Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 9, 2013

Permitting problems delay start of depot development

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A private-public collaboration to build affordable, energy-efficient housing is back on track after permitting problems for months delayed the start of construction.

Nonprofit groups Habitat for Humanity Grand Traverse Region and HomeStretch Nonproft Housing Corporation originally planned to start work last spring on infrastructure for a handful of new homes and duplexes in the Depot Neighborhood near the intersection of Eighth Street and Woodmere Avenue.

Those plans were waylaid because the sewer system under the property was not deep enough to meet Michigan Department of Environmental Quality codes and regulations, said Doug Mansfield, president of Mansfield Land Use Consultants, the engineering firm for initial site work.

Project and DEQ officials subsequently reached an agreement to sidestep the problem by using a slightly larger pipe with a more gradual slope.

“We should have permits from the DEQ within a matter of days,” Mansfield said.

The nonprofit partners hope to construct 21 energy-efficient units on the 2.5-acre parcel, which they purchased from Traverse City for about $290,000 in 2012 after forming an LLC.

Grand Traverse County’s Land Bank Authority will assist with the project by purchasing the property from the LLC with $195,000 from a federal Housing and Urban Development grant. The land bank then will deed the parcel to the nonprofits.

The land bank also allocated $100,000 from a county-owned housing trust fund to help cover infrastructure costs.

Jean Derenzy, deputy director of the county’s Planning & Development Department, said permit delays did not increase the project’s public funding costs. She said land bank officials are finalizing contracts with Habitat and HomeStretch, and the release of the HUD grant money.

“It’s always a longer process than we hope, but it’s going to be a good project in the end,” Derenzy said.

Wendy Irvin, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Grand Traverse Region, said infrastructure work on the depot property will be underway by Labor Day.

Habitat officials plan to raise about $1.5 million for the project through fundraising, donations and in-kind contributions, Irvin said.

“It’s a mix of different donors and foundations coming to the table, but that’s what Habitat does,” she said.

Habitat officials aim to complete three homes on the property by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Four more homes will be built in fiscal year 2014-15, and the final three in the fiscal year after that, Irvin said.

HomeStretch officials in March said their organization will build an additional five duplexes and a single home at the depot property. They could not be reached for comment this week.

Three families have been selected to occupy the first three Habitat units. Each family completed 25 hours of homeowner education classes. The families must contribute a total of 275 “sweat-equity” hours to the project, primarily by helping with construction of the new homes, Irvin said.