Traverse City Record-Eagle

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July 6, 2014

Business owners speak out against shelter

TRAVERSE CITY — Jim Chan invested $100,000 to modernize the building that holds his business on Eighth Street, money he believes he’ll lose if city commissioners approve a 100-bed homeless shelter nearby.

Chan said he plans to close his retail store and focus on Internet sales if city commissioners give Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse Inc. a city-owned warehouse on Wellington Street just south of Eighth Street for use as an emergency shelter.

City commissioners will consider a zoning amendment to accommodate Safe Harbor’s proposal when they meet Monday at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

“They say it’s in a warehouse district but it’s not,” Chan said. “But if the shelter goes in we will ... shut down and concentrate on online and wholesale so this building that we beautified will be a beautified warehouse.

“It’s too many people, that’s my main concern,” Chan said. “It’s dangerous for them and the neighborhood.”

Business owners along Eighth Street said they already have problems with some members of the local homeless population who travel through alleys behind their businesses. Chan, owner of Mint on Card Ball Jointed Dolls, said he gave his two female employees pepper spray after a homeless person “extremely hard-panhandled” them in his back parking lot.

“He would not leave them alone. The person was standing really, really close, leaving no space,” Chan said. “I had to step out to ensure their personal safety.”

Across the street, Mike Akerley, an owner of TC Top Comics, said cars have been broken into behind their building. A homeless shelter -- combined with other issues -- will prompt him to relocate, he said.

“We don’t want to seem heartless, but our biggest concern is 100 beds,” Akerly said. “It’s just too much concentration for a small community. I just think if they spread them out to more locations it would be better for the homeless and the community.”

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