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.
Sheriff: GPS led Canadian duo astray
A craving for milkshakes and faulty GPS directions turned a young Canadian duo's late night quest to find a McDonald's restaurant into an overnight misadventure along a Kalkaska back road.Continued ...
Inuit art collectors make the trip
To say Ann Conway loves Inuit art is an understatement. Every available space in her Traverse area townhouse is covered with intricately carved figurines.Continued ...
Winner dedicated to social work, ed.
This year's recipient of the Sara Hardy Humanitarian Award was so shocked to be selected by the Traverse City Human Rights Commission that she called back the chairwoman two days later to make sure she'd correctly heard the news.Continued ...
Frat takes to road for MS
Quentin Callahan slumped in the corner of a booth at Mackinac Brewing, eyes closed, hood over his head.Continued ...
Zoning question to delay decision
A decision whether to use a city-owned warehouse for an emergency homeless shelter likely will extend into summer as city planners devise a new zoning ordinance.Continued ...
Heroin floods court docket
Another day, another heroin case. Illegal drugs inundated Grand Traverse County’s court docket last week.Continued ...
Taxes paid, code violations still remain
A downstate bank paid Sugar Loaf Resort’s outstanding taxes, but whomever owns the property needs to address a slew of building code violations before any major changes can occur at the long-shuttered Leelanau County winter retreat.Continued ...
Judge sides with township in Kasson gravel case
A local judge ruled against a landowner who challenged Kasson Township zoning rules because she wanted to mine gravel on her Leelanau County property.Continued ...
Low-income housing project lost
A development group lost control of 15 acres on the city’s west side, and along with it their proposal to develop 102 low-income, work-force housing apartments.Continued ...
- Saturday, March 8, 2014
How to finance history?
Talks continue between a host of local nonprofit officials who could overlap their organizations for history’s sake.Continued ...
Parking-space dining latest twist for downtown TC
The opportunity to dine in a street-side parking space could become the latest epicurean delight — or potential nightmare, in one official’s mind — to arrive in downtown Traverse City.Continued ...
'Good Samaritan' injured in wreck needs help
They called Scott Peterson “Good Samaritan” after the late January car wreck that nearly killed him. But friends and family said Peterson, a man who would “give a stranger the shirt off his back” needs some payback for a lifetime of good deeds.Continued ...
Union pact on TCAPS agenda
Traverse City Area Public Schools board members will consider a contract with the Food Service Employees Association, the purchase of 11 new school buses and employee layoffs, resignations and retirements at their meeting Monday night.Continued ...
Nominate an outstanding educator
Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District wants to hear from the community about area educators who have made a difference.Continued ...
Two arrested in drug bust
Traverse Narcotics Team officers arrested a Detroit man and woman after a months-long drug probe.Continued ...
- Friday, March 7, 2014
Benzonia woman accused of prescription fraud
A Benzonia woman faces a felony charge after authorities said she fraudulently obtained hundreds of prescription pills.Continued ...
Dispatch: Smart911 worth the price
An online service that gives Grand Traverse County 911 responders potentially vital information about callers cost taxpayers almost $19 per call in its first half-year of operation.Continued ...
Pastor sues former church over contract
A controversial pastor’s public schism with his former church moved into the legal realm.Continued ...
Downtown boat ramp hits bump
A plan to redesign a Boardman River boat launch in Traverse City is temporarily grounded because some local environmentalists weren’t consulted about changes.Continued ...
Back to school — for parents
Traverse City area parents will have a chance to go back to kindergarten at Grand Traverse Academy on March 13.Continued ...
NMC's Birmley Road observatory open to public tonight
Two realms of science fascinate all types of people, regardless of age, said Jerry Dobek, a science and math instructor at Northwestern Michigan College.Continued ...
- Thursday, March 6, 2014
TCAPS cancels special board meeting
Traverse City Area Public Schools officials canceled a special meeting about the district's long-standing election law violation.Continued ...
Board to discuss violation in closed session
Traverse City Area Public Schools board members will consider an offer to resolve a longstanding election law violation, but the public won’t be privy to what district officials say once their conversation moves behind closed doors.Continued ...
Propane prices dip; gasoline up for spring
Michigan’s propane prices are finally falling after the state sent out a call for help.Continued ...
CTC's orientation shows eighth-graders that concepts can excite
A class of eighth-grade students sat quietly, and patiently listened to an engineering presentation in a Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Career-Tech Center classroom.Continued ...
- Sheriff: GPS led Canadian duo astray