A forum piece by Linda Koebert was recently published regarding the organization Save Our Downtown. It included a myriad of misinformation and untruths, and I am here to set the record straight.
SOD, a nonprofit organization, was founded by five people in 2015. Ms. Koebert claims it was started by a person “living on the peninsula, a homeowner who splits time between here and Arizona.” This is untrue. All of the board’s members live within the city limits, the majority in the Central Neighborhood, and are full-time residents of Traverse City. Since its beginnings, SOD has grown exponentially and has garnered the support of thousands of people from all over the city.
Ms. Koebert claimed that a SOD leader attends “city meetings to complain about almost all decisions.” This is categorically untrue. None of the board members have attended a City Commission meeting in ages, and the only disputes ever raised were about the impact of certain proposed tall buildings.
Ms. Koebert asserted that SOD consists of retired residents who want to keep “the downtown of the 1980s.” Again, untrue. The organization is supported by people of all ages and is dedicated to ensuring and supporting the city’s growth, but responsible growth. For example, when Munson Medical Center expressed its interest in constructing its new wing, SOD publicly, at a City Commission meeting, endorsed the project as a wonderful addition to the community.
Finally, Ms. Koebert indicated that SOD has filed multiple lawsuits against the city and has cost its citizens large amounts of money. This is patently false. SOD has initiated only one lawsuit against the city, and that matter was decided in SOD’s favor a couple of months ago.
To explain, in 2016, the people of Traverse City voted to amend the City Charter to require an affirmative vote of the people before the city can approve any proposed construction of a building in excess of 60 feet in height. The purpose of the amendment is to guarantee that the people who live here have a voice in a matter that can significantly impact their city. However, this does not mean that no building, including clock towers or steeples, can be constructed over 60 feet in height. They can be constructed up to 60 feet without a vote and if the people like a project and vote to support it, the city may green-light a taller project.
In spite of the amendment, it was discovered that the city was bypassing the voting requirement by using a “creative means” for measuring a building’s height, specifically by excluding rooftop fixtures like enclosed elevator shafts. As a result, SOD challenged the city’s actions in court and won. The court informed the city that its methods of measurement violated the plain meaning of the charter amendment, and all parts of a building must be included when measuring its height.
The city has appealed the court’s decision, unfortunately at more unnecessary taxpayer expense. But SOD will keep on fighting for your right to vote.