Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 24, 2013

Traverse City Commission approves Bijou marquee

By BRIAN McGILLIVARY bmcgillivary@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The city commission granted the Traverse City Film Festival a permit for a movie theater marquee over the entrance to the renovated Con Foster Museum building.

Traverse City Film Festival officials and the city attorney resolved a wide array of concerns from commissioners that ranged from blocking the Con Foster name on the historic building to the potential of an illegal taking of city parkland for exclusive use. Several residents spoke against the marquee at the commission’s Monday night meeting but overall commissioners said comments they received were in favor of the marquee.

“The sign if it was on any other building it meets the sign ordinance,” said Commissioner Jody Bergman. “There is no permanent disposal of any parkland because the city can take it back at any time.”

What both supporters and opponents appeared to agree upon was that the city commission and city staff mishandled the permit request. Several people told the commission the marquee and other proposals should have been addressed back in April when the Film Festival first told the commission it wanted a marquee, not after most of the work had been done.

The Film Festival spent almost $1 million to renovate the former museum for use as a movie house and operate the city-owned building in Clinch Park under a management agreement with the city. The marquee won’t attach to the historical building to avoid damaging the structure and violating the management agreement. Instead the 15-foot-wide and 10-foot deep rectangular structure is supported by two steel posts anchored into the ground about 1 inch from the front of the building.

Commissioners accepted the city attorney’s opinion the marquee would not constitute a taking of city parkland because the city will own the sign and can have it unbolted and removed if it ends the management agreement with the city.

The marquee will block the Con Foster name etched above the entrance, but the Film Festival will post a plaque similar to state historical markers that explains the historical significance of the building and the man it was named after, Con Foster, one of the founders of Clinch Park.