Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · New Downtown Living
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New Downtown Living

Patrick Sullivan - February 24th, 2014  

As downtown Petoskey and Traverse City vacant lot availability shrinks, developers and realtors are looking up – and in between – to enlarge the $200,000 buyers’ market.


Developing downtown Traverse City condos in the $200,000 sweet spot has become a near-impossibility as vacant land prices have skyrocketed.

But for those thinking outside of the standard plat, development opportunities in this popular price range are there … if you look hard enough.

No one has been as prolific in the past five years at finding places to build than realtors Bob and Tia Rieck and Socks Construction, said Bart Ford, manager at Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors in Traverse City, where the Riecks work.

The Riecks and Socks have done numerous developments together, but perhaps nothing is as striking as Ivy Terrace, two modern boxes filled with condos on a narrow strip of land between the parking garage and Eighth St. in Old Town.

The condos are smaller and less expensive than is typical for new downtown condos.

Ford said it takes vision on the part of the real estate agent and the developer to realize that kind of development.

“I mean, those units are awesome,” Ford said. “It just took a creative perspective to be able to pull that off. Not everybody could do that.”

That development also acknowledges the reality that there is very little available in town in the $200,000 range.

“I think that they realize that there is a bigtime demand for stuff that’s in that $200,000 range in town, where people can walk or people can just have one car,” Ford said.


A lot of development that’s taking place in Traverse City right now is happening out of reach of ordinary families.

Many probably wouldn’t want condos anyway, but if they did, a lot of the new ones start at $300,000 or a half million or more, real estate professionals say.

That’s something that concerns Kimberly Pontius, executive vice president of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors.

“It’s one of the complaints I’ve gotten from a lot of young professionals when I’ve talked to them,” Pontius said. “They want to live in Traverse City, but they can’t afford to live in Traverse City.”

One recent effort to create more affordable housing in TC is the Depot Neighborhood, developed by Habitat for Humanity and Homestretch.

If the cold breaks in time, the first duplex should be completed by April or May, said William Merry, Homestretch’s executive director.

Homestretch will build 11 units. Habitat plans 10.

Merry doesn’t expect it will be hard to find buyers for the homes.

“I mean, it’s almost downtown Traverse City and it’s close to the bike trail and close to the library,” he said. “It’s an ideal location.”

Not everyone can buy a Depot home, however. The project uses grant funding from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, so Homestretch buyers cannot have an income more than 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Merry said that means a family of four in Grand Traverse, for example, must make less than $50,150 to qualify.

Habitat buyers face an even stricter maximum income requirement.

“My dream would be to not have to work with the federal and state agencies so we didn’t have to have these affordability requirements in place,” he said. “There’s just no other financing out there for affordable housing right now.”


Weston Buchan would eventually like to set himself up as a realtor who exclusively deals in downtown Traverse City properties.

But for now, he’s a bit more flexible. “Right now, in the beginning part of my career, I’ll take any listing anywhere,” he said.

But he does plan to fashion himself as an expert on in-town properties because he sees that’s where his friends (and his friend’s parents) want to live.

Buchan, 25, was named Rookie of the Year for 2013 for Coldwell Banker Schmidt northern Michigan offices. Buchan has found that for his friends, even finding a home to rent in Traverse City seems out of reach.

“If you find a place to rent under $1,000 [per month] in Traverse City, you’ll see it rented that day,” he said. “You’ll have six or seven people call.”

Younger generations like Gen X and Gen Y want to live in town, Buchan said. But lately it seems like people of all ages want to live in town, a walk away from beaches, restaurants and bars.

That’s why houses sell so fast and listings are scarce.

For example, take the centrally located homes between Division St., 14th St., and Railroad Ave. Sales in that sector have increased in each of the last three years, Buchan said. There were 68 sales in 2011, 78 sales in 2012, and 96 last year.

Buchan said he’s learned that since sales happen so fast, he has to be willing to work long hours and always be available to clients.

If someone wants to see a house in town, they can’t wait a day or so. He said he understands he has to get them inside in an hour or so.


Petoskey’s downtown is also built out, and prices of old homes close to the center are going up, even if they aren’t in great condition. A red hot market for in-town real estate and a lack of space to build has taken away a lot of what builders or remodelers can do, said agent Lori Jodar of Lori Jodar & Company.

“The issue in downtown Petoskey is that there are no more lots left, so if you want to be in town, you can either buy an existing 150-year-old house, or, [if you go further out of town] maybe you’re into a ‘60s ranch,” Jodar said. Some people have bought houses and remodeled them to flip, but Jodar said she hasn’t been impressed.

“Unfortunately, the ones that I have seen have not been very well done,” she said.

A couple of years ago, there were foreclosures and other bargains on the market that could be picked up and flipped, but that’s not the case today. Anything in town starts at a high price today.

Bill Winslow, managing broker with Coldwell Banker Schmidt in Petoskey, believes the opportunity is there for someone who can figure out a way to split a lot or flip a house in a creative way.

“Surprisingly, I have not seen a lot of in-town development going on, but there’s certainly a lot of opportunity out there,” Winslow said.


Cities with little land left to develop are starting to look skyward.

Towns like Petoskey are going to start thinking more about lifting height restrictions, said William Dickson, a broker at Prudential Preferred Properties in Harbor Springs.

He expects to hear more talk of “air space” rights because of the amount of buildings in Petoskey that could be developed vertically.

“There are so many one- and two-story buildings and there is all of that space above,” he said. “Air space in downtowns is becoming valuable.”

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