Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 11, 2014

TC commissioners to decide fate of coal dock

TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners will take over the decision-making process to determine what to do with waterfront property in Elmwood Township known as the coal dock.

Traverse City Light & Power owns the property but has no use for it. Board members for the city-owned utility entered Monday’s joint meeting with city commissioners hoping for guidance on how to dispose of the property. But commissioners split on the question, with opinions that ranged from selling it on the open market to giving it away for free to a group of nonprofits.

Commissioners did reach agreement with utility board members the decision belonged with commissioners, not their appointees.

“There are a lot of things to discuss and it would seem the logical place to discuss them would be the city commission,” said Commissioner Ross Richardson.

Commissioners stopped short of directing utility board members to transfer the property to city ownership, but Mayor Michael Estes told them they should refer any future questions or inquiries about the property to the city staff.

The city purchased the 2.2 acres of waterfront with a key-shaped, earth-filled pier about a mile north of M-72 in Elmwood Township to receive coal for a generating plant that no longer exists. The utility also owns about 4.6 acres on the west side of M-22 it used for coal storage. Together the two parcels were appraised at $2.68 million in 2012.

Commissioner Tim Werner disputed calls for the city to maintain public ownership of the coal dock because it’s possibly the sole deep water-port in West Bay capable of handling cruise ships or delivery of materials by ship. He proposed to let the market decide its value.

“I don’t see the city taking on responsibility for maintaining a deep-water port for something that may happen in the future,” Werner said.

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