TRAVERSE CITY — Commissioners adopted a new zoning ordinance that will pave the way for a 100-bed emergency shelter while opening the door to new and existing transitional housing operations.
Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse Inc. wants to convert a city-owned warehouse on Wellington Street just south of Eighth Street into an emergency shelter. Neighborhood residents and business owners sat on one side of the commission chambers and Safe Harbor supporters occupied the other as commissioners voted 5 to 2 Monday to approve a zoning amendment that will allow the shelter to go forward.
“It is not a perfect ordinance but I’m sure we’ll be able to make changes to it in the next couple of years,” said Commissioner Tim Werner. “I think it’s a great start.”
Mayor Michael Estes and Commissioner Barbara Budros opposed the ordinance because it lumps emergency shelters in with transitional housing. The ordinance more than triples the size limits on existing facilities and makes emergency shelters act as transitional housing facilities, which typically allow residents up to two years of residence to find permanent housing.
“Ten or 15 people would be an emergency shelter but this is not,” Estes said. “This is simply an area that will become transitional housing and we will fill it up with 100 people I assure you of that.”
Business owners showed up in force to decry the impact of concentrating up to 100 homeless people so near to their businesses. Building owners said their tenants are threatening to move and their property values are dropping.
“I don’t know how you could allow something like this that could possibly destroy my business,” said property owner Jim Stewart. “Unless you are here to make Eighth Street go away and turn it into a slum area, I don’t get it.”
Commissioner Ross Richardson said the homeless problem already exists and this facility will make it safer because they will be in a controlled facility.