TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County commissioners could get what they seek if Traverse City voters agree to lease the city’s senior center to the county.

But city commissioners have to put the question on the Nov. 4 ballot first, and on Monday they’ll decide whether to do so. Draft language would allow the city to ink a 50-year lease with the county, but only if voters countywide approve a millage to build a new senior center.

County representatives’ ask for a lease irritated Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe when it surfaced, and she still finds the request a “disingenuous” attempt to cast aspersions on the city, she said.

“If a 50-year lease of the senior center somehow makes the county commissioners trust us more, I guess it’s fine,” she said.

County Commissioner Gordie LaPointe previously said he wants a commitment that the building will remain a senior center, and county commission Chairman Rob Hentschel previously said there’s no trust issue between the city and county, just a difference of opinion in funding.

Grand Traverse County Senior Center Networks runs programming in the city-owned senior center at East Front and Barlow streets. Seniors who use the aging, cramped repurposed pavilion have long sought a replacement.

Shamroe said she wouldn’t favor tie-barring the city’s lease ballot request with the countywide millage unless the millage ask specifies the money is to be spent on a senior center in its current spot.

Commissioner Brian McGillivary said he’s not opposed to asking city voters to authorize negotiating a lease with the county for a building in which the county already runs programming.

“This is not a city project, this is not something the city has spearheaded, it’s all being run from the grassroots up, so I think the request is reasonable and if the voters disagree, well, that’s fine too,” he said.

It would then be up to county commissioners to decide whether to put the millage request to county voters, McGillivary said — county commissioners’ Aug. 5 agenda as of Saturday didn’t include considering a millage request, and the state’s deadline for ballot language is Aug. 11.

City commissioners on Monday could also consider declaring Lot G, a public parking lot near State and Union streets, as surplus, the agenda shows. It’s part of a plan to relocate Chemical Bank into a mixed-use building that would be built on the parking lot so the former bank could give way to a Traverse City Rotary Club-backed civic square.

The city Downtown Development Authority has an option to buy the bank property with $1.75 million and give the bank $750,000 to relocate, as previously reported. The money is from Rotary Charities and state grants.

McGillivary said he doesn’t think a civic square should be city commissioners’ priority, but won’t hinder those who want one. He doesn’t agree with using tax increment finance to pay to build the civic square and wouldn’t support extending the TIF 97 plan any longer than needed to build a new parking garage, but acknowledged that decision is some time off.

Shamroe said she thinks the plan to build a civic square and mixed-use building is a great one. The surface lot is in the heart of downtown and ripe for redevelopment, and alternatives like Bay Area Transportation’s free Bayline bus make the loss of parking less of an issue.

“I’d love there to be some multi-use building going there versus just a flat lot, I think that’s a good move,” she said.

Commissioners could also set an Aug. 17 vote on ordinances to regulate recreational marijuana businesses in the city, the agenda shows. They could also vote to align the city’s opt-out from allowing those businesses to end when those ordinances take effect — the current opt-out expires Aug. 30.

McGillivary said it’s time to get the ordinances done, and if commissioners adopt them Aug. 17 then they’ll take effect Aug. 27. That would make any adjustment of the opt-out date unnecessary, he said.

Shamroe and McGillivary said commissioners mostly agree on the rules and they’re likely to pass them Aug. 17, barring some “surprises” in the draft language, as McGillivary put it.

But Shamroe said she’s in favor of adjusting the opt-out date even if it’s ultimately not needed. If the opt-out ends before the ordinances, that leaves the city without any regulations.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct a reporter's error incorrectly describing what the senior center lease ballot question would authorize. Aug. 5, 2020


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