TRAVERSE CITY — A set of anchor bolts already installed on city parkland for a not-yet-approved movie theater marquee may throw a wrench in the sign's anticipated approval.
City commissioners will meet Monday at 7 p.m. to vote on the Traverse City Film Festival's request to construct a free-standing lighted marquee at the Bijou by the Bay theater. City attorney Lauren Trible-Laught last week ruled the marquee will not constitute a taking of parkland.
A majority of commissioners said they favored granting approval on Sept. 16, but delayed a vote to allow Trible-Laught to research the takings question. Disposal of city parkland requires a public vote by city residents.
Commissioners now have new questions after they discovered the Film Festival already constructed the concrete foundation with anchor bolts for the posts.
"I think we are talking about a public trust issue," Mayor Michael Estes said. "Until I know exactly what the whole thing is about, I don't know how I'll vote."
City Manager Jered Ottenwess said the foundation was constructed as part of the Film Festival's summer renovation of the historic Con Foster Museum building. Ottenwess said he doesn't know who, if anyone, from the city granted permission. He expects to have an answer by Monday's meeting.
Commissioner Mike Gillman said if the Film Festival put it up without city permission it raises some questions.
"I don't think it's a deal killer, but it may go to the question of who's in charge here," Gillman said.
Deb Lake, Film Festival executive director, could not be reached for comment, but she previously said the marquee has been part of the Film Festival plans from the beginning.
Grant Parsons, a local attorney, raised the takings question when he maintained giving the Film Festival exclusive use of even a couple of square feet of parkland requires a vote of the people under the city charter.
Ottenwess said Trible-Laught determined the sign would be part of the building and under city ownership, so it does not constitute a takings. The Film Festival will operate the city-owned building in Clinch Park as a movie house under a management agreement with the city.
The explanation surprised Parsons.
"I'd like to see the research that says that sign is part of a pre-existing historical structure," Parsons said. "They made a huge point at the last city meeting that the sign was separated by an inch from the city building."
Parsons said he won't take any action to stop the sign or delay the Film Festival's reopening of the Bijou, but he intends to follow through on the takings issue.
"The city needs to take a long, hard look at the complexity of giving away city parkland for exclusive use." Parsons said.