Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 15, 2013

Granny flats, food trucks on city griddle

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

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The city commission may make the first move toward taking two controversial ideas for test drives: neighborhood granny flats and downtown food trucks.

The commission will discuss the proposed ordinances and possible adoption when it meets today at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

The North Traverse Heights Neighborhood Association volunteered to participate in a pilot for accessory dwelling units. Widely known as granny flats or ADUs, they are small self-contained apartments inside an owner-occupied home or a garage. The proposed ordinance, recommended unanimously by the planning commission, would take effect April 25 if adopted.

A proposal to allow up to two mobile food vendors in four city parking lots and on State Street between Union and Pine is the second item on the commission’s menu. The ordinance comes with the caveat that city staff would report to the commission on how the ordinance works by Oct. 1 so commissioners can consider potential changes for 2014.

”I understand there might be a lot of people there for the food truck issue,” said city Commissioner Jim Carruthers. “I frankly just want to move something forward and see how it goes, and if it’s chaos, we can address it in the winter.”

Carruthers led a group of three commissioners who have studied the food truck question, along with the Downtown Development Authority, for months. A vendor would pay an annual fee of $1,225 to park on city property or $725 for private property. The ordinance also will open up some streets in other areas near Northwestern Michigan College, the Civic Center, Munson Medical Center, and some of the city’s larger parks.

Food trucks have drawn support from downtown workers looking for quick and cheaper lunch options and foodies hoping to encourage more variety. It’s drawn opposition from some downtown building and restaurant owners who argue it’s unfair competition because food trucks don’t pay property taxes or provide infrastructure such as bathrooms.

Carruthers said he expects the commission to tinker with the language after listening to public comment. The ordinance would then be scheduled for adoption at the commission’s May 6 meeting.

City commissioners have reported the ADU question has been more low key than a previous attempt several years ago.

”There’s really no groundswell from people on this, so it tells me the approach the planning commission has taken on this has support,” Mayor Michael Estes said. “It’s just a low-key approach and an opportunity for some people to make improvements to their homes and make some money.”

Opposition has been sporadic and most of it has come from people who live outside of the affected neighborhood.

”Most of my neighbors are opposed to ADUs,” said Carruthers, who lives in the Central Neighborhood.

Opponents have raised concerns about parking and neighborhood impacts from more renters, but some North Traverse Heights residents have said the proposed ordinance is so restrictive the city will be lucky to get two applicants.