HONOR — The question mark building is aptly named these days.
The nearly 100-year-old structure — with its gaudy question mark logo and even gaudier pink paint job in downtown Honor — is the focus of a new debate in Benzie County: what should the county and other local governments be doing, if anything, with condemned properties like the question mark.
"It's very bad," said Cliff Grostick, who oversees public works in the village of Honor, and who wants to see the question mark edifice cleared out because the structure's second floor might collapse.
"Safety is our biggest concern," Grostick said.
This week, Benzie County leaders are discussing what to do with the eyesore and other public nuisances like it because of age, poor construction or neglect. In the case of the question mark, the village and county waited and hoped for nearly a decade that the building's owner, Gary Henning, would do something with the blighted structure.
Henning lists with the county a post office box in Traverse City and an address in Florida. An attempt to reach him for comment was unsuccessful. He is not related to a Traverse City man of the same name.
Henning's lack of action led to its condemnation. Now, county Administrator Chris Olson and Commissioner Frank Walterhouse said the county is exploring a property maintenance code and will discuss the matter at the Feb. 19 Board of Commissioners meeting.
The hope is a code will help take care of the question mark building and other blighted properties.
"We are looking at establishing a process so we can take care of problems like this," Olson said. "I think there is a realization of what needs to occur with this building. It's likely it should come down in its entirety. The question is who is going to be responsible to pay for that to occur?"
Walterhouse remembers when the question mark building was a viable place. The building used to be a grocery store, a lodge, and at one point kind of artist's den.
Today it serves as shelter for cats, vermin, even skunks. Grostick said the interior is nasty and filled with trash.
"It appears everyone (who lived there) got up one morning, made breakfast and left," Grostick said. "There are still dirty dishes in the sink."
Olson said the county reached out to the property owner since 1999, but received no response to county and village concerns about the state of the building. The owner lists addresses in Florida and a post office box in Traverse City. The owner owes more than $5,000 in property taxes.
One option for the county is to work with the village to take appropriate legal steps to clear the way for a bulldozer to topple the question mark. The county could feasibly attach a lien to the property to pay for cleanup.
It's also possible the building may revert to the local tax roles through foreclosure.
"This is not about having the government come in to take care of something," Olson said. "It's about making property owners responsible for their property."
"What we also want to do is encourage our villages, townships and the city of Frankfort to consider a dangerous building ordinance, a blight ordinance, a junk ordinance and an ordinance for fire insurance withholding," Olsen said.
Walterhouse said the question mark's fate is an important one for Honor, where he believes better times are just around the corner. A new restaurant is about to open downtown. Other local businesses including a resale shop, and a plumbing and heating store are sprouting up. The Honor Area Restoration Project is seeking grants to help beautify the village and promote a long-term plan for growth and vibrancy.
"We have a recreation plan that's about to be released and presented to the Village of Honor," said Ingemar Johansson, a restoration project leader. "We have an education and training grant to improve our skills and know how of the community so we can be more self-sufficient. We are still only about two years into the project, and it seems like it's going slow, but a lot of things can't be done unless our plans are in place."
Grostick said millions of dollars in sewer upgrades have Honor on the upswing for attracting business. The village is improving its sidewalks to make the community more walkable and to connect downtown storefronts with the Honor Plaza shopping complex.
"Honor has such great potential; it's right in the center of Benzie County, and there are thousands of cars going through town every day," Johansson said. "We need to find a way to promote new businesses moving in, and to give people a reason to stop."
Village Trustee Richard Fast said community leaders want to veer from question mark to something more akin to exclamation point.
"We just want the village of Honor to look nice and be vibrant," Fast said. "We want to see a viable business there."
HONOR — The question mark building is aptly named these days.
Pretty Paper Connects Us All
Don Harrison knows collectors. “Different people buy different things for different reasons,” he said as he sized up the landscape with a practiced eye from his third floor perch at Wilson Antiques in Traverse City.Continued ...
Show to tell stories of the past
Don Harrison collects postcards, sheet music and old maps; he also collects the stories that follow them. Events like the inaugural 2014 Traverse City Antique Postcard & Rare Paper Show make great story hunting, Harrison said.Continued ...
Renny faces contender
A debate about who can best represent Grand Traverse County’s southern villages and townships is at the heart of one county commission race.Continued ...
State approves TCAPS program
The Michigan Department of Education officially approved Traverse City Area Public Schools’ early college program, which means students can start working toward their associates degree while still in high school.Continued ...
To our readers
Because of storm-related electrical damage to our production facility, printing of Sunday’s edition was delayed and caused very late delivery. We apologize for the inconvenience. If you did not receive the Sunday edition, please contact the circulation department at 946-2187.Continued ...
16 vie for GT County commission seats
A crowded field of candidates is jostling for seven seats on the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners.Continued ...
GT County Commission candidates
GT County Commission candidates: District 1 — Republican David Barr; Republican Dan Lathrop — incumbent. (Plus more)Continued ...
Ex-court referee's license suspended, but still refs soccer
Former 13th Circuit Court referee Dennis Mikko lost his job and recently lost his license to practice law, both thanks to his possession of nude images of teenage girls in his court house office.Continued ...
Commissioners mixed on Cherry Festival change demands
Fewer noise complaints and an improved trash collection system this year may not help the National Cherry Festival escape some city commissioners' desire to downsize the event, move it from the city center, and separate it from the July 4 holiday.Continued ...
Voters to see road millage request
Kalkaska County voters will see a road millage request on their August ballots, the first time county officials made such a request for road work.Continued ...
Commission on Aging, other millage requests on Kalkaska ballot
Caroline Haas awoke one day and found herself on the floor. She couldn’t get to her feet, but Haas, 85, heard someone calling her name.Continued ...
GOP county board candidates face opposition in primaries
The Republican ballot is packed for party voters who hope to cast a ballot in this year’s primary election.Continued ...
Regional county commission candidates
ANTRIM COUNTY — District 1: Marvin Rubingh, Republican; David Heeres, Republican; Gary L. Strange, Republican. (Plus more)Continued ...
- Friday, July 25, 2014
New website is a trail-blazer
A new interactive website will provide outdoor enthusiasts a one-stop user’s guide to 5,300 miles of trails across Michigan's northern lower peninsula.Continued ...
MacMaster won't have mother's vote
State Senate candidate Greg MacMaster gained endorsements from political officials in his opponent's hometown, including Traverse city's mayor, but primary foe Wayne Schmidt swiped a different sort of political prize: support from MacMaster's mother.Continued ...
UPDATE: Authorities continue to investigate homeless man's death
Traverse City police are awaiting toxicology reports to see if drugs or alcohol factored in a local homeless man's death.Continued ...
Three Republicans hope to represent Antrim County in Lansing
A teacher, a handyman and a semi-truck driver all want to be the Republican candidate for Michigan’s 105th House seat.Continued ...
Students present research findings at National Air and Space Museum
Three Traverse City West Senior High School students took a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., but it wasn't just to see the sights.Continued ...
NMC could lease Shadowland Motel
Northwestern Michigan College officials will discuss a plan to increase student housing by leasing a local motel.Continued ...
Sheriff's deputies warn of fraudulent law enforcement calls
Grand Traverse County sheriff's officials are asking residents to call authorities if they receive phone calls from someone stating they missed jury duty and must pay a fine or face arrest.Continued ...
Embezzlement from Park Place Hotel suspected
Police are investigating an embezzlement complaint at the Park Place Hotel.Continued ...
Homeless man identified
Traverse City police released the name of a local homeless man whose death is under investigation. Robert Lee Howard, Jr., 62, died Thursday in the emergency room at Munson Medical Center.Continued ...
Leelanau County meth lab discovered, investigation continues
A Cedar man and Suttons Bay woman were arrested for maintaining a drug house in Centerville Township, the first meth lab found in the county, Leelanau County Sheriff Michael Borkovich said.Continued ...
Authorities investigate overdose death
Traverse City police are investigating the death of a homeless man who investigators considered a witness in the recent beating death of another homeless man.Continued ...
E. coli levels back down
It's safe to swim again. Bacteria levels at four Grand Traverse Bay beaches are back down after they elevated briefly on Wednesday.Continued ...
- Pretty Paper Connects Us All