Live TC and Prop 3

At Live TC, we believe that housing delayed is housing denied. Prop 3, a 2016 city charter amendment that requires a city vote on the construction of any building taller than 60 feet, means more uncertainty and a longer timeline for approval of more homes for more neighbors.

What we voted on in 2016 isn’t what we got – Judge Power’s ruling last fall made that clear.

Many homes – like the 96 in the Hall Street project – are currently being held up by lawsuits.

Our teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other workers can no longer wait for homes.

Prop 3 is hurting Traverse City.

We’ve put together the following educational resources on the timeline and background of Prop 3. Check them out below.

If you think that we need to speed up the building of new homes, join Live TC to advocate for a repeal of Prop 3 and other pro-housing reforms in Traverse City. Though our first petition effort fell just short of getting on the ballot, we’re continuing to advocate on this issue.

Have questions about Prop 3, or know someone who does? Check out the following FAQs here. If there’s a question we haven’t answered, let us know.

What is paragraph three of Section 28 of the Traverse City charter?

Paragraph three was added to Section 28 after the 2016 vote – repealing paragraph three is what’s on the ballot petition.

Section 28 reads (paragraph three in italics):

No office shall be created or abolished, no taxes or assessment imposed, nor any contract approved, nor franchise granted, nor any street, alley or public grounds vacated, nor any real estate or interest therein acquired, sold or disposed of, nor private property taken for public use, unless five (5) members of the City Commission shall vote in favor of the same; nor shall any vote of the City Commission be rescinded or reconsidered at a special meeting, unless there be present as many members as were present when such vote was taken. 

Provided that no plan for urban renewal, rehabilitation or redevelopment pursuant to Act 344 of the Public Acts of 1945, as amended, of any blighted area (as defined in the Act) of the City, or pursuant to the National Housing Act of 1949, as amended, or any other plan utilizing public funds and/or controls for the same purpose, shall be adopted until submitted to and passed by a majority of the electors of the City at a regular municipal or at a special election to be held for that purpose. 

It is hereby declared that buildings over 60 feet in height are generally inconsistent with the residential and historical character of Traverse City. Therefore, any proposal for construction of a building with a height above 60 feet, shall not be approved by the City or City Commission, until after the proposal is submitted to and approved by a majority of the City electors at a regular election, or at a special election. (Amended 11-8-2016.)

Will repealing Prop 3 lead to more high-end condos and short-term rentals?

Live TC believes in abundance. Abundance as 1) a mindset, “Traverse City is open and more neighbors is a good thing.” And abundance as in 2) lots of homes. Abundant homes at every level. From market rate to workforce to subsidized for those living with homelessness.

It’s possible more high-end condos and short-term rentals will be built where they’re allowed. It’s also possible more workforce/attainable housing will be built. Jon Stimson – Executive Director of HomeStretch – told Live TC that he’d add stories to the innovative Lot O project if he didn’t have to deal with a referendum. Maybe the high-end condos can help a project that includes workforce/attainable housing pencil out.

Wealthy people will continue to buy 2nd and 3rd homes in Traverse City. They will buy a four-bedroom home in a neighborhood if that’s the only choice, and it will sit empty for most of the year. A number of high-end condos could help save homes in neighborhoods for families.

The City could also set limits on short-term rentals in all buildings like they already have in several zoning districts.

Electing pro-housing City Commissioners is critical.

What is the impact of more homes or more neighbors in Traverse City?

More homes means more room for talented people to add value to our community, and shape it into a place we all take pride in. By limiting who can live in TC, a lot of the skilled and caring people (young people especially) who keep our community running have to find jobs in other places. It’s unsustainable for some of our community’s best teachers to live here with current housing costs, lack of availability, and instability in supply. The same goes for healthcare workers.

We all want a strong community, and you want the best people possible to take care of you and educate your children. We want to make sure they can live here.

Why don’t people find other places to live than Traverse City if homes are unaffordable for them?

We want people here who are also passionate about living in Traverse City, and can contribute their enthusiasm to the resources, education, and cultural opportunities that Traverse City provides as the largest community in Northern Michigan.

We don’t want to miss out on fantastic people in our community because of an income barrier.

Will everywhere in the city allow tall buildings if we repeal Prop 3?

Nope! Even with a repeal of Prop 3, Traverse City’s zoning ordinance means that buildings over 60 feet are permitted only as a special use in the following zones:

  • C-4 “regional center” districts
    • C-4b: 68 foot maximum (with residential component)
    • C-4c: 85 foot maximum
  • Government/Public District: zoned for 25-90 foot maximum
  • NMC-2: maximum 90 feet (greater than 60 requires approval)
  • H-2 (Hospital): maximum 90 feet (greater than 60 requires approval)

As you can see on the above zoning map, that’s a really tiny portion of our city, and in areas where it’s already quite developed. Plus — buildings taller than 60 feet do a lot of good to provide more homes for more neighbors.

Are taller/higher density buildings worse for our environment?

On the contrary — creating more homes within city limits through taller buildings means that there is less demand for undeveloped land outside city limits. This means that there is less pressure for urban sprawl, that more land is available to filter stormwater and protect our bays, and that more of the scenic areas we love in Leelanau County, the Old Mission Peninsula, and more can remain undeveloped.

What about the character of Traverse City?

Live TC member and community advocate Shea O’Brien summed it up in an op-ed for the Record-Eagle: our community’s character doesn’t come from how it looks, but from the opportunities for connection and the people that sustain Traverse City.

Live TC is a citizen-led, pro-housing network with one agenda and one agenda only: to advocate for abundant homes on Traverse City’s eight square miles.

We’re here because we care about Traverse City’s future.

We’re here to advocate, educate, and build political will for more housing with our partners.

We’re here to fight for an inclusive, sustainable, and economically thriving Traverse City for all.