Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 8, 2014

Future of Elmwood coal dock up for discussion

TRAVERSE CITY — A proposal to transfer Traverse City Light & Power’s ownership of the coal dock property off M-22 to the city stoked opposition from area nonprofit leaders who worry their dream of owning the bayfront parcel property is going up in smoke.

Utility board members this afternoon are expected to consider declaring as surplus and transferring to the city ownership of the 2.2 acres of waterfront with a key-shaped, earth-filled pier on West Bay in Elmwood Township. Utility officials are scheduled to meet at 5:15 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

Utility officials have the ability to donate the property, but the city commission does not have that option. And the proposed property shift from Light & Power control to the city didn’t set well with organizers of Discovery Center Great Lakes, a nonprofit that wants the land.

“I’m shocked that it’s even on the agenda,” said Mike Wills, president of Discovery Center. “What’s the rush? For 11 years the city has made no use of that property. We have a great idea and all of a sudden we have our legs cut out from under us.”

The Discovery Center is an alliance of water-focused nonprofit agencies backed by Rotary Charities. Discovery Center officials want to use the coal dock property to create a community harbor and adjoining private marina. The proposed $6 million marina project would comprise the first phase of a roughly $20 million, privately funded proposal to create an educational and recreational destination focused on the Great Lakes and the region’s maritime heritage.

Discovery Center needs to control the property for a bank to make a loan. A property transfer to the city shuts the door on several options, Wills said.

Pat McGuire, Light & Power’s board chairman, said city staff’s and commissioners’ attention to the matter has waned and today’s planned vote puts it right back on their laps.

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