HONOR — The question mark building is aptly named these days.
The nearly 100-year-old structure — with its gaudy question mark logo and even gaudier pink paint job in downtown Honor — is the focus of a new debate in Benzie County: what should the county and other local governments be doing, if anything, with condemned properties like the question mark.
"It's very bad," said Cliff Grostick, who oversees public works in the village of Honor, and who wants to see the question mark edifice cleared out because the structure's second floor might collapse.
"Safety is our biggest concern," Grostick said.
This week, Benzie County leaders are discussing what to do with the eyesore and other public nuisances like it because of age, poor construction or neglect. In the case of the question mark, the village and county waited and hoped for nearly a decade that the building's owner, Gary Henning, would do something with the blighted structure.
Henning lists with the county a post office box in Traverse City and an address in Florida. An attempt to reach him for comment was unsuccessful. He is not related to a Traverse City man of the same name.
Henning's lack of action led to its condemnation. Now, county Administrator Chris Olson and Commissioner Frank Walterhouse said the county is exploring a property maintenance code and will discuss the matter at the Feb. 19 Board of Commissioners meeting.
The hope is a code will help take care of the question mark building and other blighted properties.
"We are looking at establishing a process so we can take care of problems like this," Olson said. "I think there is a realization of what needs to occur with this building. It's likely it should come down in its entirety. The question is who is going to be responsible to pay for that to occur?"
Walterhouse remembers when the question mark building was a viable place. The building used to be a grocery store, a lodge, and at one point kind of artist's den.
Today it serves as shelter for cats, vermin, even skunks. Grostick said the interior is nasty and filled with trash.
"It appears everyone (who lived there) got up one morning, made breakfast and left," Grostick said. "There are still dirty dishes in the sink."
Olson said the county reached out to the property owner since 1999, but received no response to county and village concerns about the state of the building. The owner lists addresses in Florida and a post office box in Traverse City. The owner owes more than $5,000 in property taxes.
One option for the county is to work with the village to take appropriate legal steps to clear the way for a bulldozer to topple the question mark. The county could feasibly attach a lien to the property to pay for cleanup.
It's also possible the building may revert to the local tax roles through foreclosure.
"This is not about having the government come in to take care of something," Olson said. "It's about making property owners responsible for their property."
"What we also want to do is encourage our villages, townships and the city of Frankfort to consider a dangerous building ordinance, a blight ordinance, a junk ordinance and an ordinance for fire insurance withholding," Olsen said.
Walterhouse said the question mark's fate is an important one for Honor, where he believes better times are just around the corner. A new restaurant is about to open downtown. Other local businesses including a resale shop, and a plumbing and heating store are sprouting up. The Honor Area Restoration Project is seeking grants to help beautify the village and promote a long-term plan for growth and vibrancy.
"We have a recreation plan that's about to be released and presented to the Village of Honor," said Ingemar Johansson, a restoration project leader. "We have an education and training grant to improve our skills and know how of the community so we can be more self-sufficient. We are still only about two years into the project, and it seems like it's going slow, but a lot of things can't be done unless our plans are in place."
Grostick said millions of dollars in sewer upgrades have Honor on the upswing for attracting business. The village is improving its sidewalks to make the community more walkable and to connect downtown storefronts with the Honor Plaza shopping complex.
"Honor has such great potential; it's right in the center of Benzie County, and there are thousands of cars going through town every day," Johansson said. "We need to find a way to promote new businesses moving in, and to give people a reason to stop."
Village Trustee Richard Fast said community leaders want to veer from question mark to something more akin to exclamation point.
"We just want the village of Honor to look nice and be vibrant," Fast said. "We want to see a viable business there."
HONOR — The question mark building is aptly named these days.
Santa's new digs
Marty Rhein takes his three children to downtown Traverse City every year to see the Christmas tree lighted and to visit Santa’s House.Continued ...
Native history ignored on trail
A path in Clinch Park that uses brick inscriptions to narrate aspects of the park’s history begins with the property’s initial use by a white man, a frame of reference that prompted some history buffs to ask city officials to take a more culturally diverse approach.Continued ...
Editorial: TBAISD can't defend bulging fund balance
To hear Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District superintendent Mike Hill tell it, his board members understand the plight of cash-strapped area school districts that want the ISD to share some of its wealth, but worry that the ISD has its own financial house to look after first.Continued ...
Benzie gets serious
The announcement at Graceland Fruit a little more than a month ago represented great news for Benzie County: the Frankfort-based fruit processor planned to hire up to 35 new employees.Continued ...
Letters to the Editor: 12/01/2013
Sky isn’t falling; Plan could backfire.Continued ...
Embattled pastor forms church after resignation
A nondenominational church broke from the First Congregational Church following a year of acrimony.Continued ...
TC native makes music on world stage
Dan Trahey’s first foray into instrumental music wasn’t anything spectacular, but it led to a career in music that never would have been possible without the opportunity.Continued ...
Prep Hockey Roundup: Lake Orion tops Central to win tourney
Lake Orion scored an overtime power-play goal to win the Traverse City West Thanksgiving Tournament 4-3 over Traverse City Central. (Plus more)Continued ...
First Congregational on road to harmony?
A year ago, controversy rocked the First Congregational Church in a very public way when church officials reneged on their invitation to a mosque leader to perform a Muslim prayer during a concert.Continued ...
AAU hoop tryouts set for Dec. 15
Northern Exposure will be holding AAU basketball tryouts on Dec. 15 for players in grades 4-7.Continued ...
Mel Larimer series presents 'Amahl and Night Visitors'
The Mel Larimer Concert Series will feature “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” a 45-minute opera, written with children in mind.Continued ...
NMC students pitch ideas at competition
Laurie Curtis is the daughter of Kewadin apple farmers, and she’s bothered by the northern Michigan apple grower’s bind: most apples are sent downstate to processors, who pay only about 10 to 15 cents a pound.Continued ...
Building owners making changes
Steep rent increases and evictions are in store for the indie owners of unique shops located in Traverse City’s Warehouse district.Continued ...
Jason Tank: Sorting complex world of IRA withdrawals
As the year draws to a close, I’m often asked by those who have reached age 70 about their need to start taking money out of their individual retirement accounts (IRAs).Continued ...
Bar Association lunch
The Grand Traverse-Leelanau-Antrim Bar Association brown bag lunch will be held from noon to 1 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13 in the District Court House multi-purpose room, 280 Washington St.Continued ...
Leelanau businesses — free money!
Leelanau County businesses have a one-time opportunity to secure what amounts to free money for operating capital or other business needs in the aftermath of county leaders’ disbanding of their economic development corporation.Continued ...
On Poetry: Holidays time for children's poems
Holiday time. Time for a poem for the kids. What’s to say about this one except that it makes me smile?Continued ...
Best Sellers: 12/01/2013
Northwest Michigan Hardcover fiction 1. "First Phone Call from Heaven" by Mitch Albom, Harper, $24.95 2. "Chickadee Spirit" by Bill Smith, Sleepytime Press, $18.95 3. "Brown Dog" by Jim Harrison, Grove Press, $27 Paperback fiction 1. "The Whole GoldeContinued ...
Loraine Anderson: Long road to civil rights not over
I am grateful to PBS-TV for its documentaries looking back at American historical events from early in my lifetime and before. For most of this year I have been trying to write an essay that explores how slavery, the Nazi Holocaust, the Civil War andContinued ...
Books in Brief: 12/01/2013
Author expo; Author signings.Continued ...
Business Memoranda: 12/01/2013
Business memoranda for 12/1/13.Continued ...
- Saturday, November 30, 2013
Community in Brief 12/01/2013
Holiday art programs; Bear Lake's Sparkle in the Park; Christmas Village opens; and more.Continued ...
- Monday, November 25, 2013
Historical Photo of the Week: 11/25/2013
Can any readers identify the gentlemen in this photo?Continued ...
- Sunday, November 24, 2013
- Poll: Will you be visiting the Bijou by the Bay this week?
New VASA director brings wealth of experience
More than a dozen candidates applied to become the new race director of the North American VASA.Continued ...
- Santa's new digs