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.
TCAPS reviews Cousins
Traverse City Area Public Schools’ Board of Education will release their annual evaluation of the district’s superintendent during a meeting tonight.Continued ...
Touching Michigan's History
Sometimes it’s best to sit on the floor and pass around artifacts to get a feel of early Michigan history.Continued ...
Officials question tax-exempt status of property that houses CVB
A smoldering debate over what some locals dubbed “festival fatigue” prompted city officials to question the tax-exempt status of the downtown property that houses the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau.Continued ...
Dairy farmer goes against grain, succeeds
Dairy farmer Bob Plummer doesn’t trouble himself with the status of the Farm Bill in Washington these days. He doesn’t have to.Continued ...
Law will allow nursing homes to honor end-of-life wishes
A recent amendment to a Michigan law will allow nursing homes staff to honor the wishes of patients who signed “do not resuscitate” orders.Continued ...
Growing grapes, learning the biz
Sherman Atkinson is working toward a dream: his son Patrick’s dream.Continued ...
$20 million can't move Rogers City power plant
A 10-year-old quarry three miles from Rogers City remains just that.Continued ...
Scientists turn to math to analyze, predict weather
Think all ice is the same? That’s not the case on Michigan’s Great Lakes. And now scientists have found out how to detect the differences — with math.Continued ...
Feds' website gives states incomplete Medicaid data
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- People shopping for insurance on the federal marketplace may be informed they're eligible for Medicaid and that their information is being sent to state officials to sign them up. However, states say they aren't able to enrollContinued ...
- Saturday, December 7, 2013
Sewer plant fix up for debate
City and township sewer users could face significant rate increases over the next three years to replace treatment plant components that convert sewage into near-drinkable water.Continued ...
In old ruling, judge ruled DNA not essential
Accusations that Jason Anthony Ryan raped and killed Kalkaska resident Geraldine Montgomery in 1996 came about because a group that works to exonerate convicted criminals through DNA evidence took an interest in the case.Continued ...
Police chief woes continue
Frankfort city officials must renew their search for a police chief after their top pick dropped out.Continued ...
More property owners sue over Boardman flooding
A new group of Boardman River property owners is suing over flooding caused by removal of the Brown Bridge Dam.Continued ...
Drug charge dropped
Authorities dismissed a felony drug charge against a Traverse City man accused of possessing a designer drug.Continued ...
- Friday, December 6, 2013
Video: Community Tree Lighting
Watch Santa Claus arrive in Traverse City and help locals light the downtown tree tonight.Continued ...
Major snowmobile trail open after roadblock
A major snowmobile trail connecting Gaylord to westward northern Michigan trails will remain open, a shift of gears from state officials' prior closure announcement.Continued ...
U-M to fix teen's broken heart
The University of Michigan stepped forward with a gift of open heart surgery for Nguyen Duyen, a Vietnamese exchange student who has lived under a cloud of uncertainty and stress for months.Continued ...
Grand Traverse area lands state acquisition grants
Michigan natural resources officials recently decided it’s well worth $2.5 million to preserve about 8 acres on Old Mission Peninsula with beach access, an effort to keep the area from being turned into 10 lavish homes.Continued ...
GT 911 downed by glitch
It wasn’t an emergency that rang Grand Traverse County’s 911 phone lines off the hook.Continued ...
Area receives state dollars for increased recreation
Local recreational areas will receive makeovers, courtesy of the state Department of Natural Resources.Continued ...
Top county official evaluated by board
Grand Traverse County commissioners saved some of their most critical words for each other during an annual evaluation of the county’s top employee.Continued ...
Munson pharmacist awarded for pain management expertise
A professional state association recently honored a Munson Medical Center pharmacist for his expertise in pain management.Continued ...
Clearing the Record: 12/06/2013
Because of a reporter’s error, Coldwell Banker was misspelled in a Thursday photo caption.Continued ...
- Thursday, December 5, 2013
Weather Service: Lows in single digits next week
A cold front is sweeping through the nation on an unusually large scale, but the Great Lakes are protecting Traverse City from the lowest temperatures, which reached zero degrees in states like the Dakotas.Continued ...
Murder suspect has criminal past
Jason Anthony Ryan, newly charged in the 1996 rape and murder of Kalkaska resident Geraldine Montgomery, is no stranger to the criminal justice system.Continued ...
- TCAPS reviews Cousins