region as it would severely curtail development in Traverse City, costing jobs and tax revenue that pays for sidewalks, streets, snow removal and other city infrastructure and services. Prop 3 is a house of cards that will collapse in ways that will be harmful to city residents and the entire region. Prop 3 would waste thousands of taxpayer dollars in the initial determination of its legality, as proponents are sure to fight in court for its enactment. Prop 3 is a flawed proposal that is illegal, wasteful, and puts our future at risk.

What’s wrong with placing a 60’ limit on building heights in Traverse City?

The issue of building heights in downtown Traverse City has long been a point of discussion for residents and planners, which have led to changes in the Zoning Ordinance that governs buildings heights . The City rewrote the Zoning Ordinance in 1999 lowering building heights to protect small town character with a limit of 85 feet plus additional height for an “interesting roofline.” Building heights were reevaluated in 2003, 2005, and 2009 resulting in tweaks in the Zoning Ordinance. These changes were part of a public process carried out in compliance with state zoning law, and were consistent with regional planning and the City Master Plan. If the community desires to reopen the discussion about building heights, the same process should be followed. Prop 3 would skirt around this accepted process, and replace it with zoning by referendum that would be cumbersome, costly and ineffective.

What is the cost of holding a special election to vote on a building proposal under
Prop 3?

According to the City Clerk, the cost for a special election is approximately $20,000. While it is possible that under Prop 3 some votes on building proposals could be rolled into scheduled elections, it is likely that a number of special elections would also be required.

Is there a process in place for carrying out the requirements of Prop 3?

There currently is no process in place for city government to carry out the requirements of Prop 3. It is not known how Prop 3 would impact the application and permitting process for buildings proposed over 60 feet in height, or at what point in the permitting process an election would occur. Proponents believe that voters should just pass Prop 3 and let the city figure out the process later, but this approach would lead to chaos that would drive away quality projects to communities with a more sensible, established approach to permitting.

Who opposes Prop 3?

Prop 3 is opposed by Stand UP TC, a broad coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses committed to defeating Prop 3. Stand UP TC believes in a vibrant and diverse community that welcomes people of all socioeconomic backgrounds to our city, and sound planning that looks to future needs and follows an open and public process for developing zoning rules and regulations.

Who supports Prop 3?

Prop 3 is supported by Save Our Downtown, a group of individuals that opposes buildings in excess of 60 feet in height and collected the required number of signatures to place Prop 3 on the November 8 ballot.