Traverse City Tall Building Proposal Crumbles

“We think the law was very much on our side. The judge ruled otherwise.”

A major legal setback Tuesday for the developer behind a tall building proposal for downtown Traverse City.

326 Land Development wanted to build a 100-foot tall condo project near the Park Place Hotel.

The developer had zoning approval, but voters approved a change to the city charter requiring a vote of the public for buildings taller than 60 feet.

Then in 2018, a ballot proposal let voters decide and residents voted it down. That led the developer to sue.

The fate of a tall building proposed for downtown Traverse City has been in several different hands over the last several years. But Tuesday a judge ruled on the issue.

“Where and when to build tall buildings downtown is obviously a very contentious issue that a lot of people care about,” says the attorney representing Traverse City, Peter Worden.

A one story office building is the site for the proposed 100 foot tall condo project on State Street.

“When you have almost 2/3 of the people who voted against a project, they’re telling these developers we really want something less. Hopefully they’ll reconsider and we can finally put this matter to rest,” says Brenda Quick from Save Our Downtown.

The group Save Our Downtown joined the city’s side in the lawsuit with the developer. 326 Land Development said the project met all of the city’s requirements, and even received zoning approval for a special land use permit from the planning commission. But with the city charter and then voters weighing in, it all came together in court.

“This is a property rights issue, it’s not about tall buildings, it’s about the rights the property owners have to deal with their property when they acquire it,” says Tom McIntyre, 326 Land Company.

Tuesday morning the judge sided with the city and with voters. The project is a “no go”.

“And this decision today ensures the people of Traverse City have a direct voice in that decision making process,” Worden said.

“Taller buildings are still permitted but only after being vetted by the public,” said Jay Zelenock, attorney for Save Our Downtown.

The developer says they’re disappointed, but don’t count them out just yet.

“We want to do what’s good for Traverse City too, certainly an appeals court process is a possibility. We’ve said in the past if we need to we’d take this all the way to the Supreme Court,” McIntyre said.

326 Land also says one possibility is building a project 60 feet tall or less, which wouldn’t need voter approval.

They’ll be looking into that option as well.