Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 13, 2014

Editorial: Public must have major say in coal dock's future

Now that the decision of what’s going to happen to the old coal dock property on West Bay is with the Traverse City commission, it’s time for the city, the public and local advocacy groups to talk about how best to keep the property in public hands and accessible to the maximum number of people.

And there should be no doubt in those discussions that “public” and “accessible” are the overarching goals. This is a unique property, the largest undeveloped, publicly owned site on West Bay and there will likely never be another like it.

The Traverse City Light & Power board last week voted to deed the $2.66 million property on M-22 in Elmwood Township to the city. Now, the future use of the site will be decided by the city commission. That’s the proper venue; they’re elected by and answerable to voters and are charged with acting on the public’s behalf.

The next step must be for the city to create a process for soliciting and weighing ideas that will create the best possible public use and guarantee maximum access for decades to come.

The Light & Power board had declared the 2.2-acre property surplus, since the utility no longer had a use for it. The land, including a large square of fill jutting into West Bay, had been where the coal that fueled L&P’s former bayside power plant was delivered and stored.

Once the plant was razed in 2005, there was no need for the city owned utility to keep the property. The coal dock itself, and land across M-22 were recently assessed at $2.66 million.

Last year, the nonprofit Discovery Center Great Lakes, which is supported in part by Rotary Charities, talked up plans to use the coal dock property to create a community harbor and adjoining private marina to generate revenue for their activities.

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