Judge Denies Traverse City Motion To Dismiss Hall Street Project Lawsuit

The lawsuit between Traverse City, Innovo Development Group and citizens’ group, Save Our Downtown, continues Monday during a hearing on the city’s motion to dismiss the case. At the center of the lawsuit is a debate over the building height of  the developer’s project on Hall Street in Traverse City.

Judge Thomas G. Power denied the city’s requests for the lawsuit’s dismissal. He also requested more evidence be presented about why rooftop structures, such as heating and cooling systems, needed to be on the roof.

“Like air conditioning units, they can be put on the ground. If that’s true, maybe with the six story building you can’t do that. I don’t know,” says Power. “That that might affect the public’s understanding of what they thought when they said 60 ft. I would definitely be denying the city’s motion that’s for sure. The counter motion I have to think about.”

Next week, October 7th, there will be a hearing on the plaintiff motion that would stop the developer from moving forward on construction without the proper permits.

The Hall Street project is a six story, multi-family and mixed-use building. The 88 units is mean for working class families and will be built on top of commercial space.

According to Section 28 of Traverse City’s charter, the building cannot exceed 60 feet in height without a public vote. This section was added in 2016.

“The city ordinance mandates that the roof of the building can’t project above 60 feet, which is what we’ve adhered to. The roof of the main building is stopping at 60 feet,” says project architect, Chris Miller.

Save Our Downtown argues that there are structures planned for the rooftop of the building that extends over that.

“We noted that site plan includes an elevator or atrium that soars to seventy six feet,” says the plaintiff’s attorney, Jay Zelenock. “This is not an inch over 60 feet. This is more than 15 feet in violation. We thought it was time to come into court and get a ruling on this issue, because when the voters enacted Section 28, we think it means just what it says, which is if the project is to be over 60 feet, the vote of the people and the approval of people is needed before the city goes forward.”

Miller says they have already received several permits and activities at the build site have started.

“We did all of the due diligence necessary for design professionals,” he says. “We spoke with city officials, planning directors, planning commission members, planners, different people. We feel that the project is is in compliance with all the ordinances and everything else.”

Zelenock says the city is reading ordinance as opposed to the charter when they approve the building site plans.

“They believe that reading the zoning ordinance allows them to measure up to the top of a building as sort of thought as a square to the top of the a flat roof line,” Zelenock says. “Any equipment, elevator, atriums, smokestacks even that protrude twenty, twenty five feet above that roof line simply in their minds, don’t count under the zoning ordinance.”

Judge Powers has yet to decide on the second motion from the plaintiff, requesting that Innovo Group not be ‘grandfathered in’ to the city charter so the project can continue as planned.